For many, becoming a C-level executive is a lifelong goal. It’s understandable why: Whether you’re the chief executive officer, chief marketing officer, or chief financial officer, being in the C-suite has real perks.
Let’s start off with recognition. Making it to the C-suite means that people respect you. Not only are you an expert in your field, but also you’re a strong leader who makes a big difference to the company.
Then, there’s the pay. C-level execs often make exponentially more than other employees.
Making it to the corner office can take years of hard work and sacrifice. When you’re finally there, you’re where you’ve always wanted to be. The climb is over. It’s time to get to work, to make a serious contribution.
I suspect there was a time when this rosy picture was true. Generally speaking, however, that was a time before me. Over the years, I’ve worked with a number of C-level executives. As I reflect back on those great folks, I realize they’ve all switched jobs since I first met them.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the average tenure for a chief marketing officer was 3.5 years in 2016. The average tenure of a CEO was 7.2 years, and the average tenure of a CFO was 5.7 years.
These tiny numbers make sense. As companies are always pressured to make more and more money, they constantly revise their business strategies. New strategies require new strategists.
When a company changes the corporate guard, the executives left without a job are hit hard. It can take them months or years to find new employment on the same level. It most certainly leaves the impacted executives wondering what’s wrong with them.
In reality, nothing is wrong. It may have taken them 10 or 20 years to land the title of “chief.” That period of hard work was essentially a very long interview. Landing a similar role will require a similar amount of effort and time. Furthermore, each company only needs one CEO, one CMO, and one CFO. These coveted roles are not only the hardest to land, but the rarest to find.
So, what’s the point of all of this? I don’t want to discourage your corner office dream, but if this is part of your career plan, take today’s business environment into account. The C-suite has changed.
Once you do land a top spot, plan your financial future. By living below your means and creating a financial safety net, you loosen the corporate handcuffs that can otherwise hold you hostage.
If you’ve already made it to the top and you find yourself without a job, remember that you’re not alone. To make it through with the least number of bumps and bruises, give yourself a generous amount of time to land your next big gig.
A version of this article originally appeared in the Memphis Daily News.
Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at her firm, Copeland Coaching.