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June 1, 2016

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How to launch a board career as a health and safety professional

Many health and safety professionals would like to be considered for a future role on a company board. Ahead of her talk at Safety & Health Expo, professional company director and international health and safety expert Dr Kirstin Ferguson provides some suggestions for how you might pursue this career goal.

Board directors require a range of skills so the first thing I remind anyone who is looking to be invited to serve on a company board that it is not enough, for example, to simply bring health and safety skills and experience to the role. Whilst an understanding of health and safety is increasingly important for all company directors, it is not on its own likely to be sufficient for you to obtain a role on a corporate board. As examples, corporate and commercial experience, financial literacy, the ability to contribute to strategy development and understanding how to identify and manage risk are all additional skills every director, or aspiring director, needs to be able to demonstrate. There are various ways you can develop your skills in these areas including successful periods in line management roles with P&L responsibility as well as undertaking professional company director courses.

Anyone looking to join a board might like to ask themselves the following questions:

What kind of board would you like to join?

There are many different kinds of boards such as publically listed companies, private companies, not-for-profit organisations, advisory boards or government boards. While there are similarities across all of them in terms of director’s duties, there are also a lot of practical differences that are important to understand first.

Have you got the time to commit to a board role?

This will be particularly important if you are still in full-time employment. Taking on a board role requires a considerable investment of time and focus so be sure this is something that you fully investigate before accepting a role.

What value can you add to a board?

This is often one of the harder questions to answer, particularly if you are currently in full-time employment. It is essential to think about the skills you can add as a board director and not as an executive. Many of your current hands on skills will not be required as a company director where the ability to think strategically and take a hands off approach is needed.

The practical steps to consider include expanding your connections and networks, let people in your network know you are keen to be considered for board roles, explain the value you will add as a board director and put together a CV that focuses on the skills you will bring to the board, rather than one you would use to apply for an executive role.

kirstin fergusson

Dr Kirstin Ferguson is a professional company director on public, private and government boards; and an international expert in safety governance and safety leadership for boards and senior executives. Dr Ferguson will be speaking in the Keynote Theatre at Safety & Health Expo on how to engage the board. Register today to hear her speak.

Dr Ferguson can be reached via , you can follow her on Twitter (@kirstinferguson) or connect on LinkedIn.

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