Professional Development

7 tips for landing an executive position

Written by Michael Hoon

It takes many, many desk workers but only a select few executives to make the corporate world spin on its axis. That imbalance may make an executive position seem virtually unattainable for the average employee. But while elevating to the executive suite does require an exceptional amount of ambition, it’s not an unachievable goal.

So what is stopping you from starting that climb up the corporate ladder? Perhaps you’re not sure how to begin your own rise. If so, the following 7 tips for evolving from desk grunt to exec can help you know the route to take.

1. Take a look at yourself

Before beginning your quest for that executive position, you need to take a hard look at yourself to determine if you really have what it takes. If you find that you’re lacking in any areas—maybe you don’t have a firm grasp on corporate culture, or maybe your knowledge of finances is weak—you can start to focus your efforts on attaining the knowledge and skills you need to bring yourself up to speed.

2. Take advantage of being an insider

Executives are not usually hired from some resume slush pile—most are promoted from within a company’s existing staff. One key to becoming that select staff member is finding a manager willing to groom and champion you for an executive position. The ideal mentor is nurturing, able to recognize high performers, and willing to reward great work with promotions. If you’re working under a manager who fits this description, he or she may be willing to give you a leg up the corporate ladder.

3. Look the part

A manager will be more willing to champion you for an executive position if you already look the part. Try rebranding yourself so you fit the executive mold better. If the executives are wearing tailored suits, but you usually show up to work in jeans and “nice” t-shirts, restyle your look so you’re more in line with the higher-ups.

4. Make a name for yourself

If you have a tendency to go under the radar in your office, subject yourself to a bold metamorphosis. Don’t be shy about making your ambitions clear. Take an active role in the office. Speak up during meetings and conferences. Contribute to your company’s newsletter. Do whatever it takes to make your name known, because you’ll never get promoted if no one knows who you are.

5. Know your business

Raising your voice during meetings or contributing articles to your company’s newsletter will do you no favors if you have no idea what you’re talking about. So before speaking up, you need to study up. Get to know your company inside and out. Study quarterly reports. Find out your company’s goals. Knowing your business will help you articulate the ways you can help it to profit and grow, which is what you’ll be expected to do in that executive position you covet.

6. Welcome responsibility 

An exec has a lot of responsibilities, so if you don’t have many significant tasks in your current position, you may never be recognized as having the right stuff to make it to the top level. If that’s the case, seek out new opportunities to take on more important assignments. Vie for leadership roles in new projects. Volunteer to head a committee. Compile a white paper. If you’re successful, upper management may soon recognize your executive potential.

7. Build your network

Merely having a single mentor to champion you or making yourself known to only the people on your team may not be enough to get that executive job. Connecting with current executives, the hiring manager, and other key people at your company will only increase your chances of promotion. Be sure you are always ready to introduce yourself, and always have a business card on hand. Be personable. Get on social media, and interact frequently. Always be willing and open to meet new people, tell them about yourself, and take part in all conversations with interest and enthusiasm. You never know who may help you achieve your goal of nabbing that executive position.

About the author

Michael Hoon