Our hats are off to every professional aspiring to a C-suite job or a better C-level position in today’s environment. The exciting although complex challenges of these top roles are rich and more diverse than ever, and while opportunities are abundant for smart, focused candidates, competition is also fierce. We offer current insights and sound advice for unique career paths.
The horizon is promising
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that as of 2020, there were 2,704,400 top executive jobs in the United States. The number is expected to grow 8% by 2030 with about 247,100 openings projected each year, on average. Many openings are expected to replace professionals who choose other occupations, exit to retire or for other reasons for turnover.
Also driving growth in this job sector is the emergence of all-new functionalities. As highlighted below, the C-suite is expanding into vast new territory, beckoning professionals with relevant experience and bona fides in new leadership disciplines.
What is your best course of action to successfully land the right opportunity for you?
The basics for a modern-day mindset
The ‘C’ in C-suite of course stands for Chief, a top position in the organizational hierarchy. Along with the lofty title comes a world of responsibility to effectively manage an organization’s direction and make pivotal decisions that impact company-wide operations and performance.
While responsibilities differ based on specific titles and areas of operation, today’s successful executives adopt a holistic view and approach that aligns with the goals, objectives and synergies of the entire executive team. Yes, there is an “I” in chief, but there is also an “E” for every other executive in the suite. Success comes to each through cohesion and shared goals.
What about demographics?
Men have historically dominated U.S. executive suites. At the CEO level, men outnumber women by approximately 17 to one; however, women are inching higher on the spectrum as illustrated in a 2000-2020 chart from Fortune that groups Fortune 500 CEOs by gender.
In October 2021, Women Business Collaborative (WBC) along with Ascend, C200 and Catalyst, released a second report highlighting Women CEOs in America: Changing the Face of Business Leadership. The report found that women account for 8.2% of Fortune 500 CEOs (an all-time high); 7.3% of Fortune 1000 CEOs; 6% of S&P CEOs; 5.6% of Russell 3000 CEOs; and 7.4% of private company CEOs.
Lorraine Hariton, CEO of the gender equality organization Catalyst, said, “We’re seeing more intentionality. We’re seeing a focus on women of color. And we’re seeing a recognition that diversity and women in leadership is even more important.”
Here’s an article that provides additional and very interesting demographics and statistics: The Leadership Gap: 20 Revealing Male vs. Female CEO Statistics.
Tip #1 is to be intentional and specific in your pursuit
Given the many titles comprising today’s top teams, know that not just any C-level role will do – for you personally or a hiring organization. Keep your eye on jobs that align with your skills, expertise and ambitions, and that also closely align with the needs and functions of a company’s explicit role. As mentioned, competition for these top jobs is off the charts. You want to throw everything you have at opportunities that call for your strongest traits and achievements.
Determine if your background lends itself to more than one C-level role
Traditional C-suite jobs, such as Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Information Officer and Chief Marketing Officer no longer fly solo in managing today’s businesses. New ‘Chief’ titles are emerging every day to carry out critical responsibilities in our ever-changing corporate world.
This is one circumstance in which being pigeon-holed could be a good thing for your career. For example, if your expertise lies in marketing or sales, you could tailor your desires – and especially your resume – to fit perfectly into a job opportunity for Chief Customer Officer. There are countless cross-over roles that are opening doors for professionals with traditional management experience.
In alphabetical order, the following chief-level jobs have emerged due to lightning-fast business and technological innovations, shifts in consumer buying behaviors, employee demand for more effective communications and programs, and the escalating importance of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) strategies.
While this list is hardly definitive, it gives you an idea of the copious and diverse opportunities that are out there today. Dig into the links and also explore other “new C-suite titles” to see where you have cross-functional expertise, and of course interest in landing one of these roles.
Consider looking outside the traditional corporate sphere
Mayors, city managers, county administrators, governors, school superintendents, college and university presidents – these are also top executives who perform commensurate responsibilities for their organizations. Many if not most professionals in these specialized jobs grow up in business environments and consequently possess the knowledge, world views, visionary acumen and leadership chops needed to excel in these rewarding positions. Remember that getting into the C-suite and landing your dream job is a journey, and experience in these other sectors will lead to expanded opportunities in corporate America.
How to get the compensation you want in a C-suite job
Let’s start with cold, hard cash – or salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for chief executives was $185,950 in May 2020. Again, that is a median, derived from wages across many functions. Salaries widely differ by function and company size. For example, a 2020 analysis from the Economic Policy Institute found that CEO compensation at the top 250 firms averaged $21.3 million in 2019. Other examples: CEOs typically make more than CFOs, and a CMO at a big company typically earns more than a CMO at a small company.
If you read a lot of business or industry-specific news, there is no shortage of data on what chief executives bring home. And there are websites, such as salary.com, that provide more insights. For mainstream executive salary analysis, it is worth noting that many companies have set salary ranges or bands for employees at every level of the organization, including executives, which again differ by company and function. Nevertheless, C-level executives command the highest salaries.
Beyond salary, top executives often receive compensation in the form of stock options, bonuses, loan forgiveness, vehicles, private air travel and many other perks. These added forms of compensation are good negotiating tools to help you arrive at an acceptable package when a company puts an offer on your table.
What’s the bottom line? As you can see, there is no absolute number on what these jobs pay. If you are set on a certain income level, you have a few options for cutting to the chase among opportunities. The best option is to work with a recruiter who knows what you want and what hiring companies are paying, and can connect you with the right opportunities. Other options are to research opportunities for salary information, consult salary websites, and talk with people in your professional network who may have insights into what companies pay their executives.
Design your executive resume for success
Hiring companies and executive recruiters are looking for professionals with management and leadership experience, whether the experience was gained from another C-level job or other senior management position. The right stuff needs top billing in a resume and it needs to clearly resonate with the specific opportunity at hand.
Many professionals make the mistake of creating their own resumes. It is close to impossible to be completely objective about your achievements, while simultaneously expressing the right ones based on a hiring company’s requirements. Professionals also err in farming resumes out to friends or associates with limited knowledge of how to construct one. There is also a tendency to hire any old resume-writing service to get a working, satisfactory document.
So, what is the answer? Treat this invaluable tool as if your future depends on it – because it does! Consult with a professional resume writer or firm who is experienced in preparing C-level resumes – effective marketing tools that demonstrate experience, expertise, necessary skills and just as important – thought leadership.
A resume is just one necessary tool: Knowing how and where to market oneself is critical, yet very subjective, with so many schools of thought and just as many methods and vehicles. Over time, we continue to point to solid advice from Forbes Coaches Counsel’s 10 Top Executive Resume Tips. Highly worth a read, the article shares why – and most importantly how top executives are paying closer attention to their online and offline marketing collateral. It is a unique approach that is sure to help you capture your greatest assets and share them in the most impactful ways.
Not quite ready for the C-Suite? Start planning your succession now!
If you are still building your way to the top, there is a lot you can do to accelerate your path. Stay current in your desired area of operation or discipline. Know the level of required education (most C-suite jobs require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, and many call for advanced degrees). Consider continuing education and acquiring certifications that will give you a leg up when you’re ready. Look for opportunities to increase current job responsibilities that will form a straight line to your goal. Commit to professional networking and build relationships that will help you down the road. And start today in adopting or perfecting the skills, habits and traits of successful C-level executives.
Whether you’re looking or hiring, we can help
Building successful careers and corporate teams is what we do at Goodwin Recruiting. Be it a member of the C-suite or other leadership or management role, we provide a smooth recruiting process that ensures ideal fits for individuals and companies alike. Our goal is quality over quantity and our team is ready to support your unique endeavors.