Your Path to Landing Your First Non-Executive Role

Transitioning into a non-executive role can be an exciting and fulfilling step in your career journey. Whether you’re an experienced professional looking to diversify your portfolio, or a newcomer eager to explore new avenues, securing your first Non-Executive position requires careful planning and strategic action. Livingston James Director, Alistair Shaw, shares some top tips for landing your first role.

Earlier in the year, I shared my thoughts on overboarding, where Non-Executive Directors (NXDs) take on too many roles. Off the back of this, some people in my network have approached me saying they’d love to have several NXD roles in the future but are struggling at this stage to get their first one.

I have provided a framework below which you can follow to ensure you truly understand what you are looking for, and you are appropriately prepared when applying for opportunities.


Step 1: Self-Assessment and Goal Setting

Before embarking on your non-executive journey, it’s crucial to assess your skills, experiences, and aspirations. Reflect on your strengths, areas of expertise, and the value you can bring to an organisation in a non-executive capacity. Set clear goals for your non-executive career, considering factors such as the industries you’re interested in, the type of organisations you want to be associated with, and the impact you aim to make.


Step 2: Expand Your Network

Networking is a powerful tool in the world of non-executive positions. Attend industry conferences, workshops, and seminars to connect with professionals in your desired field. Engage in online platforms like LinkedIn to join relevant groups and participate in discussions; and establish connections with potential employers, fellow non-executives, and executive search firms. Building a robust network can provide you with valuable insights, referrals, and opportunities.


Step 3: Enhance Your Expertise

To stand out as a non-executive candidate, you must continually enhance your expertise. Stay updated on industry trends, emerging technologies, and best practices. Consider pursuing additional certifications, workshops, or courses to bolster your knowledge and credibility. Your commitment to lifelong learning will demonstrate your dedication to staying relevant and contributing effectively to your future non-executive roles.

We also advise that the first step to gaining some non-executive experience can sometimes be taking a non-paid role, likely with a charity that you are passionate about.


Step 4: Craft an Impressive Portfolio

A well-structured portfolio is essential for showcasing your achievements, skills, and experiences. Include your resume, a detailed bio, a list of board memberships or advisory roles, and any relevant publications or speaking engagements. Highlight instances where you’ve demonstrated leadership, strategic thinking, and problem-solving skills. Your portfolio should communicate your unique value proposition to potential organisations seeking non-executive talent.


Step 5: Tailor Your Approach

Each non-executive role is unique, so tailor your approach to fit the specific requirements of the organisations you’re targeting. Research the companies you’re interested in and understand their goals, challenges, and culture. Customise your application materials, such as your cover letter and portfolio, to demonstrate how your skills align with their needs. Highlight your ability to contribute to their strategic direction and growth.


Step 6: Leverage Executive Search Firms

Partnering with executive search firms can significantly enhance your chances of landing your first non-executive role. Firms like Livingston James specialise in identifying and connecting qualified candidates with organisations seeking board members or advisory roles. We host a number of events throughout the year for our experienced NXD’s, and we invite aspiring NXD’s along so they can learn more about building their future portfolio. This year, the Livingston James NXD event series has focused on topics such as “The Challenges of Scaling a business”, “Diverse Thinking” and “Working with Investors”.


Step 7: Prepare for Interviews

Just as in any job search, thorough interview preparation is vital. Be ready to discuss your experiences, skills, and contributions in a non-executive capacity. Demonstrate your ability to provide strategic insights, contribute to decision making, and collaborate effectively with other board members or executives. Emphasise your alignment with the organisation’s purpose and vision, and be prepared to ask insightful questions that showcase your genuine interest and understanding.



Landing your first non-executive role requires a combination of self-assessment, networking, continuous learning, strategic positioning, and effective communication. By following these steps and remaining persistent in your pursuit, you’ll increase your chances of securing a meaningful and impactful non-executive position. Embrace the journey with enthusiasm, and remember that every step you take brings you closer to your goal of contributing to organisations at the highest levels.


If you are looking to grow your portfolio (without overboarding!) or appoint an NXD, please reach out at [email protected].

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