Aspiring to a senior executive leadership position is the goal for most business professionals. In the contemporary environment, selection committees are seeking out candidates who have a proven ability to go the extra mile by having soft skills, tri-sector leadership skills, and the ability to be integrators who will mould and motivate their teams. Professionals seeking executive positions, therefore, pursue postgraduate degrees, seek to add breadth and depth to the range of their experience, and strive to become recognised as experts and leaders in their field.

Assuming, then, that you have the requisite drive and experience to achieve an executive position, how do you go about landing that prize? Perhaps the most important lesson to learn in making it to the C-suite is that your previous experience in getting jobs will not necessarily help you to get that executive position you desire. You’ll need a new strategy based on four key factors.

  1. Identify Vacancies, But Don’t Apply To Fill Them

It may seem counterintuitive, but to achieve your career goal of a senior executive position you should avoid directly applying for advertised vacancies. It’s a truism in the corporate world that a taboo exists against applying directly for high-level executive positions. The logic behind this idea is that if a person is worthy of being a high-level executive, they won’t need to apply directly. They’ll already be on the radar or recruiters and selection panels as someone who is a leader and an expert in their field. The perception is that if you have to apply, then you’re not the leader that they’re looking for.

So, what can you do to be proactive in landing the executive position you aspire to? While applying directly is not a good idea, keeping an eye on job boards to know what executive level positions are opening up is always a good idea. You can make your interest known in other ways, especially through utilising your network in your favour. For instance, if you know someone working in the company that has an executive opening you’re interested in, make contact with them and discretely make your interest known. They can let you know if an executive recruitment specialist is handling the vacancy, enabling you to reach out to them directly. In addition to job boards, keep an eye out for resignations and retirements, both of which are good indicators of openings at the senior executive level.

  1. Don’t Assume A Headhunter Will Come Looking For You

Waiting for a headhunter to come to you with an offer for your dream job is a huge mistake to make. Headhunters exist to find outstanding candidates for their clients. If you want to be someone a headhunter seeks out, you first have to be on their radar. They have to think of you as someone who is a natural fit for the vacancy they’ve been tasked to fill. However, just as there’s a taboo against directly applying for an executive position, there’s also a stigma against being aggressive in your approach with headhunters. Let your reputation speak for you, and use your network to make a subtle introduction with headhunters, preferably by people you know who’ve have an existing professional relationship with them.

  1. Build And Maintain Your Network

It’s vitally important in today’s business environment to constantly tend to your network. It’s essential to build your reputation through a proactive presence at conferences and in publications. This enables you to establish yourself as a leader in your field, an expert in your industry. It’s equally important, however, to build up a positive relationship among your peers in the industry. As well as being a positive thing to do on a human and social level, it builds up the esteem in which your held by your peers and establishes you as someone who works well with others and is highly regarded by the people who count within your industry. This translates into your peers being more likely to recommend you for executive level vacancies should they be asked for their opinion.

  1. Have A Strong Online Presence

It’s a simple reality that have a strong online presence ensures that recruiters will be able to find you when they start looking for suitable candidates for vacancies. Having a strong, professional presence on the right social media sites will help to ensure that recruiters will identify you as someone who should be considered for executive level vacancies. It’s worth spending time working on your LinkedIn profile, making sure that it’s up-to-date and professionally presented. Make sure that any and all publications you’ve authored or conferences at which you spoke are listed. It’s also very worthwhile to write and maintain an industry related blog. This will help propel you to the top of Google searches when recruiters are looking for suitable candidates.