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Your Executive Career Path: 6 Steps to Achieve the Role of Your Dreams

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Do you see yourself in a c-suite position at some point in your career? If you’re wondering how to become an executive, you’ve come to the right place. 

Your executive career path will likely follow a similar trajectory to those who’ve come before you. To prepare you for executive roles and responsibilities, follow these 6 tried-and-true steps. Then, when the time is right, you’ll be prepared for a c-suite role.

First Things First: Education

Becoming a c-suite executive is competitive, so your executive career path should start with proper education. Although not all senior roles require it, getting an MBA can help position you for future success. Over 40% of CEOs at Fortune 100 companies got an MBA.

MBA programs teach students the knowledge they need to launch successful careers, and employers frequently favor candidates with MBAs. Again, while an MBA isn’t necessary, it can certainly help and should be considered.

Another point worth noting is that, on average, MBAs increase salaries by around $36,000 per year. Consulting, private equity, and investment management are three industries that experience the largest leaps in earnings post-MBA.

Step 1: Start in the Right Role

Your executive career path needs to start in the right place to set you up for success. Many company executives are internal selections, and they’ve worked their way up the company ladder for years.

Choose a company whose vision and mission align with your own. Assume you’ll remain at this company and climb the corporate ladder. Is this an organization you’d want to lead? Do you believe in what they’re doing?

You can also consider launching your executive career path with a role at a large consulting firm. Consultants are highly regarded for executive positions, as they are forced to develop many desirable traits – adaptability, leadership skills, communication, and more. One USA Today study found that McKinsey consultants have some of the best odds of becoming the CEO of a public company, followed by Delloite consultants.

Step 2: Learn Leadership Skills and Develop the Right Characteristics

Sure, business acumen is essential for becoming an executive, but so are people skills. Executive roles and responsibilities require interacting with and leading large amounts of people, so you’ll want to work on cultivating these skills.

First, increase your emotional quotient (EQ, counterpart to IQ). Although emotional intelligence comes easily to some, all can learn it. These are the skills you need to improve EQ:

  1. Self-management
  2. Self-awareness
  3. Social awareness
  4. Relationship management

Learn more about cultivating emotional intelligence.

Your executive career path will also require learning to communicate ideas clearly and convincingly. Take every chance you get to present to large groups and persuade them. Ask for feedback and work on being even more persuasive.

Step 3: Get Management and Industry Experience

Once you’ve begun to work your way up the corporate ladder, it’s time to gain more profound industry and management experience. While not all companies hire internally for their c-suite roles, many do.

Gaining high-level management experience is essential to your executive career path and requires that you work aggressively for promotions. You’ll constantly want to prove your leadership skills and make an impact in each role you take on. 

TLDR; seek leadership opportunities, ask for feedback, and work hard to get promoted into higher management positions.

Step 4: Find a C-Suite Mentor

Why reinvent the wheel? When mapping out your executive career path and figuring out how to become one yourself, seek a mentor who’s accomplished what you hope to achieve. 

Finding a c-suite executive you admire and whose career path you’d like to follow will provide many benefits. Firstly, this person can help you make crucial decisions that could affect your candidacy for executive roles in the future. They’ll help you weigh what decisions are the right ones.

Your mentor can also give you feedback to help you become more equipped to lead down the road. They’ll point out your strengths and weaknesses. They’ll also help you decide whether becoming an executive is the right decision. 

To pick this mentor, simply do some research. Which c-suite leaders do you admire? Whose career path would you like to recreate? Introduce yourself, explain your goals, and ask them for mentorship. Not everyone will reply, so reach out to a few people.

Step 5: Work on Your Personal Brand

Thought leadership is an essential part of any executive career path. Although you may intend to become an executive at your current company, you never know what opportunities present themselves externally. 

Cultivating a personal brand that displays your strong leadership skills and corporate accomplishments highlights that you’d make an excellent executive to your network. If someone in your network is looking to bring on a new c-suite executive, your name may pop into their mind first because they’ve followed your content.

To begin cultivating a personal brand, consider the following approaches:

  • LinkedIn content. You can share posts, articles, or anything in between that highlights personal and professional success. 
  • Blog posts. Share your expertise and send the posts to your network.
  • Email newsletter. Like a blog, you can share your expertise and thoughts with a larger audience.

Remember that your online presence is a direct reflection of you. Employers considering you for leadership positions will look you up online, so keep all your content professional and respectable. 

Step 6: Get to Know Executive Search Firms

Getting to know an experienced executive recruitment firm is of great help for your executive career path. These firms will seek out qualified candidates for companies looking for new c-suite leaders. By getting to know these firms well, you keep yourself top of mind for exciting opportunities.

Further, these search firms can help you find the executive role of your dreams. They’ll get to know your skills and expertise and match you with the perfect role.

Jennings Executive is no exception! We’d love to get to know you and help you find the perfect executive position when the time is right. Learn more about us today. 
Related: 10 Traits For The Best And Most Impactful Executive Leadership Possible

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Updated: Our Salary Guide for 2022
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