4 Ways to Jump Rungs on the Executive Ladder

The path leading to the senior-executive ranks has become clearer in the post-pandemic era.

Alyson Federico

Career Coach, Korn Ferry Advance

Soha Emam

Career Coach, Korn Ferry Advance

The SVP or C-suite candidate of the future needs to stand out as a widely known and urgently needed candidate whom others see as a leader. “What leadership looks like is so much clearer in today’s world than it was three years ago,” says Jane Stevenson, vice chair for Korn Ferry’s Board & CEO Services practice. Companies are looking for people who can navigate change, gain people’s trust, and motivate them to do their best work.

But how do executives prove they can do all of that? Here are ways to demonstrate impact and potentially move into a senior-level position.

Demonstrate your ability to influence.

In the past, people who climbed the executive ladder had to focus only on winning the confidence of other executives. “Now, leaders lead through influence, not just authority,” Stevenson says. Companies are more likely to move someone into an executive position whose colleagues enjoy working with them, and whose appointment will be viewed by staff as a reason to join the team, she says. “Your levels of followership and credibility—and the degree to which your leadership makes people want to participate and engage with the company—are a huge plus,” she says.

Build your executive network.

Most candidates for executive roles find their positions through referrals and recommendations. “You should network with people at the level you’re targeting,” says Korn Ferry Advance coach Alyson Federico. “Develop relationships with senior vice presidents and executive vice presidents so they can get to know you, and you can get to know them.”

Think beyond your job description.

Find ways to contribute to your organization beyond your immediate role—and show your potential to lead. “Think about how your thought leadership and your expertise can be beneficial to the organization as a whole,” Stevenson says.

Use facts and numbers.

Keep your resume short and concise, but fill it with facts, figures, and achievements. “Your resume is just a snapshot of your achievements in figures and return on investment,” says Korn Ferry Advance coach Soha Emam. You don’t have include everything about your experience, she points out—only enough to entice the firm to interview you.

Emam recalls a one-page resume and three-paragraph cover letter that landed a candidate an executive position. In the cover letter, the candidate wrote, “Google my name.” He included enough details about his experience to entice the hiring manager to Google him, thus revealing that he was an impactful industry thought leader, lecturer, and speaker. In just a page and a half, she says, he was able to quickly convey This is who I am, these are my achievements, and this is what I want to do