There are many good reasons why people aspire to sit at the apex of organisations. One of them being that they get to make a positive impact and a change in an entire organisation and even the world, for that matter. For those aspiring to get to the top team or the top spot of a corporation, there are a few points that you will want to consider.
- Obtaining an undergraduate or graduate degree in an area of your interest. Specialise in it well enough when you get a job in a firm but keep your eyes on big picture perspectives. Becoming siloed in a function is the last thing that you want.
- If your degree is in a less technical area, take on an MBA to provide the perceptive edge of being knowledgeable over various aspects of a business. Masters degree holders have been noted to shorten the length of time taken to the top by at least 4 years as compared to those with a basic degree.
- Within a firm, move across the various functions when the opportunity arises to provide portfolio breadth. If you do move out of the firm, have in mind that the next firm has to provide not just a higher salary and job scope, but exposure and opportunities. 4 in 10 CEOs changed organisations at least once in the first 5 years of their working life. The developmental stage of one’s career transits one from lower to middle management and launches one into a phase of commitment thereafter. So be selective over how you want to transit.
- Keep an eye on trends and the changing business landscape. As the needs of the firm changes due to the changing business landscape, it signals a growing or diminishing importance of your job.
- Expose yourself internationally where possible, as this is one of the growing areas of importance and firms internationalise and are looking for candidates to fill positions or provide expertise in another country’s culture. One in four in top management teams had international exposure or assignments. 4 in 10 of these assignments involved multiple positions overseas.
Research from Forbes and Piercy (1991) has shown that the inter-firm or even inter-industry mobility for CEOs in the American industrial setting is low. Here are some interesting statistics:
Only 1 in 10 of these CEOs moved more than 4 times in their careers to arrive at the corner office.
About 3 in 5 moved at least once during the first 5 years.
Their first position as a manager came when they were about 29 years of age.
At 39, they became vice-presidents or general managers in charge of a division or a region.
At 45, they became executive vice-presidents.
At 47, they entered into top management (i.e. other than CEO positions, e.g. Chief Financial Officer, Chief Information Officer, Chief Operating Officer, etc.)
At 50 they finally became CEOs.
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