How to Become an Executive by the Time You’re 30

Back in 2008, the 23 year old Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg grabbed headlines when he became the world’s youngest ever billionaire. Over a decade on, he is now worth an estimated $76 billion. For many young entrepreneurs, their ultimate career goal is to follow in the footsteps of individuals like Zuckerberg, and end up in executive positions as soon as possible, where they can call the shots for a business. Indeed, newer generations are becoming increasingly ambitious when it comes to their careers, with over 90% of millennials wanting “rapid progression” up the ladder.

If you count yourself among those looking to find yourself in an executive role by the time you’re 30, you’ll need to start mapping your career early, setting goals, developing your skills and formulating a progression plan to make it to the top over the course of your twenties.

Find the right entry-level role

The path to becoming an executive is rarely straightforward, and you may have to go backwards or sideways to get to where you ultimately want to be. Considering that the best route to an executive position in a company starts from the inside—73% of CEOs among S&P 500 companies were promoted internally—securing the right entry-level role at the start is crucial. However, you will need to find a position at an organisation where your chances of progression are high and you can quickly rise through the ranks. If you’re currently stuck in a dead-end job where promotion seems unlikely, it may be time to move on. Even if this means accepting a lower position elsewhere, think of it as short term pain for long term gain. 

One sign that a company provides opportunities for rotation, which offers employees the chance to work in different departments or locations within the same company. Executive recruiter Karl Alleman notes that job rotation can help employees reach their full potential by rounding out their skills, and fostering growth and learning.

Become more visible 

Once you’re in the right role, you’ll only advance by catching the attention of others—simply being good at your job won’t be enough. By keeping your head down, those above will be much less likely to know who you are, so you’re unlikely to be chosen for different assignments which could lead to promotions or progress. As such, you’ll need to go above and beyond to show your superiors what you bring to the table.

To become more visible, you must consistently put yourself forward for new opportunities, whether as a project leader or serving on corporate committees. This not only builds your credibility and earns you additional recognition, but provides you with the vital skills that will benefit you going forward. In particular, try to involve yourself in both cross-team and high-profile projects—the former will make other departments aware of who you are, while the latter will allow you to showcase your abilities to those above your line-manager. When undertaking these responsibilities, be sure to contribute as much as possible, and own your successes. This will help you gain the attention you need and deserve. 

Work with leadership developers

Technical skills will only get you so far in your quest to become an executive, and you’ll need to harness the attributes of others to successfully oversee a whole entire company. Becoming a good leader is crucial, so do what you can to learn from the courage, charisma, and calmness all successful executives possess. Unfortunately, very few of us are born leaders and it takes a lot of practice and experience to become a great one. 

As such, it’s recommended that you work with leadership developers. There are plenty of development courses available, each of which will help you identify your leadership style, and teach you how to coach others, communicate more effectively, and manage conflict. By implementing what you learn, you’re much more likely to succeed in smaller leadership roles, and be considered for more senior positions as a result, thus helping you to achieve your ultimate aim.

Charlotte Giver

Charlotte is the founder and editor-in-chief at Your Coffee Break magazine. She studied English Literature at Fairfield University in Connecticut whilst taking evening classes in journalism at MediaBistro in NYC. She then pursued a BA degree in Public Relations at Bournemouth University in the UK. With a background working in the PR industry in Los Angeles, Barcelona and London, Charlotte then moved on to launching Your Coffee Break from the YCB HQ in London’s Covent Garden and has been running the online magazine for the past 10 years. She is a mother, an avid reader, runner and puts a bit too much effort into perfecting her morning brew.