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Flowing Faucets: How Cancelling Cable TV Launched My Board Career

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If you want to be a successful corporate director, you need to make time for the work.

Not an unreasonable amount of time. Not a “quit your job and kiss your social life goodbye” sacrifice.

Just enough to build your knowledge, your network, and your base of experience.

You have more time than you think, especially if you take a hard look at the time you spend reading Medium, scrolling Instagram, and watching The Crown. (Now you know my kryptonite.)

Cancelling cable TV seven years ago was the best career decision I ever made.

It’s no coincidence that I landed my first paid board role four months later. Once I started looking at time as my most prized career development asset, I invested it more intentionally.

And I didn’t put all my chips on a single pursuit. At any given time, I try to have five to seven sources of good career karma flowing.

Here is what I have going on now:
1. Formal networking events (monthly)
2. “Pick my brain” conversations in service of others (three or four per week)
3. E-mail check-ins with people I wouldn’t normally see (five per week)
4. Formal application to a new board (once every month or two)
5. Pro bono consulting projects (quarterly)
6. Public speaking and/or webinar presentations (monthly)
7. Audiobook reading while I run (daily)

You will have your own list. The specifics don’t matter, so much as the presence of multiple faucets filling your bucket.

My clients and colleagues are often surprised to learn that I apply to a new board every month or two. “But you are only on a handful of boards right now…” they wonder out loud. To end the awkward silence, I admit voluntarily that my hit rate is staggeringly low.

Many executives are surprised by the challenge of building a board career. As successful leaders, they aren’t accustomed to the pattern of lacklustre interviews and rejection. Even after eight years on this path, there are days when my ego suffers. Then, I get back to work filling my bucket.

If you are puzzled by your struggle to land a board role, I encourage you to look at your faucets. Are there enough activities underway? Are you actively seeking the right role or waiting for it to find you? Are you giving your time, insights and contacts generously? If a new board role would expect five hours of your attention each week, are you dedicating that time to your search?

If not, it may be time to cancel your cable TV subscription. And once you do, let the faucets flow.

Flowing Faucets: How Cancelling Cable TV Launched My Board Career

by Tamara time to read: 2 min
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