Being smart, accomplished and talented is not enough to get to the C-Suite.
As with any goal, if the C-Suite is where you want to be, you need a plan. And then you need to get the best resources to help you implement your plan.
We recently sat down with Robin Toft, CEO of The Toft Group, an Executive Search firm specializing in placing C-Level executives in the Life Sciences throughout the United States. After many years in executive search, Robin has seen the differences between how men and women navigate their career paths. Robin shared with us what she considers the top resources every professional needs to move into the C-Suite and also shared some observations of how men and women navigate this path differently.
No. 1 Get a Mentor
These are people who are in the roles you want, who can share their experiences with you, provide feedback and direction. Robin mentioned that mentors aren’t just for folks aspiring to be in the C-Suite, but for those who have reached that goal and want to stay relevant, continue to reach higher and share practices.
In many industries men are in the majority of the leadership roles, so having their insight can be invaluable. Likewise, having a sponsor (a mentor who advocates for you) can make a difference in whether or not you are recognized for a role you want by giving you exposure to top management, putting you on projects that showcase your abilities, and helping you get recognition for the value you bring the organization.
No. 2 Work with a Coach
It goes without saying that you need skills to get to the C-Suite. How are your technical skills, your leadership skills, your business acumen? Are you confident in your ability?
Insufficient Self-Confidence is the number one career obstacle identified by over 200 senior women, according to the report Women and the Paradox of Power.
A coach can help you hone business development skills, expertise, leadership skills, internal marketing skills, and risk taking, and help you build up your confidence. We encourage all of our clients to work with a coach, regardless of their professional level.
No. 3 Develop a relationship with several Executive Search firms in your area of expertise
One of the things we found especially interesting was Robin’s insight into how men and women approach Executive Search firms differently. Executive Search firms should be one of the resources you have an ongoing relationship with. Over time, they know who you are, what your strengths are, what you are interested in. And be sure your resume is on file with all of them so that when positions arise, they think of you and would know if you might be a good fit for a role. We learned, too, that there is no charge to be represented, because the companies pay search firms to find the best and the brightest. Your job is to be on their radar.
Robin shared that men tend to reach out to them to develop these relationships, but women tend to only reach out when planning a job transition. This is too late in the game, as we learned. Because Executive Search firms can truly make a difference to landing a role you want, and because they handle most of the C-Suite placement for organizations, having a close relationship with this resource makes a tremendous difference in a career path.
No. 4 Network
Networking expands business opportunities, plain and simple. It is an essential part of building professional capital by allowing you to meet role models, business leaders, develop social connections, forge bonds with colleagues, trusted advisors, and key resources. And, with leadership today much more collaborative than in the past, your ability to connect to others, how you incorporate outside perspectives, and how you navigate groups can impact your ability to land the C-Suite role you want.
Joanna Barsh of McKinsey & Company says that “women’s lack of access to informal networks is a structural obstacle to their career advancement, comparable in impact to lacking a mentor, or appropriate coaching and training. “(Why women should do less and network more, Fortune, Nov 11, 2014) There is most definitely the challenge with finding time for work and family, and for many networking takes the back burner. Robin shared that she advises her clients to be out in the community networking during the week. She understands that while networking is time consuming, it is essential for C-Suite leaders.
If the C-Suite is your destination, take the time to develop a plan that includes these four resources. Because we consider managing your career to be one of the key determiners of your financial success, at WealthChoice we have terrific resources in these areas that we refer our clients and friends to and would be happy to share them with you if you’d like. Just contact us.