7 Tips to Create Your Own Executive Career Path

Career growth is essential to avoid complacency, boredom, and not feeling fulfilled. Moving along an executive career path can be an exciting and rewarding process. It can also be difficult to envision the trajectory from where you are to where you want to be.   

As you progressed from management into director roles, your company may have had clear guidelines for what that path should look like. That isn’t always the case for moving into the C-suite. With any journey, there will be highs, lows, and stagnant periods. Sometimes you need to carve your own career path to a CXO position.   

These 7 tips can help you create your own executive career path and prevent you from getting lost. 

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Tip 1: Identify Executive Career Path Options 

As humans, we all want to do meaningful work. It’s critical to self-analyze and reflect on your current path so that you can do work that is fulfilling for YOU. To do this, be clear on three properties: values, attributes, and skills.   

First, write down what your values are and what kind of lifestyle you want. Do you want the ability to travel? Would you like to spend more time with your family? Are you willing to relocate? These are all essential questions you should answer before even considering going down one path.  

In addition to identifying values/lifestyle, self-reflect and write down what your attributes are. Contemplate your personality traits that have been constant throughout your personal and professional life. Are you a big-picture or detail-oriented type of person? Do you prefer working on a team or by yourself? Are you more logical or feeling? If you’re feeling stuck on your attributes, it’s time to take a personality test. Personality tests can reveal parts of yourself that you probably knew existed or something you didn’t know. BlueSteps Members can take the Hogan personality assessment which uncovers strengths and shortcomings that you can leverage in both your personal and professional lives. Check it out on your member dashboard.  

Lastly, define your skills by writing them down. Your skills are what you have “learned and earned” through experience. What expertise have you developed through academic and professional pursuits? Your skills can range from using specific software (hard skills) to soft skills such as communication.   

Tip 2: Set Measurable Goals 

After you gained clarity from tip 1, it’s much easier to position and aim at specific goals. Now you may be asking, what is the most effective way to set a goal that I will actually reach? Set measurable goals. When you set goals where you can measure your progress, you stay on track, reach target dates, and feel the satisfaction and elation that comes when you continue to put in the effort required to reach your goal.  

Let us introduce or re-introduce S.M.A.R.T. Goals. Develop a meaningful goal following the acronym.   

  • Specific: Write your goal/idea as detailed as possible.  
  • Measurable: Identify quantitative targets for tracking your progress and results  
  • Attainable: Make certain that it is possible to achieve the desired result.  
  • Realistic: Acknowledge practical requirements necessary to accomplish the goal.  
  • Timed: Build specific deadlines.  

When setting measurable goals, the T is especially important. There must be an indicator where you know when it is accomplished.   

Tip 3: Map Your Executive Career Path 

Mapping out your own executive career path essentially has four steps.  

Step 1: Knowing Yourself 

If you got this far in the article, you probably already have a better idea of where you want to be, what you like to do, and what your strengths and weakness are. Refer to tip 1 to complete this step. 

Step 2: Research 

Once you understand your occupational preferences, it’s time to research other specific skills and qualifications needed to get there. Ask how your skillset matches up to your preferred occupations, where are there gaps, what skills do you need, and what work is needed.  

After getting an idea of what exactly is needed to get to the position you’re aiming for, you will have a list of occupations that are in line with your needs and what learning options you have. 

Step 3: Decision Making 

Once you get to this step, you have filtered out your options and better idea of what is needed next to achieve your goals. Now you must refine your options even more to determine what best fits your situation whether it’s outside or inside your control. Ask yourself the following: 

  • What is holding me back? 
  • How do my goals fit in with the current labor market? 
  • What are the pros and cons of each option? 

Step 4: Taking Action 

With all the knowledge you have gained about yourself, your skills, and the current environment of the world outside of your control, create your plan and detail the steps you need to take to put your plan into action. Refer to Tip 2.  

Tip 4: Build Your Network 

To get where you want to be, leverage your network. Think of people that do what you want to do. The best way to get where you want to be is to learn from someone who is already there. 

If you can’t think of anyone, try to branch out by attending different but relevant events, finding new people on LinkedIn, or through professional organizations. 

Tip 5: Level-Up Your Skills 

Reflect on what level you are at on your skills. Is there room for improvement? Rhetorical question, there always is.  

Additionally, think about what skills or qualifications are required to get where you want to be. From there, look into courses or certifications that can supplement what you already offer. 

Tip 6: Be Willing to Stray from the Path 

No career path is concrete. Unprecedented events happen, new opportunities arise, and maybe roadblocks block you from a straight route.  

When it comes to forging your career path, it’s necessary to be willing to go off course. Perhaps there’s an interim position with your name on it or you need to take a few months to a year off for personal matters. While it may feel like you aren’t going the right direction, the unexpected path could lead you to right where you wanted to be or even better opportunities.  

The best part about creating your own executive career path is that you can always adjust your plan. It’s no one else’s path but yours. Monitor your progress and adjust when needed.  

Tip 7: Seek Help 

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. This is all too true. Maybe you have a mentor in mind already or you can seek help from a trusted boss.  

Whoever it is, everyone needs guidance. If you’re having trouble finding advice, hire a career advisor that can help with anything from creating a job search strategy to optimizing your resume. Career advisors also help you with identifying the factors influencing your career development, locating resources, and determining your next steps. BlueSteps has expert executive career advisors ready to help you wherever you are in your journey.  Learn more here.  

In Conclusion 

Career paths aren’t meant to be one-size-fits-all. Although there is no clear path, you can create a journey that will be fulfilling for YOU and learn about yourself along the way. 

Would you like your career profile and resume/CV to be at the fingertips of 6,000 retained executive search professionals – all fully-screened members of the prestigious Association of Executive Search Consultants - in over 70 countries worldwide? 

BlueSteps is uniquely positioned to offer you this opportunity, alongside access to the International Directory of Executive Search Firms, executive job market data and career management information. Find out more about BlueSteps. 

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