Landing Your First CEO Job: Secrets of Success

Landing Your First CEO Job:  Secrets of Success

By Nancy Green

At the ASAE Annual Meeting in Detroit in August, lots of conversations focused on how emerging leaders and senior level executives can make the leap to the CEO slot for the first time.  As executive recruiters, we have seen lots of candidates successfully build this bridge.  Here are a few simple tips on how best to prepare, and how to convey to a search committee that you are ready for the top job:

First, do your homework about the industry or profession.  Not just the basics about number of members and what they do; rather, think ahead.  What issues and trends are facing members in the future?  What threats are they under?  What legislation is in play?  Demonstrate that you have the vision and future focus to anticipate change.

Second, remember your bookends.  It’s all about how you enter, and how you leave.  Practice the three minute overview, and your close.  Remind them about why you would make a good leader.  And remember, executive presence is not just a lightweight concept.  Look and act the part.

Finally, act the part. Your job will be to position yourself as a leader and strategic thinker.     From the moment you walk in, it’s about where you can take the organization.  The search committee is asking itself, “will the staff and members follow this person?” “do they know our industry?”  “can they represent us—on the Hill, to partners? to chapters, etc….   The sooner you can put yourself in that role, the better!

Rather than, “When I was membership director,” start sentences with, “If I were your CEO…”