Line Experience is Critical for Most C-Suite Jobs

One of my readers wrote that she wanted to hear about unconventional ways to grow a career. She probably realized that the career track her parents followed isn’t relevant today. Today, there is no conventional way to grow your career. Past generations picked role models or mentors and followed their every move in lock-step. Today, new technologies and industries emerge daily creating virgin executives with untraditional management structures and make-it-up-as-you-go-along career paths.

So perhaps a better question would be, what is a conventional career strategy that should work regardless of your work environment, whether it be a Fortune 500 company or a rank start-up? The answer: Sales.

If you are trying to determine how to kick-start a complacent career, look to the area of the company that generates the revenues. Especially if you are in a staff position (human resources, legal, finance), you need to get closer to your product and your company’s income stream to climb to the top of your organization. Your move doesn’t have to be permanent, but if you can gain experience, and show success in sales, you will add market knowledge and customer relationship skills to your background, which are skills all top managers possess. Additionally, sales is one of those areas in which there is a direct correlation between effort and results. And don’t think you need a typical “sales” personality to be successful. Extroverts may find it easier to sell, but they don’t necessarily have a leg up on quieter salespeople who are persistent, attentive and responsive. A position in sales is also the quickest way for young professionals to stand-out in a company. Do well, get management’s attention, and then you will have more leverage making a move into other parts of your company at a more senior level.