The C-level job search differs from traditional searches in many important ways, and you should understand these differences before seeking out a top position. Knowing the key differences will help you prepare for the search and ultimately achieve success.
Before you make the jump to the C level, you need to verify that you have the expertise and background necessary to impress other executives and the board. The following are some of the key questions that that you should consider:
Typically, companies do not make C-level hires by posting on job boards. Instead, these positions are filled through networking. If you have an extensive network, you can broadcast your goals and see if any opportunities arise. However, with a weaker network, you may not have the exposure you need to secure a top-level position.
Some ways to build your network are to participate in more industry organizations, work with a recruiter, and engage with people through social media, especially on websites like LinkedIn. You should also strive to diversify your network as much as possible. Ideally, your network should span several different industries.
- Are you visible professionally?
To raise your chances of securing a C-level position, you should have some degree of brand recognition, meaning that people know who you are and associate your name with a certain image. Of course, this sort of brand development can prove difficult to achieve before rising to a C-level position.
There are a number of different ways to increase your visibility, however. One of the primary methods is to engage more with your professional community on social media. By creating a blog, interacting with people on LinkedIn, or tweeting high-quality content, you can quickly improve your professional reputation. You can also increase visibility by become involved with area nonprofits, especially through board positions.
- Where and when are you looking for a job?
While logistical issues may not seem extremely important early in your search, they can have a major bearing on the decisions that you make down the road. Therefore, you should ask yourself these questions early on in the process. Not being willing to move or having obligations that prevent you from moving can limit your chances of securing a C-level position, but this knowledge can also help you hone your search and push you to focus on selling yourself to area businesses.
In terms of a timeline, you should understand that C-level hires do not happen overnight. The recruiting process can take many months, so people who need a position immediately may want to look for interim work.
- Do you display the personality traits of a C-level executive?
Reflect on the qualities that you possess and picture how they will serve you in a C-level position. When you understand exactly what you have to bring to the table, you can easily refine your brand and know how to respond to some of the particularly tough questions that you may face. Virtually all successful C-level executives have key traits in common, and you need to be able to point to experiences in which you pulled upon these traits.
Think about your willingness to take charge, especially in difficult situations; your ability to persevere, even when the future seems bleak; your propensity for strategic planning; and your level of comfort with change and innovation. You may also want to consider if you are prone to challenging the status quo and demanding something better.
- How well do you know your industry?
The best C-level executives understand that they must keep a finger on the pulse of their industry at all times. It is not enough to pay attention to what the competition is doing, you must also be aware of the changing expectations of the marketplace. Having vision for the future is also not sufficient. You must understand the past, especially the mistakes that should not be repeated.
Knowing the industry intimately helps you build the business sense that you need to make the best decision for your company. Most importantly, you should have a clear idea of how your industry interacts with other sectors. Some of the most successful projects of the past decade involved cross-sector collaboration that brought something completely new and exciting to the consumer. When you know the industry inside and out, you can turn heads and convince people you are right for the job.
- What is your leadership style?
C-level executives must have impeccable leadership skills. While flexibility in leadership style is important, you need to have an overarching personal philosophy about leadership that you can vocalize.
When people interview you, they will want to know exactly how you plan to interact with other executives, lower-level managers, and other employees at the company. You should have a clear understanding of your leadership philosophy and how those ideas play out in the workplace. Think of a few especially challenging moments when you had to adapt your leadership philosophy to address to new issues.