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Do you dream of becoming a CEO or other top executive for a well-known company? If so, this guide is for you. These are the 7 steps you’ll need to take if you want to become a top executive at a Fortune 100 company:
Sure, there are examples of top executives — usually founders — who do not hold undergraduate degrees. However, they are not the norm. Most corporate executives have a master’s degree or greater. A bachelor’s degree is considered essential in today’s competitive environment.
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You’ll want to tailor your major course of study to the executive-level position you aspire to. If you want to become a CEO, consider majoring in finance, business, economics, engineering, one of the sciences, or law. According to Christian Stadler, professor of strategic management at Warwick Business School, these are the degrees that Fortune 100 CEOs most frequently hold. About half of Fortune 100 CEOs studied business, economics or accounting as undergraduates.
Your early work experience might turn out to be more important than you would think. It can influence the entire trajectory of your career.
Most CEOs are promoted from within their organizations rather than being recruited from elsewhere, according to Kenneth “Hap” Klopp, former CEO of the North Face. He is now a professor at Hult International Business School. You’ll have a better shot at the C-suite if you are able to get a job at the company you really want to work for early in your career. Nearly half of all Fortune 100 CEOs first worked as CFOs for their company before transitioning to CEO. And those CFOs were promoted from within their hiring organizations 69 percent of the time, according to Russell Reynolds Associates.
According to BusinessBecause.com, 42 percent of fortune 100 CEOs have obtained Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees. Christian Stadler corroborates these findings in an article for Forbes, but he points out that a graduate engineering or technical degree is starting to become a viable alternative to the MBA. Plan accordingly if you aspire to lead a tech company.
Consulting can give you an impressive diversity of business and problem-solving experience that it’s hard to gain in other roles. A significant percentage of top executives worked as consultants before achieving their leadership positions. Specifically, a significant percentage of top executives have worked at Mckinsey. In 2008, USA Today calculated the probability of a Mckinsey consultant becoming CEO of a publicly traded company at 1 in 690. Usually, the CEOs that get hired after working as Mckinsey consultants have actually been consulting on behalf of the companies that hire them.
Opt to participate in public speaking courses as part of your undergraduate studies. Do this even if you’re an engineering major. You can fulfill electives with public speaking coursework, and you’ll need the experience if you plan to become a top executive. You’ll have to be able to sell your ideas to your colleagues and your superiors. Outstanding presentation skills are essential.
Keep in touch with your friends from school, the contacts you made during your earliest internships and the people you’ve met along the way. It’s also beneficial to form relationships with executive recruiters who specialize in placing talent in your chosen industry.
These are the 7 steps to follow if you know you want to become a top executive in the corporate world. Taking all these steps does not guarantee a position as CEO, but it will definitely maximize your chances for getting there.
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