Mid-level healthcare executives with C-level ambitions have their work cut out for them. Most employers want to hire experienced C-suite professionals; however, C-level promotions are possible with some time, effort, and strategy. Here, our recruiters discuss how to get started.
KNOW THE ROLE
The C-suite professionals of today are very different than they were even a few years ago. Those who started in lower level positions and “in the weeds” of the organization are now strategic thinkers who act as a bridge between the technical and clinical aspects of their department and the mission/vision of the organization. According to the Harvard Business Review, “…once people reach the C-suite, technical and functional expertise matters less than leadership skills and a strong grasp of business fundamentals.” In other words, the skills that are helping you excel in your current position won’t necessarily be the ones you need when you reach a C-level role. To succeed at the C-level you will have to be a “good communicator, a collaborator, and a strategic thinker.”
Simply being good in your current position isn’t going to be enough to get you recognized for a C-suite promotion (though you do have to be really good at your current job to even consider trying to move up). Devote some time to self-improvement, particularly focusing on ‘soft skills’ such as communication, adaptability, problem solving, and teamwork, among others. Improve your leadership skills by taking leadership workshops/seminars and taking leadership roles when available.
Don’t isolate yourself. Engage with co-workers and higher-ups. Work on creating good professional relationships and be a resource to others. Volunteer to take on extra projects and make your ambition to move to executive leadership well known. Lastly, follow the old advice of ‘dress for the job you want.’ Look and act the part of an executive leader, both in clothes and grooming and in demeanor. Sit/stand up straight, and be confident, reliable, and unflappable.
NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK
Executive leaders are always well-networked, and tend to get their C-level positions through referrals, or because of professional relationships, rather than directly applying to job ads. Invest time and energy into expanding your professional network, so that if you see a C-level position advertised on a healthcare job board, you can contact someone you know at the organization and begin the conversation that way.
BE A BRIDGE
C-suite executives must be able to provide guidance and set a positive tone with which their team operates, and be able to effectively communicate with board members and other senior executives. Having a multi-faceted background is imperative. Working at the top means being responsible for bringing all sides together to operate cohesively.
SEE THE BIG PICTURE
All C-suite professionals are increasingly asked to translate the day-to-day details of their departments into a lasting overall strategy for success. Harvard Business Review: “C-level executives will not simply manage their own business areas; they will be active members of the firm’s senior leadership who advise the CEO on key decisions.” Know your department and your role inside and out. Identify areas that need improving and be ready with strategies to improve processes and outcomes.
The path to the C-suite has changed dramatically in the last decade, but career advancement to an executive leadership position is possible with some work and preparation. Is it time to get started on your C-suite journey?