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C-Suite Talent: Advice for Your Map to the Top

When your career objectives include the C-suite, be sure to use the right map.

LinkedIn researchers compared the profiles of more than 400,000 management consultants to find out what it takes to get to the top level of management and professional positions in the United States. Their study results confirm what recruiters already know—the path to the top is not linear.

As recruiting professionals, we reach out to top talent in engineering, IT, project management, and business to fill the needs of Fortune-500 and similar companies in the Midwest.

We work closely with our job candidates to understand their career goals and desire for advancement. The new LinkedIn research delivers an overview of factors being considered by hiring committees today as they put succession and management training programs into place.


More capabilities means better chances for advancement

The path to the C-suite has traditionally been a function of hierarchy. Employees with successful longtime experience at a firm or company could expect slow but continued succession through the ranks. With the Great Recession and accelerated technological development, those rules no longer apply.

Boost your career planning by considering these findings:

  • Location, location, location: The region and city where you choose to grow your career matters to your long-term objectives. While it may seem obvious that you stand to enjoy more opportunity in a bigger metropolitan area—which city is your best bet? As researchers compared LinkedIn profile data from 1990 to 2010, New York City topped the list in the United States, while Singapore and Mumbai scored well internationally. Interestingly, the chances of executive advancement dropped in cities like Washington, D.C., or Houston.
  • Gender disparities: Gender disparities in the workforce are becoming more transparent, and the road to the top is no different. Women with similar qualifications as men can expect to work an additional 3.5 years than men to attain the same likelihood of promotion.
  • Be true to your school: For business professionals, an MBA is an essential credential for the executive suite. Gaining an MBA from a top-five rated school in the U.S. increased the probability of advancement equivalent to 13 years of work experience.


According to U.S. News and World Reports, the current top-five MBA programs include Harvard, Stanford, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). An MBA from a different institution still offers the equivalent of five years of workplace experience.

  • The key—quality experience along the way: More executives are making their way to the corporate suite by increasing their functional capabilities. While these individuals may not be the highest performers in any one field in their industry, they will predictably be in the top quarter of their peers.


While the top sales person in a company could at one point have become CEO (and that may still occur), leaders today need diverse capabilities to face market forces that may be volatile and ambiguous for some time to come. To qualify to take the reins, you must learn the ropes.

You may currently be working in the product manufacturing and inventory sector of a company. Consider a move to a related field where you can gain additional experience in compliance, risk management, marketing or analytics. Quite often, opportunities to gain additional functional experience exist with your current employer. Express interest in learning other areas of the business, develop a mentor within your firm, and consider lateral movement to increase your capabilities.

  • If your development path is blocked with your current employer, it could be a good time to investigate opportunities that exist with different companies who wish to take advantage of the talents you bring with you. An important caveat of the LinkedIn research is the need to develop additional skills within the industry of your expertise. Switching to an entirely different industry could result in loss of opportunity for advancement and a drop out in your knowledge and professional network.


There are many extraordinary leaders and executives who became successful on their own terms. Still, it is helpful to see how others get there, and how you might structure your road to the top. If you are considering a career move, or could use some guidance and information—contact us at The Hunt Group.

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