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What it Takes to Become a Company’s CEO

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Every young student fresh out of business school aspires to be a company executive. An executive has it all. The incredibly high-paying salary, the ability to make important decisions, social prestige, and the ability to pick her own hours, are all perks of working as an executive in the corporate world. To learn about certain things you can do appeal to companies in the process of executive recruitment, read on.

But the path to becoming a corporate executive begins long before graduating from the business school. In fact, what degree you pick during your studies can dramatically influence your ability to attain an executive job later on in your career. While CEOs that dropped out of college – such as Michael Dell of Dell Computer, or Steve Jobs, formerly of Apple – generally dominate the press clippings, they are the anomaly in the executive world. The vast majority of company executives graduated with degrees in finance, business management, or economics. The reason graduating with these types of degrees is so helpful in later becoming an executive is because the classes offered while earning these degrees do an excellent job of simulating the corporate business environment. That is, the education offered in business schools is cutting-edge, with students working collaboratively on research projects, analyzing real life issues, under real life constraints.

Although CEOs like Michael Dell and Steve Jobs are in the minority, they demonstrate an important point. Oftentimes, the most helpful trait in making it to the top of the corporate world is an individual’s personality traits. Not only is Richard Branson, the CEO of Virgin Group, a college drop-out, but he is also an incredibly driven, daring, and charismatic individual. CEOs are, first and foremost, excellent communicators. They are constantly involved in striking deals, as well as managing products and people. All of these things require the ability to articulate directly, honestly, and openly. Because executives are in charge of so many things, they need to have the ability to command respect, too. Like Richard Branson, CEOs need to extroverted individuals who are willing to do whatever it takes to sell their brand to consumers and to employees. If you do not possess one of these personality traits, do not worry – not all executives possess them, either. And, if you want to learn how to become more extroverted or communicate more directly, there are corporate coaches (or countless self-help books) available on the market to teach you.

Education and personality in a corporate executive varies from individual to individual. What does not tend to vary, though, is the amount of job experience executives have. Recent research studies indicate that most corporate executives have over two decades of experience before reaching their position. There are two ways to reach an executive level position in the business realm. A person can stick with the same company they started with right out of college. This strategy is referred to as being a “lifer” with a company. Studies suggest that lifers can obtain an executive position an average of 22 years after joining the company. Another strategy workers use to become a high-ranking employee is to jump from one company to a different one when offered a better job opportunity, a better salary, or more responsibilities. Individuals who implement this strategy, on average, take about 26 years to reach executive-hood. One of the most important personality traits is confidence, which you can read more about on EPR’s blog.

Every time a company opens up its executive recruitment process, there will no doubt be hundreds of applicants. There is no exact blueprint for getting a job as a CEO or CFO of a company. However, most company executives today graduated with business degrees in finance, economics, or business management. These individuals are extroverts with excellent communication skills. And nearly all executives have two decades of experience before landing their positions. Making sure you have these things will help you appeal to that company recruiting you.

 

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