So today’s topic is, and I hear this a lot, “I am ambitious, I want to get to the C-suite fast.”
Yes, you can get to the C-suite fast today faster than I’ve ever seen it in my 31 years in helping people manage their careers. For many reasons, there is a huge talent shortage, doesn’t matter where you’re listening from across the world, there is a massive talent shortage. So that means that you can go up the ladder a lot faster than you’ve been able to do ever before.
I really promote ambition. I love to see ambition in my clients, the drive, the determination of where they want to go, and if they want to go to the C-suite, I am there to help them from the side as their coach, as their cheerleader. I can really help them with my knowledge and my skill set to reach their career goals. Ambition is to be encouraged. If you haven’t got that mindset, that ambition, that drive to succeed, then I’m going to say probably you won’t get as high as the C-suite. You could get a few levels higher but not to the C-suite.
So the roadblocks today are the robust hiring is unbelievable. Many of my clients get themselves into multiple offices situations, even at the C-suite, where the air is thin. The higher you go, the fewer jobs there are, so it’s the pyramid. But you can do it. You have to have a strategy, and it doesn’t fall into your lap. A job at any time doesn’t fall into your lap. You have to work hard at it. You have to show, exude that ambition, that drive, and that willingness to get to the C-suite. So today’s hiring is so robust, so you can get there a lot faster than ever before. But you have to plan it. Don’t just think it’s going to happen, just sitting on the couch, or it’s going to happen anyway because, invariably, it probably won’t. Like anything in life, you have to plan today.
I would say the backbone of your career management should be building and nurturing and maintaining a network. But don’t just connect with anybody and everybody. Connect with a network of influencers, people who can help you and you can help them in your area of expertise, your ambition, where you want to go. So it’s not just usual networking outside that environment.
Nurture and build and retain, maintain that network.
The crucial element is with executive recruiters. If you build a relationship with an executive recruiter, they can really help you, really, really help you get to the C-suite a lot faster. You need to maintain those relationships. Don’t just drop it the day you land your next gig, your next job, and then expect one to help you four, five, six, or seven years later. You need to retain that rapport. So every six or seven months, send them an email saying, “I’m having a great time as the vice president of risk management at ABC company,” or whatever, and send them a success story, how you’ve saved money, made money, or whatever, and keep on their radar. Network relationship management is a crucial element in career management because, remember, it doesn’t matter where you are, there are a couple of exceptions. The major networking, the major hub for job search is hidden jobs. They aren’t advertised; they are hidden. And then the next one is executive recruiters. So build and nurture that relationship with your network. Don’t let it drop. Network not just when you’re in career transition.
Prepare a career plan.
Now, if you haven’t an idea of what a career plan looks like, consider hiring a career coach or an executive coach. There are many around. I do it with my clients a lot. Prepare a career plan, and it could be different for each person depending on your tolerance to get to the level faster than maybe others. So prepare a very viable career plan that meets your own career goals, not somebody else’s but your career goals. So prepare a career plan and stick to it. Now, there’s going to be some things that throw you off, like if you’re laid off or for whatever reason. People are laid off even in good economic times, and I’m seeing a lot more companies now laying off people. So where I’m not in a recession, but it’s a fact of life that you get laid off, terminated, or let go or exited, or whatever you want to call it. So that can throw your career plan off. But prepare for that as well because you need to have your resume and your LinkedIn profile up to date, just in case that termination, that exiting, that guillotine comes down.
Articulate your ambition to everybody who’s in your circle.
Articulate your ambition to everybody who’s in your circle, and that circle will include, of course, executive recruiters, your friends, your family, maybe your colleagues, and definitely your boss. I mean, show your boss at work that you are very, very ambitious, and when a position comes available, perhaps they may consider you or you’re at the top of the list because you’ve asked for that. You’ve articulated your ambition to get to the next level. So articulate your ambition to people in your circle. Take education. Don’t let education stop 10 years ago. There are so many courses, both online and in person, you can attend today, and that can help you get up to the C-suite. So take something that’s pertinent. So if you want to get to the C-suite, I would suggest you take some leadership courses, some management courses, and try and get maybe different universities on your resume to show that you really mean business.
Always learn new skills.
And you don’t even have to attend the universities today with the online courses, although it will be better because that really builds your network. So make sure you’re continually educating yourself on what’s happening within your industry and your leadership and your management skills because leadership is always changing, and you always learn something. Or maybe take an executive master of business administration, a full-blown degree, or just a certificate or a diploma, or just a straight strategy course. Always, always learn new skills. That’s one of the differentiators that’s going to help you get to the top easier. So you need to look at what’s available, and you need to always learn. Life is always a learning experience, your personal life, and so is your career. Don’t let it stop 10 or 15 years ago because that can be an inhibitor to you wanting to get to that C-suite area. So always be on the lookout for new opportunities, never close your eyes.
I say my phrases as a coach, the day you land your next job is the day you start your next job search. Now that puts scares a lot of people, but it’s very true. You need to manage your career and always look out for new opportunities. There are a whole ton of opportunities for everybody in every function, every industry, and every geography right now. I’ve never seen hiring so robust, even at that C-suite, that C-level, of appointments, all the C-suite. So always look out for new opportunities and explore. Just be nosy and have a look and see what they’re offering and what skill sets they’re looking for because you could learn. So always look out for new opportunities.
I am a great believer in moving around. So when my father’s generation, it was okay to be in the same company, the same employer from the day you started off when you graduated out of college or university to the day you retired. But now it’s actually encouraged, promoted to move around. So if you’re in the banking industry, move around to different banks because you’re going to learn. But it’s also very good for your resume. If you’ve been in one company more than, say, eight, seven or eight years, then that can be an inhibitor to your promotion if you want to get to that C-suite. So I would say every four to five years, unless it’s forced on you because of termination or whatever, make sure that you execute a job search and look around for another gig, another challenge, and you’re always learning on those new challenges as well.
A crucial element is you’re not going to win everything, you know, every time you go to an interview. Yes, you’d like to get the job offer every time you go to an interview, but it doesn’t happen. So you also have to accept rejection. Rejection is tough. “Why did they choose her or him over me?” That could be tough to swallow, and I know it doesn’t always happen. In fact, it sadly happens rarely. But if you don’t get a job, you get second or third in a job search, ask the interviewers and maybe the executive recruiters why you didn’t get that position. Not everybody will give you that answer. In fact, I’m seeing not too few, but always ask because if you do get feedback, then you’re going to learn why you didn’t get that. There may be some mistake in your interview or something. So always be prepared for an interview.
Move around, accept rejection, and make an investment in your career management to have a coach, have your resume professionally prepared, your LinkedIn professionally prepared because you are selling yourself, and it’s always good to have somebody else, an external, a third party look at you and think, “Well, perhaps you should do it this way,” or whatever, or you can optimize this and maybe reduce this or get into the sales mode as well because you are always a salesperson. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in supply chain, finance, marketing, risk management, or change management or anything else, you are always a salesperson. You are selling yourself. You are a product, and you are sending that product to the market.