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Becoming a senior executive in a large corporation has many benefits, such as a large salary, generous bonus, corner office, secretary, and expense account. These senior executives are the decision makers for their companies; deciding whether to open new branches, expand into another country, close offices, go after new clients, or diversify, along with hundreds of other business decisions involving huge amounts of money and affecting the lives of their workers. Being a senior executive offers the opportunity to have a tremendous impact on the world through these decisions. For every senior executive, however, there are dozens, if not hudnreds, of lower level workers in the same company. What makes a senior executive different from other workers - and how do you make the leap from a lower tier to becoming a senior executive?

Senior executives are the top echelon of corporate leadership. Some of the titles used to describe senior executive positions are those that begin with "chief" - such as Chief Management Officer, Chief Financial Officer, or Chief Operating Officer. While many senior executives, such as Chief Management Officer, lead the entire organization, there are also senior executives who are focused on one (albeit large) division within the organization. These positions are often titled "Vice President of X Division" or similar. Those employed in senior executive positions have ultimate responsibility for the company's actions and results, and so while they are rewarded richly for success, they also can lose their jobs if the company's performance is deemed inadequate by its shareholders.

Often, there are not many senior executive positions available, since there are very few senior executives in each organization, relative to the number of other workers it employs. When positions are made available through business expansion or attrition, the organization will typically list the open positions on their website, but it is rare for a company to actually fill a senior executive position from this passive recruitment tool. Instead, companies actively recruit senior executive applicants to ensure that they are able to find the most qualified candidate to join the company. While most mid-sized and large corporations employ their own human resources staff, for senior executive positions, which are highly important to the company's future, external executive recruitment firms will be used.

Executive recruitment firms, also called headhunters, specialize in doing national or even international searches for qualified candidates to fill open senior executive positions. The most sought after senior executives are often already employed in similar positions elsewhere and achieving excellent results in those positions. This is what makes them so attractive to a company with an opening, and so the executive recruitment firm will attempt to identify these candidates and interest them in leaving their current position for a new one.

While every company has a slightly different perception of which qualifications are the most important in potential new senior executives, nearly all look for the following in applicants:

  • Extensive work history in their field: For a potential new Chief Financial Officer, who will be responsible for the organizations' financial records and cash flow and investment management, this means several years of work in finance with progressive responsibility. While the work experience will vary, the gradual increase of responsibility, reflected in job descriptions on your resume, as well as job titles, will be crucial to landing a senior executive position. Often, a senior executive has twenty years experience or more in his chosen profession before he became a senior executive.
  • Communication skills: Successful applicants for senior executive positions all have top knotch communication skills, including the ability to write formal business letters and other correspondence and speak comfortably with other senior executives and with subordinates. Senior executives must also be able to discuss a variety of current events, both work related and non-work related, diplomatically, without the use of slang, profanity, or inappropriate terminology. Being a senior executive means representing your company at all times, so maintaining a professional image is compulsory.
  • Dedication: Being a senior executive takes a lot more time and energy than any other position within a company. Successful senior executive applicants are able to demonstrate that they are willing and able to regularly devote significant amounts of over time to their position, both at their desk in the evenings and on weekends, and in today's increasingly globalized economy, through travel around the world which may be scheduled with little or no notice to the senior executive due to business concerns.

Reaching the senior executive level is the highest echelon for your career, and as such offers the opportunity to have great impact on a company and its other employees, as well as monetary and material rewards. These positions pay well for a reason, however - to get them you must be qualified, and to keep them you must be dedicated.