Joining the circle of top-tier professionals, also known as the “C-suite executives,” is an undying dream for many people in the corporate world. The C-suite comprises but is not limited to Chief Financial Officers (CFOs), Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), and Chief Operating Officers (COOs), among others.
While there may not be a clear route to these top positions, all the holders share a few similarities, especially regarding education level, experience, leadership skills, and approach. A corporate executive does not necessarily answer to a higher rank, except maybe to the Chief Executive Officer.
However, achieving this rank requires determination. Below are steps to become a corporate executive.
1. Pursue High-Quality and Well-Rounded Education
Getting a formal education is the number one foundation of your career. Many CEOs are graduate degree holders, with some pursuing postgraduate MBAs. Achieving high-quality education gives you two benefits in your journey to becoming a corporate executive.
First, it convinces your employer or potential employer of your comprehensive business training and proficiency in core skills. Second, pursuing a postgraduate education allows you to specialize in areas that put you in a position for executive roles. For example, finance, human resource management, international marketing, etc.
Nevertheless, companies do not often source executives from outside but promote a qualified person from within. Thus, a pleasant academic resume can assure your employer that you are fit for the job.
2. Nurture Your Leadership Skills
Also called “soft skills,” leadership skills are interpersonal and significantly differ from the “hard” skills, which are practical and tied to specific results. Soft skills can help you manage and motivate teams while effectively handling conflicts. Large corporates will choose soft skills over other proficiencies as they become more valuable as you climb up the ladder and gain more responsibilities in the company.
So, it would help to cultivate and nurture your leadership skills from the start of your career. You must be proficient in motivation, team-building, one-on-one communication, presentation, and stress management. The best way to cultivate your leadership skills is by engaging in activities outside business, such as community work, sports, and charity work. You can also get executive coaching to establish your leadership skills.
3. Build Your Network
Your network will come in handy in your quest to become a corporate executive. Typically, large companies seek recommendations from senior persons in the industry when sourcing for a top-position employee. Therefore, having executives in your circle might give you significant endorsements.
In addition, if your professional network comprises CEOs and recruitment executives, you have a better chance of landing a job when opportunities come up in other companies. It would also help to build relationships with recruitment agencies and companies since they source employees for large establishments.
4. Identify an Entry-level Position
Considering your end goal when preparing to enter the workforce would be wise. Since most companies promote rather than employ senior officers, it would be best to identify the company you wish to become an executive for and find a fitting entry role. It will help you specialize and gain more command in your industry while obtaining more positions within the company.
If you have a bachelor’s degree in any business field, you can enter any company with supervisory and management roles. You can use these positions to gain experience in team organization, creating budgets, and reporting to your seniors. Furthermore, your performance in these positions can qualify you for higher positions in the organization.
5. Show Exceptional Efforts
Every employer will want employees who demonstrate effort in their work. As a result, your effort in your current position can warrant a promotion whenever an opening comes in your company. You can set yourself above other potential candidates by volunteering in new initiatives whenever possible.
For example, participate in corporate committees and lead task forces when you can. These activities help you build your reputation and better your skills, such as communication and leadership.
6. Apply for Higher Positions
Once you have sufficient experience in the lower-management positions, it is time to level up. You can now apply for higher-management positions since your initiative in the lower roles and your academic credentials benefit you. Nonetheless, getting a certification will better your chances. For example, you can pursue a Certified Manager certificate from your lower positions.
Once you become a higher-level manager, you expect responsibilities directly related to a business executive’s responsibilities. An example is creating policies and managing the organizational structure of the company. You can develop your decision-making skills from this experience and command greater organizational authority.
7. Build Your Brand
As the company leader, your brand can help you establish authority and gain respect. Building your brand throughout your career shows you can represent the company positively. You may start by identifying what makes you happy professionally and personally. For example, some aspiring CEOs enjoy hard work, innovation, and sustainability.
Pursuing a corporate executive position might be overwhelming, but the price is worth the effort. The position allows you to establish authority while gaining respect in your professional and personal life.