The C-Suite Path: A guide to what you need to know

The C-Suite Path: A guide to what you need to know

You’ve been with the same firm for a decade and it’s time to get a seat at the table. Or, you’re about to graduate with your bachelor’s degree and want to take that first step toward rare C-Suite air. You know, CEO, CFO, COO, CTO status.

Regardless of your career stage, if you’re eyeing a C-Suite position in the near or not-too distant future, there are several ways to go about it. For some, it feels like destiny. Others may find life putting them on that path. 

“There are people who are natural born leaders and know it in high school or earlier,” says Bryan Aitkens, managing partner of CorBridge Solutions, a recruitment and consulting firm specializing in accounting, finance, payroll and HR/HRIS. “Others figure it out by being mentored by someone really good or the opposite, someone who shows them what not to do.” 

If you’re thinking about a career that culminates with a title that starts with a capital C, here’s what you should know. 

Long Tenure Pros
Choosing to stick with the same company and work your way up the chain has its perks. “You are seen as more valuable because you are more well known in the organization. You are also going to be more passionate,” Aitkens says.

Long Tenure Cons
However, it isn’t without pitfalls. Spending many years with one company runs the risk of your trajectory getting stalled for reasons beyond your control. If this is the case, looking elsewhere may lead you to your CIO goal. Also, what if you are caught up in a layoff sweep? In both scenarios, you are forced to enter a new company under less than ideal conditions and may not find a financially comparable position, Aitkens says. 

Joining a New Company 
Should you wish to pursue your CEO dream elsewhere, there are benefits. A new organization will provide opportunities to diversify your skill set through hands-on experiences, different managers and procedures. Often, these are transferable to a variety of positions and industries, which could make you an uncommon asset. “Of every 10 C-suite people, maybe four understand transferable skills,” Aitkens says. 

Consider the Counter
Once you announce you’ve got another place to land, an employer may make a counter offer to keep you, especially in this employee-centric market. Keep this in mind so you can evaluate what you ultimately want – the C-level job or a really nice salary bump. “I’m dealing with a lot of double- and triple- counter offers,” Aikens says. “Fortunately, employers are thinking out of the box to find talent.” 

Get on Radars
Real-time conversations with managers is a way to increase chances of your name coming up as a contender when C-Suite conversations happen. Expressing your desire for a C-level job during reviews is a move Aitkens recommends. “Let them know you’re wanting more by putting it into your reviews. That’s the easiest because it doesn’t come out of left field,” he says. 

Conferences and Workshops
Not only are these ways to shore up your C-Suite path, it also opens up networking avenues. “It shows that you are trying to be better for your organization so they should be better for you,” Aitkens says. “It’s also a way to get yourself seen.” 

Further Your Education 
In addition to a likely salary bump, earning your MBA also puts you in a networking sea. “I’ve seen people get jobs from being in an MBA program. Someone knows of a position opening up and they thought of this person first,” Aitkens says. 

Take a deep breath. It’s time to unlock your own C-Suite opportunity.

Georgann Yara is a journalist based in Phoenix. Find her on Twitter @georgannyara. 
Photo by The Coach Space

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