Clean up these mistakes before you target the C-suite

You’ve got the right skills and connections, but do you have the right profile photo?

Clean up these mistakes before you target the C-suite

Ahh that glorious “C.” CMO, CFO, CTO, COO...CEO. You’ve been gunning for this title since the day you left business school and here you are … just one step away.

There are so few opportunities to catapult up to a company’s highest ranks, so when you get your shot, you better not miss.

Experience, strategic chops and buy-in from colleagues won’t be enough to get you there. (Everyone else competing for the job will have those, too.) You’ve still got some work to do.

Here are the biggest mistakes people make when shooting for executive leadership jobs.

Dwelling too much on your personal wins

Most people get promoted to management because they are star performers in their role. But that won’t be enough to help you make the leap into the C-suite. To grab that ring, you’ll have to convince employers that you do more than deliver great work on your own—you have to prove that you can inspire whole teams—divisions even—to reach new heights.

As you move up the executive ranks, steer your personal brand away from individual accomplishments and toward the successes of your organization as a whole. Your answers to interview questions should emphasize the “we” over the “I.”

Communication skills that don’t scale

Communication skills are important for all managers, but ascending to the C-suite will require ones that you haven’t likely tapped before. You’ll be expected to communicate clearly and effectively with people you may never meet, and this requires a different approach than what you’d use in a one-on-one or small group meeting.

Prepare to have every word you say or write carefully scrutinized. Even the most casual-seeming emails from the C-suite will get explicated like poems by lower level employees.

An underwhelming headshot

You already know to steer clear of silly selfies, outrageous hair and makeup, and dated clothing in your professional photos, but the executive headshot takes that polish to a new level. It’s also one of the quickest ways to upgrade your digital brand.

If you haven’t already, arrange to have a formal headshot taken, one in which you are wearing your best suit, the one you’d wear to work in front of your most important client. Choose a neutral background. Women should arrange for professional hair and makeup; men should get fresh haircuts and consider wearing at least light powder.

Personal branding experts have a wide range of opinions about the ideal facial expressions and how much to emphasize your individuality, but the most important thing is that you come across as smart and confident.

Not prepping your family

If you’re looking to land a C-level job, you’re probably already careful about your social media presence. But have you asked your spouse or children to do the same?

It may not seem fair, but depending on the size of the organization, your whole family may be subjected to a higher level of scrutiny in a C-level recruiting process than they were used to. Expect to be held to a higher standard than you were as a lower-rung employee, and clean up everyone’s online profiles accordingly.

Lack of meaningful civic involvement

For many people, the big appeal of the C-suite is the higher pay and perks that come with the job. But those rewards also come with the expectation that you’ll give back to the community.

For aspiring executives, serving on a high profile board will help develop your leadership skills, as well as gives you an opportunity to meet other, more established leaders.

Find a cause that you feel passionately about and commit to share your time and money with them in a meaningful way.

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