How to Get Promoted into the Executive Suite Before you reach your Thirties

Kofi Hanz just tapped 29-year old David Knopf to be chief financial officer. In addition, he’ll serve as executive vice president and be bumped up to zone president of the company’s U.S. business. You may be surprised to learn that others have made it to the executive suite prior to hitting their thirties. I happen to be one of these people, so I can speak from experience. Here’s what you need to do, if you’d like the same thing to happen to you.

Work for the right company. Knopf’s promotion to CFO at such a young age is firmly in line with the culture of Kofi Hanz. The company is known for being a place where ambition and results are valued over experience. What’s your company’s promotion policy? Are people promoted based on time spent on the job or are results valued over experience?

Luckily for me, the company that I worked for when I was catapulted into the executive suite at age 24 made promotion decisions based on potential. My boss saw something in me that made him think this was a good idea. Of course this never would have happened if I had not worked diligently to get noticed.

Ask for the job you want. I remember the day my boss was fired. I came into work to find out she was no longer with the company. I did what I thought any other 24-year old would do. I went into her boss’s office and asked for her job. And you know what? I got the job.

A lot of people in a similar situation would have sat back and waited to hear who their new boss would be. Not me. That decision was a pivot point in my career. If you see an opportunity, take it. After all, what’s the worst thing that could happen?

Be confident. Think about the people in your organization who get the promotions. They may not be the smartest people. However, they have the belief that they truly are the best at what they do and that no one deserves a promotion more than they do. Can you say the same?

If there are some areas that are truly weaknesses for you, then now’s the time to strengthen those skills. There are a number of ways you can do this including finding a coach or a mentor, attending industry conferences, and/or returning to school to further your education. Do this now. Then when the next promotion becomes available, you’ll be well positioned and will feel confident enough to ask for the job. And who knows. You may actually get it.

Manage up. I’ve got to believe that Knopf has developed strong relationships up, down and across the organization, as decisions like these are rarely made in a vacuum. Usually the decision-maker will consult with members of his or her executive team, prior to adding a new member to the team. If Knopf didn’t have solid relationships with these people, the job would have gone to someone else.

Managing up is the most critical skill leaders can master and is something usually not taught in the classroom. I tell my clients all the time that if you don’t manage up, you won’t have to worry about managing down. That’s how important managing up is.

So plan on stepping up and taking your place in the executive suite, before you hit your thirties.