10 tips to fast-track your career and reach the C-Suite

By Kylie Hammond, CEO of Director Institute

There are many people who would love a successful executive career and be part of the C-Suite club. There are also many people who have no idea how to start their executive career journey.

No matter who you are, getting your executive career on track can be a complicated process.

Plus, getting your foot in the executive door has become much more difficult in the past year.

For those who have the passion and drive to move up the ladder into the C-Suite, there’s a lot of groundwork that has to be done. Candidates are vying more fiercely for opportunities and proactively searching for ways to acquire new skills that will give them an advantage over other candidates – which means you need to be on the ball too.

Here are 10 things you should do if you want to fast-track your executive career and reach the C-Suite sooner:

1. Get a career coach or business mentor

Every successful C-Level executive I know has access to a career coach and/or a business mentor. Often they are funding them out of their own pocket. A good career coach or mentor will help you with career direction, external perspective and insight into your strengths and weaknesses. Try using different coaches and mentors at different times, to deal with specific challenges.

2. Invest 10 per cent of your income in your own personal and professional development

Build new ‘hot skills’ every year – look for smaller training courses and experiences that address current workplace requirements. Also, don’t be afraid to develop skills outside of your current area of expertise.

3. Develop a love of learning

Attend online seminars, read books, watch TedTalks, develop an inquisitive mind that will help make you a ‘quick study’ when the opportunity arises to take on more responsibility and when you need to hit the ground running.

4. Build a career plan

Without a plan you cannot spot good career opportunities, develop a training plan, take new opportunities on and maneuver into position to be offered better roles and experiences. Develop the leadership attributes that will make you a more desirable employee.

5. Network, network, network

Network your heart out within the business and externally across multiple industries. Well-networked executives are never out of work. By all means leverage modern networking tools such as LinkedIn, but don’t under-estimate the importance of building good relationships by meeting new contacts in-person now that restrictions have eased. People are more open to connection in the climate.

6. Work on communication

If you are not a natural networker your will need to work on your communication skills and work on becoming an interesting person. Get a networking buddy and learn the art of building rapport with your colleagues, peers and managers. Learn to crack the ‘communication code’, especially with your direct reports and managers, as it will put you in good stead.

7. Build a relationship with your manager

You must build a strong relationship with your manager to be presented with career opportunities.

People leave jobs for three main reasons, the main one being that the person is not getting on with their boss or colleagues. You cannot change jobs each time you run into difficulty. You can’t label someone difficult every time there is a robust discussion in the work-place. Have your manager’s back and they will more often than not have yours.

8. Develop a passion for business and people

Many people will tell you to find your passion and everything will magically fall into place. I say, develop an ‘interest’ in business and people and you can have a satisfying career in a range of industries and roles.

9. Work smarter, not harder

Top level executives are super organised and efficient. Learn how to organise your email for optimum efficiency, manage your diary carefully for optimum output, allocate time to do the work and be careful about not attending the continual round-robin of meetings without agendas and sitting there for 45 minutes when you are only required to contribute for five minutes.

Develop a good work ethic and outsource everything that is not critical in other parts of your life. I personally outsource everything except the most critical components of my life that require my personal input and presence. Time is your most valuable commodity.

10. Start to build the foundations to your board career early

If you dream of one day sitting on a board you need to start early by building skills such as strategy, risk, governance and strong communication skills.

Look for opportunities to join steering committees and in your personal life don’t underestimate unpaid board work such as arts, sports, community or school boards and body corporates to give you a taste of what it is like to work in a Board-like environment.

If you have the support of your manager, consider joining a NFP, arts, sports or community based board where you can hone your skills and also make a valuable contribution.

About Kylie Hammond

Kylie Hammond, CEO of Director Institute, is a leading board and executive search and board talent management consultant and Australia’s foremost CEO business mentor. She is passionate about helping executives create portfolio careers which can include a main employment contract, combined with not-for-profit work, board appointments, speaking and coaching or mentoring engagements. DirectorInstitute.com.au