How To Become a Business Executive in 7 Steps (Plus Skills)

Updated June 24, 2022

Many people dream of managing a large company and making decisions that impact markets, employees and customers. If you're an ambitious professional, you might consider becoming a business executive. Understanding how to pursue this career path can help you develop a plan and increase your chances of obtaining one of these competitive roles. In this article, we discuss how to become a business executive and list skills to help you succeed.

Related: CFO vs. CEO: What's the Difference?

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What is a business executive?

A business executive is a top-level position that contributes to the management of a company, usually a private corporation. Example job titles of business executives include chief executive officer, chief information officer and operating manager. Typical duties of these professionals include:

  • Establishing and enforcing corporate policies

  • Analyzing sales reports to increase productivity

  • Developing relationships with regional managers and external organizations

  • Negotiating contracts

  • Creating company growth strategies

Related: 8 Possible CEO KPIs to Measure CEO and Business Performance

How to become a business executive

Here's how to become a business executive:

1. Pursue postsecondary education

Most business executives have at least a bachelor's degree. Consider enrolling in a four-year business administration program that teaches basic management techniques and communication skills. It may also require you to complete internships that allow you to gain practical business experience in a particular industry. Other useful majors for business executives include:

  • Accounting

  • Finance

  • Economics

  • Law

  • Computer science

  • Information technology

  • Engineering

If you want to further develop your skills and make your resume even more impressive, consider obtaining a Master of Business Administration. Any bachelor's degree can help you get into a two-year program that covers topics like managerial finance, negotiations, entrepreneurship and statistics. Some aspiring business executives pursue their MBA right after their bachelor's degree, though others go back to college after gaining several years of work experience.

Related: CEO vs. Managing Director: What's the Difference?

2. Find the right entry-level position

Most companies tend to hire business executives internally because of their loyalty and organizational knowledge. As you prepare to enter the workforce, consider searching for an entry-level role at the company where you eventually want to be a business executive. This approach can help you specialize in your industry and obtain increasingly more advanced positions within the company.

A bachelor's or master's degree in a business-related field makes you eligible for lower-level management and supervisory roles. These positions allow you to gain experience with organizing teams, creating budgets and reporting to senior management. They also help you qualify for higher-level management positions later in your career.

3. Demonstrate exceptional effort

Companies typically promote employees who demonstrate exceptional effort. Whatever role you're currently in, you can differentiate yourself from other candidates by being the first to volunteer for new initiatives. Try leading task forces or participating in corporate committees. In addition to building your reputation, these opportunities help you develop essential skills like leadership and communication.

4. Apply for higher-level management positions

After gaining experience in entry-level positions, you can apply to be a higher-level manager. Your education credentials and initiative in your former roles help you qualify, though your resume may be even more impressive if you obtain certification. For instance, many aspiring business executives become Certified Managers through the Institute of Certified Professional Managers. You can complete this certification while in a lower-level position to demonstrate your commitment to your career.

After obtaining a higher-level management position, you can expect responsibilities that relate more directly to the responsibilities of a business executive. For instance, you might create new policies and manage the company's organizational structure. This experience helps you develop your decision-making skills and establish greater authority within the company.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

5. Build your personal brand

As the leader of a company, a business executive uses their personal brand to gain respect and establish authority. Consider building your personal brand throughout your career to demonstrate that you can positively represent the company. You might begin by thinking about what motivates you in your personal and professional life. For instance, an aspiring CEO might value innovation, hard work or sustainability.

Once you determine your values, you can cultivate them through your work. Someone who prioritizes innovation might study their industry's latest trends to identify unsolved problems and propose creative solutions. They might also surround themselves with like-minded colleagues to encourage innovative collaboration. While it's important to reflect your values in your work, you can also reflect them in your personal life. Try to build a social media presence that's consistent with your values and impressive to a board of directors that might conduct research while considering you for a promotion.

6. Develop relationships with recruitment firms

Many companies employ executive recruitment firms to find qualified leaders. You can earn recognition among these firms by developing relationships with recruiters. Try approaching them at conferences or networking events and share your aspirations of becoming a business executive. They may find your initiative impressive, making them more likely to learn about your career and recommend you when a position opens. While you can develop relationships with various recruitment firms, it may be most beneficial to work with firms in your industry. A recruiter who specializes in IT, sales or finance can help you obtain a relevant position.

Related: How To Write a CEO Resume: Examples and Tips

7. Apply for business executive positions

While recruiters may recommend you to companies, you can also apply for business executive positions. Try to find positions that suit you r skill set. For instance, someone with accounting experience might be a good candidate for a chief financial officer position. If you're more proficient in company branding, you might apply to be a chief marketing officer. Regardless of the position you apply for, you can create an impressive resume and prepare for an interview with the company's board of directors.

Related: 7 Executive Titles To Know: Job Descriptions and Responsibilities

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Key skills for business executives

Here are some key skills for business executives:

  • Communication: Business executives tend to be comfortable presenting in large groups and talking to colleagues one-on-one, ensuring they use active listening and clearly convey their ideas.

  • Leadership: When a business executive has good leadership skills, they can build a positive reputation for their company and implement effective decision-making.

  • Emotional intelligence: Emotional intelligence helps business executives control their emotions and establish policies that consider the needs of customers and employees.

  • Work ethic: Most business executives have an exceptional work ethic, allowing them to work more than 40 hours a week to prioritize the success of their company.

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