This blog post is adapted from our Guide to Navigating a Career Transition. If you’re a senior woman leader who’s re-entering the workforce, making a big career transition, or considering your strategy for change, download the full guide here.
One in four women in senior management roles is looking to leave their employer in the next two years. Their reasons range from better pay to improved work-life balance, burnout, lack of opportunity to advance, or simply a pivot to something new entirely.
When the women leaders in Athena find themselves ready to embark on a career transition, we find they take one of a few paths: joining the C-suite, becoming a CEO, joining a board, starting their own company, or building their investment portfolios. Below, we outline tips for making a career transition into each of these areas.
Transitioning to a C-Suite Role
Your career up to this point has likely been climbing the ladder to the top of your business function. As a member of the C-Suite, you become part of a cross-functional team leading the entire organization. You have to make decisions for the greater good of the business as a whole. In other words, you must become an overarching steward of business.
As you get closer to the top of the organization, the opportunities for advancement narrow. To ensure you’re considered as a C-suite-ready candidate, there are some things you absolutely should be doing:
- Build meaningful relationships with influential leaders outside of your department
- Present solutions to complex company challenges
- Showcase your strengths as a problem solver
- Look for ways to share your thought leadership publicly on behalf of the company
- Ask to be invited in a meaningful way to an executive meeting
Stepping into the Role of CEO
One primary difference between your role as a CEO and any other role you’ve ever held is your being a public figure. While you’ve likely been developing your personal brand for years, it is now more important than ever. Your personal brand must be strong, and it must align with the brand of the business.
You’ll be expected, by your board and your employees, to be connected within the industry — to your competitors, potential collaborators, suppliers, and prominent customers. You also need to integrate a societal view with your business presence.
Today’s CEO can not be silent on topics stakeholders care about, even if they seem unrelated to your business. Increasingly, CEOs are expected to take a stand on issues employees, customers and their community deem to be integrated with business — matters of environmental sustainability, equity, human rights, and more.
Transitioning to a Board Role
Serving on a board offers experienced executives the opportunity to give back and leverage their holistic career experience in an entirely new way: through guiding and asking questions, rather than leading and managing the day-to-day operations of a business. But unlike the typical executive hiring process, the path to a board seat can be ambiguous — it’s a series of zig-zags, heavily dependent on your network, your confidence in your unique value, and your persistence and patience.
It can take 2–3 years to land a board seat, even for the most qualified candidates. The journey to get there looks different for every person. However, there are some best practices that will help put you on the fast track to the boardroom.
- Make sure you understand boardroom fundamentals
- Develop your go-to-market strategy (know your guiding principles)
- Define your unique value, and identify your board fit
- Create your Branded Career Portfolio (resume, bio, LinkedIn)
- Understand how to network, gain visibility and apply for opportunities
- Learn how to interview and negotiate the offer
Starting Your Own Business
Building a business is a hugely rewarding experience. It’s your opportunity to build something you truly care about, that reflects your values and provides a solution to a problem you see. But the benefits of starting your own business are equally weighed by the challenges you must overcome along the way.
Whatever has brought you to this decision, asking yourself these fundamental questions is a good place to start…
- What is the problem I am trying to solve and how can I solve it?
- Will I rely on this business to support me financially?
- Does the demand exist?
- Do I have competitors? What can I learn from them?
- Do I need start-up funding and how will I get it?
- What is my business model? Is there a template for my business model?
Becoming an Investor
A staggering 92% of investment dollars (billions) go to male founders, and 88% of all investors are men. While women start over 50% of businesses, they receive only 8% of funding. Whether you’re dabbling in investing or you’re building an investment portfolio, there has never been a better time to get involved.
If you are considering investing, here are some recommendations:
- Develop your own risk tolerance around investing and become more comfortable with spending.
- Invest in things you either know about or care about — get curious and do your research.
- Invest in other women, this is how we will tip the scales to a more equitable future.
- Find communities where you can talk about investing and learn from experienced investors.
- Educate yourself on the different types of investing and ways to get involved
Read the full Guide to Navigating a Career TransitionNot a member? Learn how Athena helps women leaders reach their biggest career goals. here. Athena members can get started on the Navigating a Career Transition Pathway here.
How Athena helps women leaders navigate their career transitions
Our Career Transition Pathway helps members plan and navigate their next career move with ease. Athena membership includes access to 250+ hours of executive and boardroom education, including content tailored to develop your transition strategy, overcome barriers and biases, gain exposure, and put yourself out there for your next opportunity. As a member, you will also benefit from 2 hours of career compass coaching to provide you with the tools, skills, and resources you need to succeed.