You did it! 4 years of crunching through exams, research projects, and student conferences. It’s all led to now. Now you’re on your own. With your first office job. Congratulations!
But you’re ambitious. Always the straight-A student. Captain of your college debate team. You know this entry level job is a small chapter in your story. Because you know what you’re capable of, and you’ve got potential. You’re already eyeing the C-Suite.
But how do you get there when most of your day currently consists of typing numbers into an Excel spreadsheet? Isn’t it too early to aim that high?
As you advance up the corporate ladder, the number of positions thins out, and lots of people want to be CIO or CEO. Including you. So how do you stand out in a very crowded field, especially at this stage?
First, it’s never too early to prepare. You need to start strategizing now if you’re serious about advancing to the top. Here’s a few things you can do to to get you to that C-Suite job. Even in your spreadsheet-typing, coffee-running, job.
We’ll start with the most obvious. You need to get your foot in the door (if you haven’t already). Many C-Suite executives have years of experience in their field before they reach the top. Find an entry level job in your desired field. Gain the necessary knowledge as you work your way up the corporate ladder to eventually be able to run the company.
However, the path to the top isn’t always linear. These days, it’s becoming more normal for career paths to twist and turn. Some executives gained the necessary skills and experience from founding their own startups or working as consultants. Don’t limit your strategy to the conventional. Be willing to color outside the lines.
Don’t wait for someone to notice your skills and potential, show it from the beginning (even at the earliest levels in your career). Volunteer to tackle new projects or work with teams slightly outside your normal field. Join that business trip to the Bay Area even if it’s slightly outside your usual scope. Constantly find ways to be proactive and take initiative at work.
And when you’re taking initiative, always carry a positive attitude. You want to be noticed by decision-makers at your company or by recruiters. So, you need to stand out. It’s good to be ambitious, but make sure you never cross over into arrogance so you stand out for the right reasons.
Hone your soft skills.
It’s not necessarily an MBA that’ll catapult you to the top of the list for the next CEO. Soft skills are important, too. Leadership is probably the most obvious one. But C-Suite professionals also need to be able to communicate effectively with people at all levels of the organization.
As leaders of an organization, time management is essential for the success of themselves and the company. As a future CIO or CEO, You’ll also need to demonstrate skills like critical thinking, empathy, and problem solving.
Luckily, many diverse experiences will allow you to flex your soft skills. So, don’t knock that assignment slightly outside your field or discount your company’s new volunteer work program.
You knew it was coming, right? You’ve probably heard the saying “It’s not just what you know, it’s who you know.” Word of mouth is still one of the most effective ways to get your name on the shortlist. To advance to the top, you need a solid network. This doesn’t mean immediately asking for people for favors or pitching them. Be tactful and diplomatic.
You need to build strong relationships. Before you even need to ask.
And not just within your company. Find people in your industry, too who have similar goals and ambitions.
And yes, you can do this during a pandemic. Sign up for LinkedIn if you haven’t already. Join relevant industry related groups on social media and engage with other professional’s content. Attend virtual networking events. There’s plenty of ways to safely network from your home.
Always be learning
Industries are constantly changing. New technology. New best practices. New skillsets to use. A learner’s mindset is essential to grow and develop into a more effective leader in your field.
But that doesn’t mean you need to necessarily spend thousands on graduate school or a new certification. Read books. Attend relevant conferences. Listen to industry thought leaders on podcasts or social media. Subscribe to newsletters. There are tons of ways to stay up to date on the latest in your field and keep your skills current.
Yes, you just walked across that stage. But it’s never too early to start planning for your future career. Positions at the top are few and far between compared to entry level jobs. If you’re serious about advancing to the C-Suite one day, use these tips to start planning now.
Get your career path on the right track, meet with an Executive Career Coach to create your plan!