How to Become a Chief Executive Officer ‘CEO’
How to Become a Chief Executive Officer ‘CEO’: When you think about your career, you usually picture yourself working out of the corner office. It is rare to hear someone say that their lifelong career goals are to be in a junior role. But for someone wanting to go into business, you’ll likely hear them say they want to become a Chief Executive Officer.
The CEO is the person that takes charge of an organization and works out of that corner office. It is a common and ambitious aspiration, but what does it take to make this goal a reality?
Most Chief Executive Officers – CEOs have either worked their way up through an organization or have started their own company and placed themselves in that role. CEOs of tech giants, like Facebook or Amazon, are good examples of the latter. They founded a company and as their company grew, they remained in charge.
But it is more likely for you to hear the CEO story of working your way up from an entry-level or junior role.
This means that to become a CEO, you need appropriate education and training, management skills, communication skills, industry experience, good networking with business leaders and connections, and the desire to continuously develop new skills as you grow in your career.
What skills does a CEO need?
Knowing exactly what will be required for a CEO job is going to vary by organization, industries and day today.
But there are some traits CEOs have in common no matter what industry they work in.
Developing overall leadership skills will undoubtedly be an essential part of a role where you are in charge of everything from the operations to the staff of an organization.
The common characteristics of successful CEOs are traits that are developed over time with work experience and intentionally honing your skills.
Successful CEO characteristics:
● Drive, ambition, and focus
● Calm and collected demeanor under pressure
● Excellent communication and negotiation skills
● Strong decision makers and can make hard choices
● Ability to develop a strategic plan
● Ability to inspire respect and unite people behind one vision or goal
These are all learnable skills that each of us is capable of developing through school, work, or hobbies.
If you do the work and make the effort to develop these personal skills, success in your career will soon follow.
The following outline highlights some key steps that can help you pave your path toward that corner office and your title as CEO.
You can use it as a checklist while you plan your career growth.
Becoming a CEO: 7 Point Checklist
1. CEO- Get over the fear of failure.
We’re covering this one first because if you can do this, it will make everything else on this list much more impactful and effective.
Over their careers, CEOs have to make tough decisions almost on a daily basis. Most of the time, there is no guarantee of the outcome of these decisions. For someone afraid of failure, being faced with such pressure can be detrimental.
Learning how to get over the fear of failure will allow you to make quicker and better decisions. It will also allow you to take risks.
Even if those risks don’t always pay off, those that fail faster and more often also learn faster–and that is exactly what we are trying to do here. Successful CEOs aren’t in their roles because they never failed.
On the contrary, they can probably tell you about the major mistakes they made throughout their career. But what is important is how they handle those mistakes and what they learned from those situations.
And, if your risks do pay off, even better! You can end up like one of our tech giant CEOs that we mentioned before.
But they would not be where they are had they been afraid to fail several times. Be the person that steps up to take on the challenging project that no one else wants to be a part of.
Take accountability for high profile initiatives whether they are successful or fail. Working under this kind of pressure will show that you are capable of stepping into a leadership role.
Embrace the opportunity even if you do not feel prepared yet, you will learn the necessary skills along the way.
2. Chief Executive Officer – Find Hobbies That Are Out of Your Comfort Zone
When you are looking for ways to spend your free time, try to find opportunities that allow you to build a new skill.
You can start building the leadership skills that you’ll need for a CEO role as early as high school.
Look for activities that can help you cultivate skills like public speaking, organization, decision-making or quick thinking, and communication.
If you are still in school, joining a sports team is an excellent way to improve leadership skills.
You can also seek extracurricular activities such as student government, any student clubs, debate teams, or tutoring/mentoring opportunities.
Ideally, the activities that you choose are exposing you to the realities of working with other people, communicating in different settings, building relationships and the time and skills required to run a business even on a smaller scale.
3. Chief Executive Officer – Get a Degree
There isn’t one specific degree required to be considered for a CEO position, but a general understanding of business, finance, and economics are key to leading any business to success.
The most common degrees for CEOs are usually engineering, accounting, or business administration. But majoring in these fields isn’t necessary, especially if you want to lead a company in a specific industry.
After your Bachelor’s degree, considering graduate studies can also help you develop more of the skills required to lead successful organizations.
Many CEOs have MBAs or advanced degrees in business, economics, or the law. This doesn’t require right after your Bachelor’s degree.
It is common to take some time to get real-world experience after your undergrad and then return for your graduate degree once you have a better idea of your career goals.
While not all CEOs have degrees, the vast majority do. If you are looking to start your own company, or you’re already working your way up the ranks of an existing one, then this might not be a requirement for you.
But in most cases, at least a Bachelor’s degree is required to be considered for the role of Chief Executive.
The idea is to pursue a curriculum that offers you training and leadership development, access to a large network in your desired industry, and practical internship opportunity.
Looking at how previous students rate their experience at a school or in a certain program can also help you make the right decision.
4. CEO- Gain Experience
A CEO position is not an entry-level role. And it is definitely not a role you will move into right after graduating from college. It is important to enter the job market with a realistic expectation knowing that you will have to start at a more junior role, then work your way up.
When you are looking for positions, look for an industry that you are interested in and a role that allows you to grow.
Keep an eye out for companies that offer management training programs or personal development resources, as they can help you advance a lot quicker.
Whatever role you decide on, it’s important to approach it with a student mentality. Soak up as much information as possible and maintain your curiosity to learn more.
Even if it’s not part of your job description, take every opportunity to learn how the company and the industry works.
Start building your network by seeking advice from more experienced professionals. And, as we mentioned before, don’t be scared to step out of your comfort zone. This is your opportunity to master those communication and problem-solving skills.
5. Chief Executive Officer – Seek New Experiences
CEOs aren’t experts in just one field. They have to understand how all parts of a company work together.
Therefore, to be considered for a role as Chief Executive, it’s important to show a background in different areas as opposed to one role for many years. Continuing to learn and master different areas of business will be key to your success.
You can develop new skills within your career by seeking out new positions every two or 3 years, taking the opportunity to work with different departments, or even volunteering with non-profit organizations in roles that will teach you a different part of their business.
In order to advance to the next level, you need to keep growing and learning. Seek out challenges that will teach you new skills even if they are a little scary.
6. Chief Executive Officer – Join a Board of Directors
Again, a CEO role is a role that requires real-world experience more than anything else.
Therefore, taking the opportunity to learn the possible challenges of being a CEO first hand can go a long way in terms of career advancement.
Although joining a board of an unpaid nonprofit can be time-consuming, it is well worth the time.
Volunteering on a board of directors will expose you to the process of creating strategies, managing operations, and planning for company growth.
You will be faced with the kind of decision-making scenarios that a CEO is likely to experience in their role.
7. CEO- Build a Network
While you work on everything else on this list, it is important to be doing one thing the entire time–building your network! While you work so hard toward your dream of a corner office, you will be rubbing shoulders with key stakeholders in the industry. It is important to maintain these connections later on in your career.
Usually, when a company is looking to fill a CEO role, they are likely to promote from within or find a candidate that is familiar to the rest of the executive team.
Maintaining these relationships increases the chances of having your name on this list.
Always Move Forward
So, whether you are still in high school or just now starting your career, remember to get over your fear of failure, cultivate your network, and step out of your comfort zone as much as possible. Taking that next risk will put you on your way to your corner office.