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10 Steps to the C-Suite

Mon 02 April 2012

, LEAP redaktie, LEAP

There is a radio commercial in which somebody asks her boss: Could you tell me how long it will take till I am the manager? I’ve been here almost three months and I want to know what mortgage I can get.” Many Gen Y mid-level employees get frustrated quite quickly if their career is not progressing as fast as they want.  According to Stephen Xavier, career coach and chief of Cornerstone Executive Development Group, the young up-and-comers want instant gratification: “If they don’t feel on the fast track, they are job-shopping by month nine. However, you’re better off sticking where you are and grooming the field ahead of yourself.”

Career experts offer up the 10 basic steps that lead to the C-suite. Here’s the (shortened) list, compiled by Jenna Goudreau for Forbeswomen.

1. Understand the company, and identify the channels to the top job.
Make it a priority to learn the functions of each department and identify the key decision-makers in the company. Identify which core-business channels feed into the C-level and what areas to stay away from because they won’t get you to the corner office.

2. Define your career goals and map out your short- and
long-term strategy.
Consider the sacrifices you may need to make— travelling, long hours and all-nighters —and decide if and why it’s worth it. Do you want a closet full of  Gucci bags and Louboutins, or want to sit in the board room because you have a vision? If the top job is what you want, map out the types of positions and promotions you’ll need to get it.

3. Communicate your ambitions without becoming
identified by them.

Be clear about your goals and promotion intentions, but without seeming so focused on a title that colleagues question your motivations. Xavier suggests that you sit down with your boss for a frank discussion about your strengths and weaknesses and where they see you going. Then ask to be considered for stretch assignments and for advice on ways to grow.

4. Identify your weaknesses and leverage your strengths.
Speak to respected colleagues, also from other departments or outside of the company to gauge what they perceive to be your strengths and the areas in which you could improve. Then come up with a plan for utilizing your best skills and developing those you lack.

5. Negotiate for what you need to be successful.
Take an inventory of your time, expectations, team members, equipment and budget. Is success realistic? If not, negotiate for more. That way your list of successes will get longer.

6. Invest—heavily—in your social network.
Positivity and stress management are almost impossible without a healthy social sphere. Not only will likability help you up the ladder, professional networks provide necessary information about opportunities in your company and field. Seek out those who will provide honest feedback about everything from your work to your hairstyle. Help them, too, by trumpeting their successes.

7. Find a mentor who will support and encourage your goals.
A strong mentor relationship is essential if you’re vying for the C-suite. Remember that a strong relationship should be mutually beneficial. Consider what you can offer. It may be technological savvy, a different perspective or insight into managing younger generations.

8. Reveal yourself as the leader you hope your title will
someday match.

Even at the lowest levels, it’s important to be perceived as a collaborator and team-builder. By supporting and investing in the growth of others, you are showing supervisors that you are already a leader and would bring motivational skills to the top job.

9. Recognize and reflect the company culture.
Notice how high-level, successful employees dress, speak and carry themselves. It’s important that you exude “positive confidence” and look like a leader. If you dress and behave as if you’ve already achieved the job you want, it’s easier for people to picture you in it.

10. Maintain a positive attitude, and hang in there.
Finally, be patient. Don’t allow stress or frustration to derail you.  Stay positive. Remember why you love your job, and be careful not to overdo it and make yourself miserable by working too hard.

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