How to make it to the C-suite

by Tammy Buckley01 Apr 2014
More than half of all employees working in Australia aspire to be a high-level executive, according to recruitment experts Hays. 
 
In a survey of 1,364 professionals, 55% said they aspire to a position as a top executive and a further 295 said they have ambition to work in mid to senior level management. However, with a limited number of vacancies available for the top jobs, candidates will need to do everything they can to stand out from the competition.
 
To earn a top job candidates need a wide variety of skills, but above all, according to Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director of Hays in Australia and New Zealand, they need to be a strong operator.
 
“Executives who have made it to the top are those who have successfully used their expertise to become excellent operators, and combined their technical skills with the highest levels of people, management, communication and organisational skills. They also have commercial acumen and the ability to see the big picture and understand how every decision will impact the company’s future,” he said.
 
Here are six tips from Hays to help you’re aspiration become reality:
  • Develop commercial acumen - Developing a strong foundation in the commercial workings of business is essential for an aspiring high-level executive as many large companies prefer candidates who can create value for the company and who understand the company’s financial drivers. Typically, companies are looking for top executives who can develop a strategy and understand the commercial ramifications of business decisions. 
  • Improve personal qualities - Top executives require strong skills in the areas of communication, decision making, leadership, problem solving and management. They need to be able to communicate clearly and persuasively, effectively discuss issues and negotiate with others, direct subordinates, and explain policies and decisions to those within and outside the organisation.
  • Make individual development plans - A formal individual development plan can highlight on-the-job development activities that target specific areas for improvement. Then you can think through the key lessons each experience can teach you prior to task commencement and reflect on what you learnt following the completion of an activity.
  • Continue education - Although education and training requirements vary widely by position and industry, many top executives have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in business administration or in an area related to their field of work. Company training programs, executive development programs, and certification can often benefit managers or executives hoping to advance, as can membership of the relevant industry bodies.
  • Gain work experience - Many top executives advance within their own organisation, moving up from lower level managerial or supervisory positions. However, other companies may prefer to hire qualified candidates from outside their organisation. Regardless, successful top executives have all continued to add to their skills by gaining as much experience as they can. So look for opportunities both within and without to continuously develop your skills base.
  • Focus on your personal qualities - “If you want to be a part of the C-suite, you must assess different options and choose the best course of action, often on a daily basis,” Deligiannis said. “For those who wish to become a top executive, knowing which skills and abilities matter most is essential for success and will go a long way towards differentiating you from the competition.”

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