Last week, a new study found that the “quickest path to becoming CEO was a winding one.” In other words, a mix of career skills and experiences was found to be the commonality among those holding the top job at a company. This data was based on analysis of over 450 management consultants’ careers on LinkedIn. The study found that adding experience in a new functional area at work seemed to improve a person’s odds of becoming a senior executive as much as a few years more of work experience in the same area.
So what can you do if your career goal is to get to the C-suite?
1. Start learning about other kinds of jobs.
If the idea of doing one type of job for the rest of your life seems daunting, you now have another reason to explore far and wide. Read, listen to your colleagues tell you about their jobs and ask a lot of questions to figure out what else may interest you.
2. Get some experience in the roles that interest you.
If you currently work in sales but are interested in learning more about product management, you can create a plan for how to get more experience in that area. Sometimes it may be easier to actually land a new role within your own company than moving to another company to do something different. Exploring a new functional area may also be easier outside your company if you're willing to take on extracurricular activities such as volunteer opportunities (e.g. at a non-profit or at a start-up) on the side.
3. Consider what departments women work in where they enjoy high levels of job satisfaction.
The women in this community have reported higher job satisfaction while working in certain roles (something we've captured in our list of "Best Departments for Women." If you’re going to pursue a new area of work, you should consider how other women have felt about their jobs in those areas. While it may not matter to you and should not deter you if your mind is set on pursuing a certain career, it’s still instructive to see that women may feel they can be more successful in certain kinds of roles than others.
4. Network across functional areas.
In some ways, this may be welcome relief. Since networking can often feel so transactional, this kind of “horizontal” networking can feel more natural. In other words, you now have yet another reason to reach out to that woman in PR or IT that gave that inspiring presentation at the town hall meeting!
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