by Alan Royal
Dec 2 2015
As a Director or VP, one of the key questions you need to ask yourself is, do I really have a passion to advance to a C-level executive position? You cannot allow yourself to be purely driven by money or status, but rather ask the question, “Will I be happy, and fulfilled, in reaching the C-suite?” From the time we start our careers, we all naturally want to be at the top of the heap, but unfortunately, for many, achieving this objective results in a material decrease in job satisfaction.
Once you are a C-suite executive, you are fully exposed to and must deal with the day-to-day political realities of your organization. Often, there is an awakening during which new C-suite executives find themselves doing far less of the work they love. This is often due to having to constantly navigate politics that will enable their subordinates to perform their work effectively on a day to day basis, while maximizing the team’s organizational value generation.
To get more insight into C-level roles, you should consider job shadowing a mentor of yours who is already at this level. What you find will either confirm your desire for upward progression or, alternatively, provide you a basis to conclude you are happy where you are now in your career.
Your Organization and Associated Senor Management View of Your Skills
Having clearly established that you feel the C-suite will fulfill your career objectives, the question turns to the process of getting there.
First, the C-suite has only so many positions – most of which remain filled. Thus, you have to ask the question regarding how you are going to acquire your desired position. The answer is pretty straight forward as one of the four events have to occur in your current organization: a new C-level position is created, a resignation occurs, someone is terminated, or someone retires. If you do not see any potential C-level openings emergent within the next two to three years, a job search might be in order. Specifically, when undertaking a job search, you are either directly looking for a C-level position or a role that has a clearly articulated path to getting there.
Alternatively, if you have assessed that there will be a job opportunity in the C-suite, then you need to assess how you are viewed within the organization. As top C-suite executives do not often have visibility into your actual job performance, your candidacy for an open C-suite position will often be perception-based rather than fact-based. Most companies maintain active executive-level succession planning, so you will need to work your network to find out if your name is on the list. If not it’s time to seek another job.
Your C-level Job Search
More often than not, senior managers seeking a coveted C-level job have to make a job change to maximize their opportunities to achieve this objective. First, you should seek positions that put you directly into a C-suite position. In seeking a direct entry C-level position, first and foremost you need to engage a career advisor who will remodel your credential format and online presence in such a manner that maximizes your opportunity to be relevant for these positions, have the best chance to passing first round screeners, and ensure your credentials are seen by individuals who can truly assess your skills directly. If you seek to be a C-suite executive, then your LinkedIn profile, resume, and web site need to scream “you are a viable C-level executive.” Through AESC/BlueSteps there are many selectively chosen resume writers and career coaches who will guide you through this process. Engaging this type of service is a must. If you try on your own, your chances of having a viable outcome are poor.
As stated above, the alternative to directly seeking a C-level position is to be hired into a company with a specifically articulated pathway to the C-suite. Often, an organization will hire you clearly articulating that one of their C-suite executives is retiring in one year. Your job is to work hand in hand with this individual in order to enable a smooth transition.
This section is left to the end of this blog post, as it is relevant to all of the narrative above. If you have decided you want to be a C-suite executive, then dress like them, write with same quality they do, and demonstrate within your own team you have achieved management excellence. Lastly, observe how C-suite executives communicate, react to emergencies, and any other particular behavioral points you can learn from.
If you truly seek a C-suite executive position, then you need to be demonstrate that you are already practicing the necessary skills and present and articulate yourself in a manner suiting a C-suite executive.
Making it to the C-suite is a journey and rarely an event. Plan your advancement strategy with your career advisor and execute. Execution is often intense and tiring. My previous career coach once told me “your search at the C-level will look like this: no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, yes!”
For additional advice on executive job search and career transition, download a recording of “Career Transition Planning: Finding Your Next Opportunity” here.