How do you become the CEO of a huge company?
It’s a question I used to regularly ponder over and have spent countless numbers of hours researching. And what I found was it is good to be the CEO of a company but actually, far more important than that, is how do you become the CEO of your career?
This is a topic that I have been talking quite a lot about this of late because I believe in owning our careers, being the directors of our careers, and indeed, the CEO of our careers, is how you claw back the locus of control and responsibility to yourself. You and only you are responsible for your career.
It is one thing to say you own your own destiny but a totally different thing to approach it as a CEO runs their businesses. This requires you to put in place the key elements that make a successful business in your career.
Think of yourself as a business- you have a product or service to sell, and you are selling that product or service to your customer, or your client.
Now, in the case of your career, your product or service is you, you are the product and you are offering the services out and your customer or your client is your employer.
So suddenly you have a product to improve on constantly if that's what you want to grow. And then you have to keep your customer happy.
There are a few things here:
If you are the product, you need to invest in it and improve it
One, you need to make a stellar product. So invest in yourself, do the L&D and the R&D that all the big fortune 500 companies do. They invest in their product, they invest in their services. That is why in big consulting firms, you have quite a lot of training because you are the product, you are the service. They need to be training you constantly so that the clients get the best service.
So you need to also think about yourself as your product. And company. L&D is great. But that's not necessarily always enough. Because every other person in the company has company L&D. So how can you enhance yourself as your product or service by going outside that scope? That is where I think quite a lot of people struggle because they don't really know what skills they can acquire to be competitive in the market.
We'll come back to that in another future post. But this is what I'm going to say: you are your product, you are your service. Invest heavily in yourself and learn something new every single day.
You need to think of your sales and marketing machine
The second thing is that you have to sell your product or service. Suddenly, you require marketing and a sales department. And when we are starting out any way we are all by ourselves. So how can you effectively “hire” for a sales and marketing machine that will sustain your career?
One of the things that I do is to constantly do stellar work and talk about your work to my network. It’s not arrogant or boastful but in a way of legitimately owning your success. Network constantly, but not needily. That is going to be the most powerful sales machine that you will ever have.
You'll thank me in the tenth year of your career, probably if you are just starting out. But build relationships from day one, because this is what will stand the test of time.
Don't be a jerk, be a genuinely nice person. And it will come back I guarantee you that.
And then, when it comes to marketing I often say that your CV is like the marketing flyer. And your LinkedIn is the ad that you get on Google. You need to have a stellar CV and a stellar LinkedIn profile, which will automatically feed in your job search machine so that you have to never look for a job again. They will come to you. It is worth investing in because it will save you a ton of time down the road. I'm a big fan of systems and when I built my LinkedIn profile for job search, I made sure that was the only time I gave it a Revamp and I would change or update very little with the next role. These days I never really have to search for a job because my machine and my system is working for me, and sometimes it works so much that I have to aggressively decline job offers.
You need to understand the finance and legal aspects of your career
You also need to realize that you need to take care of the finances, i.e. you need a Finance function. How much money are you going to make? How much is enough? How much do you need? What are the trade-offs between earning that extra versus the time and the headache that you will need to take on? What are the growth opportunities? What are the stretch opportunities?
It boils down to legally, what are you allowed to do? So for example, quite a lot of my clients, and also me personally, come from a big four environment where we are not allowed to invest in quite a lot of stocks, shares funds out there.
So what is it that you are legally allowed to do? What are the bonuses? What are the other benefits that come with the job? Can you do a side gig alongside your day job, all of these come into the finance function but also the legal function, which again, big corporations have, and that is what makes you a career CEO.
You are the CEO of your career. you own your own destiny, you hire for your learning and development and you hire a board of directors to help you navigate difficult decisions in your career. You look out for coaches, mentors, sponsors, and indeed you operate your career as if it's your business.
Now let me know in the comments if this is how you have historically looked at your career. And if not, what are you going to change?