It’s Lonely at the Top


Executive Resume Lonely At the Top

C-Suite aspirations are not for the faint-hearted. The journey to the top is intensely competitive, the prerequisites for success are difficult to define, and job security can be tenuous. Why would anyone want to know how to become a CEO of a Fortune 500 company? The difficulty and precarious nature of the job leads Auren Hoffman, CEO of LiveRamp, to this answer in the Quora forum, “Being a Fortune 500 CEO is, on the whole, not worth doing.”

You’ll take the challenge, though. Perhaps it’s like climbing K2. The air is rarified at 28,000 feet and there’s adventure involved on the way to the summit. Success means real achievement. Tenacity is required, clear thinking, and an innovative spirit. Regardless of the risk, the journey is worth taking for those who are compelled to lead.

What does it really take to become CEO?

Robert McMullen started as a stock boy in a Lexington, KY Kroger to help pay for his college education. He learned finance, and worked in a regional office in Charlotte, NC for a few years before moving to the company’s Cincinnati headquarters as a financial analyst. When the company merged with Fred Meyer in 1999, McMullen took a lead position in structuring the deal. He was named CFO in 1999, COO in 2009, and after a sequence of successes became CEO for the successful grocery chain in January this year.

In the halcyon days of the past, hard work and achievement were the keys to success, and stories like McMullen’s weren’t unusual.  Good companies presented a career path that promoted their best performers, and excellent organizations intentionally developed succession plans for the next generations of leadership.  Today, the path to the top is more haphazard, and rarely stays within the bounds of a single company’s organizational chart.

It’s also clear that reaching one summit doesn’t signal the end of the mountain climbing career.

Global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, Inc publishes the CEO Turnover Report with data and reporting on changes

in leadership among top U.S. corporations. Annual CEO turnover rates are high, averaging 13% – 15% annually since the 2008 recession. Some of the transitions are due to retirement or resignation, but a significant number of top CEOs leave to take their next top level position.

It’s obvious that one doesn’t simply decide to apply for CEO positions on Careerbuilder.

Executive Resume Mountain Climber

The path to leadership is complicated. It involves education, connections, broad experience, technical competence, emotional intelligence, and usually more than a sprinkling of ambition.

Progressing to the C-Suite requires a strategic career plan and the ability to identify and seize opportunities as they appear. Reaching the top of one company’s organizational chart may only be a stepping-off point for the next career move.

Visibility and the Personal Brand

With the demise of traditional career paths, aspiring CEOs are required to think differently. It’s no longer enough just to shine and achieve within your organization, you also have to be visible outside of it. Industry connections and outside involvements are mandatory, but visibility also involves marketing. It’s an apt cliché, but you need a personal brand and a clear message that sets you apart.

Ironically, in an environment where executive recruiters are likely to find your LinkedIn profile first, an updated executive resume is a logical place to begin your branding strategy. There is value in the document itself, but it’s also significant that the process of constructing the resume provides a mechanism for developing your message. Here’s why both the experience and the message itself are important:

  1. Definition of value – Crafting a resume requires that you define your value contributions in a concise and relevant way. The language must be precise and it must convey challenges met, your actions, and specific results.
  2. Target Audience – Preparing a concise document forces you to consider the requirements of your audience. What attributes has the search firm been asked to source? What accomplishments will be relevant to the Board’s Executive Committee?
  3. Repurposing the Information – You’ll develop the language, and then use it in online profiles, bios, and websites.
  4. Talking Points – The process of creating your resume allows you to think through the points you’ll make and the stories you’ll relate when you speak to others and when you interview.

Hire the Expertise

One of the first lessons that effective CEOs must learn is to surround themselves with the best people, especially those who have special expertise that they may lack. David Ogilvy, the father of modern advertising, put it this way:

‘If you always hire people who are smaller than you, we shall become a company of dwarfs.  If, on the other hand, you always hire people who are bigger than you, we shall become a company of giants.”

If you’re targeting the C Suite, it certainly makes sense to hire a professional help to craft your C Suite resume and your personal brand message. Enlisting the services of a professional resume writer offers some key benefits:

  • Objectivity – to help you clarify your message and emphasize what is relevant to your audience.
  • Understanding of the process – how recruiters will search and analyze. This can be as specific as the choice of keywords to use in your descriptions or how the presentation of achievements is sequenced. Experienced resume writers also bring insights and knowledge accrued from the successes of previous clients.
  • Coaching – how to present the message in person, on paper, and across media channels.

Executive Resume MountaintopClimb the Mountain

It’s important to be prepared. If the C level is your career target, you may not be able to predict the opportunities, but you don’t have to be surprised when they arrive. Get some help, prepare your strategy and your message, and climb the mountain.

The  executive writing team at Careerpro Global has created hard-hitting and interview-winning corporate resumes for over two decades. We understand the process and the messages that stand out with executive recruiters, search committees and boards of directors. Get in touch today to learn more about ways we can help you prepare a C suite resume and a message that will increase your visibility, interviews, and offers for your next C suite position.

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