How to stand out in the crowd

When being different is good

Q: I’m at a director level and want to take the next step. Placement on boards (either at small companies or nonprofits) seems to be a good differentiator. Is this accurate? What are some strategies I can pursue to gain such placements?

A: Becoming a board member can be a positive professional move for all involved. A nonprofit organization would benefit from your willingness to contribute your time and insight. And a small company typically dealing with issues of growth would also benefit from your experience. Don’t underestimate the insight you will gain dealing with the problems of smaller organizations, and the broader exposure to operating and corporate policy issues beyond information technology.

If you are interested in a particular nonprofit, identify the existing members of the board and contact the president to inform him of your interest, and indicate your willingness to help. Offer to take on a project or provide some insight. This will give you a look at the organization as well as provide the leadership of the organization a look at you. If you can offer a professional service that is required by the organization, consider providing it pro bono in return for a board seat.

Approaching for-profit companies requires different tactics. My recommendation here is for you to identify and approach the investors. Most smaller companies are funded by venture capital or private equity organizations. I suggest you identify which ones are active in your area and reach out to introduce yourself. Make sure you have a current r