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Career advice: Become a top executive

Executive career advice

With a limited number of vacancies available for the top jobs, candidates need to do everything they can to stand out from the competition.

Top executives devise strategies and policies to ensure that an organisation meets its goals. They need to have a wide variety of skills and abilities to plan, direct, and coordinate a company’s operational activities.


 
 

A solid foundation and strong technical skills are important building blocks for an executive career. However, above all, companies value 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.

If you aspire to be a top executive, here are our five top tips to help you get there:

1. 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.

2. Improve personal qualities

Top executives must have strong skills in the areas of communication, decision making, leadership, problem solving and management. You 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.

3. Make individual development plans

A formal individual development plan can highlight on-the-job development activities that target specific areas for improvement. You can then 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.

Actively search for a mentor within the business to learn what they did, how they did it and how they got to where they are today.

4. 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.

5. Gain work experience

Many top executives advance within their own organisation, moving up from lower level managerial or supervisory positions. 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.

Final thoughts

In a final piece of advice, focus on your personal qualities, such as decision-making skills. 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.

Top executives need good problem-solving skills and the ability to recognise shortcomings and effectively carry out solutions.

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.