My Journey to the C-Suite as a Millennial Executive
If I had to summarize my career in one word, it would be “exhilarating.”
Over the course of 13 years, I’ve had opportunities to mentor aspiring leaders, establish overseas operations, and run the global sales organization for the one company I’ve been working for since graduating college.
I started my career at global recruitment technology provider Bullhorn as an entry-level sales representative after I graduated from Babson College in 2005. At the time, Bullhorn was a fledgling startup poised to achieve some incredible milestones. I was thrilled to play a role in influencing the company’s future.
After receiving the opportunity to help Bullhorn expand its international operations at just 27 years old, I was lucky enough to find myself on an accelerated career trajectory that brought my wife and I to London — and eventually returned us to the US as a family of four. While spending six years in London, I not only helped Bullhorn increase its European and Asia-Pacific user bases, but also opened numerous offices across mainland Europe and Australia.
The most exciting part of my journey has been working with an outstanding team. So many of the emerging leaders with whom I originally worked when I arrived in London are now running their own sales teams at Bullhorn, and it has been amazing to mentor them and watch them succeed.
As the economy constantly changes, leaders must be willing to embrace ambiguity and thrive in the unknown. For the next generation of leaders looking to accelerate their career journeys, here is my advice:
Ditch the Traditional Five-Year Plan
My father always told me to have a master five-year plan — which wasn’t bad advice, of course — but I resisted it. I never wanted to architect too far into the future because I wanted to live in the present.
Instead, I looked 1-2 years into the future and developed my goals around that timeline. Why? Because the technology landscape changes incredibly fast, so goals that we set one year might not be relevant the next year. This also means my job will be different each year. Varying market demands and shifts will warrant new solutions to old problems. Therefore, my strategic vision has long focused on the opportunities and challenges in front of me at the moment.
As a leader of tomorrow, you need to embrace change today. That will help create longevity in your career. Focus on what is in front of you and let those moments mold your goals. You’ll become extremely versatile.
Don’t Overthink What’s Right in Front of You
When I interviewed for jobs after college, I envisioned working at a financial services company. With a business management degree, I thought it made the most sense to work in that sector. But something didn’t seem right to me when I interviewed with companies in this field. I never found what I was looking for in a career: an agile workplace.
Instead of opting for well-established companies, I decided to place a bet on startup life. I figured the pace of that environment would allow to me flourish the most. When Bullhorn asked me to move to London, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. The benefits of opening and leading a new office in a new location certainly outweighed the risks of moving out of the country for the first time. If the opportunity didn’t work out for unforeseen reasons, I knew that I could always return home.
In order to grow your career, you must seize opportunities that are right in front of you. Don’t overthink the outcomes or setbacks. Be bold, take charge, and grow. It’s the only way to learn faster and further develop your skills.
Speak Their Language
At the executive level, I’m participating in strategic conversations about business operations and growth, and I need to position that information as effectively as possible to my team. The majority of our 160-person sales team is comprised of millennial employees like myself, which means I need to translate our business vision into results my team understands. In other words, I need to speak their language.
As we’re expanding and deepening our business strategies, I need to communicate with my leaders about how I see us executing those strategies based on feedback from my team. At the same time, I need to discuss with my team why those strategies are right for the business.
Understanding the why and the what of your company’s objectives is important for your success because it enables you to work toward shared goals. If you can decipher information and understand the big picture of how you and your team can make the most impact in your business, then you’ll position yourself as a valuable employee. The more valuable you are, the more chances you have to flourish.
Creating a rewarding and meaningful career is one of the most exciting accomplishments you can achieve. It is a journey that you own, define, and shape, one where you can challenge yourself every day, overcome obstacles, and relish the opportunities that will keep you moving toward the next chapter. You may even find that you, too, can define your career as “exhilarating.”
Mike Restivo is the chief revenue officer for Bullhorn.