3 Easy to Learn Skills that May Take You to the C-Suite

Corporate environment is becoming fiercely competitive every day and even surviving one’s job has become a major challenge. Average job tenures for senior positions are shortening. Life-long jobs with one employer are now history. To survive and grow your career, being marketable has become more important than keeping employed.

Peter Drucker once said, “Business has only two functions – marketing and innovation”. This is becoming true also for all senior level professionals. In a highly competitive talent market, you must continually innovate and market yourself to grow your career.

Knowledge is power but without its application it is useless. We, the professionals or knowledge workers, are in the business of selling our knowledge. This requires marketing. Unfortunately, most of us particularly the Finance professionals are not good marketer.

Boardroom and man

Marketing is a learnable skill. It’s not a rocket science. Most of it is just common sense but common sense is not common. As we gradually get matured with our intellectual wisdom we tend to ignore or undervalue simple things that can enormously benefit us. Personal marketing is one of them

Contrary to some conservative thinking, personal marketing and selling is not a bad thing. It’s a talent. We must understand the game has changed. In an oversupplied talent market, we need to ensure that the world appreciates our talent and knows what we are good at.

Marketing connects a need with the solution. Without marketing remarkable ideas would die and useful products and services will not reach us. Even Steve Jobs needed marketing to bring his ideas into reality. Personal marketing works the same way.

Here are 3 most powerful but most neglected, easy to learn personal marketing tools that may give you enormous leverage and at times even undue advantage over others to boost your career progress:

1. Personal Branding:

Branding is the most powerful marketing concept. With strong branding, marketers are able to sell a wrist watch for twenty thousand dollars. It is not about the actual product or its functionality. It’s about the perceived value. What is your perceived value? Not the one that you think, but the one that others think of you. Do you care?

Be another

Your personal brand is your personal reputation. It has to be managed actively. You must ensure that people around you know you well and understand your personal values. Don’t be shy to let people know about your achievements and accomplishments. Show and demonstrate your strengths and your character. Become a thought leader and liberally share your views.

Your personal branding is not limited to your workplace. Your external reputation and image matters. Experts are saying the average professionals will have 7-8 job moves over their career lifecycle. Did you think about your next role?

Start with a Google search of your own name and see what comes up. This is the first shot of your public profile. Develop a plan to create your online presence to reflect your professional image. It is no more a choice. Your online presence determines your social presence. If you do not show up, you are not considered an active networker. Don’t under estimate the power of your LinkedIn profile. It may enormously benefit or hurt you depending how you manage it.

Make a habit of reviewing your LI page on a daily basis to monitor the activity around your profile. Actively participate in posting comments, articles and updates. Review and Update your profile on a regular basis. Take professional help or read a book how to keep your profile at cutting edge.

2. Relationship:

Someone said “You don’t sell your products and services to your customers; you sell relationship”. How true! Realize that as a professional you are also in the business of selling your services.

Relationship matters not only with customers but anywhere and everywhere you deal with humans. At corporate level you deal with lots of people in variety of capacities. Relationship matters.

Consider relationship building as part of your job. Identify and create key relationships at work and outside work and work passionately to nurture them. Don’t think of the business reason alone; try to connect at the personal level. Genuine relationship takes place between the two human, not between the two positions.

A compelling and long lasting relationship cannot be managed on the surface. You must rationalize your personal values deep inside you to reflect the genuine respect and trust in your behavior so that people can truly believe you and reciprocate.

Selectively make friends at work and manage the relationship professionally. These are the best relationship that can provide you emotional energy and necessary support in difficult times.

Treat your top management as your top customers. Maintain good relations and respect them genuinely for their talent. Request senior members of the management who you admire as role models to become your mentor. Become mentor and coach of your own staff and sincerely help them in their professional development.

Remember, relationship is the vehicle on which you ride to progress your career journey. You must maintain this vehicle in a superb condition to avoid any delays or disruptions.

3. Public Speaking and Presentation Skills:

This one is my favorite. I know many people even at senior level get scared with the idea of public speaking but in today’s world this is a must if you seriously ambition to rise at the corporate ladder.

I myself learned this skill early on and started making presentations from the early part of my career. Without a doubt this one skill has benefited me the most not only in making rapid progress in my career but also in creating and establishing a distinct personal brand.

empty conference room

If you are new to this, joint a Toastmaster club or better start with your own staff and conduct formal training sessions. When you go to a meeting try to prepare a short but formal presentation of what you want to contribute. Usually the participants of the meeting appreciate you presenting them formally and feel important while you build up your confidence.

Never skip an opportunity to make a presentation by standing up in front of your audience. When you are sitted in a meeting along with others and speak, you are one of them and the whole group is in communication mode. When you stand up to present, the dynamics change and you become in charge with control and authority and your audience convert into listening mode.

If you are a CFO or a senior Finance professional, consider creating and offering a 1 or 2 day ‘Finance for Non Finance’ training session to non-financial executives and managers at your work. People outside Finance usually struggle with financial stuff. They will appreciate
your offer as if you are sharing your ‘secrets’ and you will establish your confidence, authority and a personal brand.

Public speaking and presentation skills helps you boost your image and reputation within a short period of time. When you join a new company, these skills may dramatically build your personal brand overnight.

Personal branding, relationship and presentation skills are inter-related and extremely powerful to empower you to boost your career particularly if you are entering into the second half of your career. There is no sequence. You may start working on all three together or chose any one or two to try first. The most important thing, however, is to get some formal training or coaching in each skill before you start seriously practicing.**

Which skill has benefited you the most? Please share your experience and leave me any comments or questions. –Saleem Sufi

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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3 thoughts on “3 Easy to Learn Skills that May Take You to the C-Suite

  1. Your article restricted to 3 learning skills is well chosen. It is simple, to the point and practical. However, whether it is easy – not sure. But undoubtedly can be developed with effort and determination. Isn’t one’s given “personality” a game changer in the art of taking to the C suite? Some are naturally gifted and some suffer in their attempts to market and innovate. I will vote for public speaking and presentation skills as the key in career growth.