Want to be a CEO? Diversify your experience, study says

Imagine three workers: Richard, Charles and Anne. Richard has a bachelor's degree, lives in Tusla, Okla., and has worked in finance for three companies across three different industries. Charles earned his bachelor's from a top international school and also holds a master's degree in computer science. He lives in London and has worked in IT and sales for two different companies across two different industries. Anne completed her undergraduate education and an MBA in two of the top five in the U.S. programs, lives in New York and has worked in four different job functions at four companies, all in the same industry. Who is most likely to become CEO?

According to research from LinkedIn, Anne is by far most likely to become CEO. Her chance is 63 percent, compared to Charles' 15 percent and Richard's 6 percent.

To better understand how people climb the corporate ladder, researchers from LinkedIn analyzed the career paths of nearly 460,000 users who worked at a Top 10 consultancy between 1990 and 2010. Among those LinkedIn users, roughly 64,000 became a vice president, partner or CEO at a company of at least 200 employees. The researchers took a closer look to see what types of traits were associated with becoming an executive.

They were able to pin down the following traits.

1. Working across job functions boosts a person's career by the average equivalent of three years of work experience.

2. Switching industries had a slight negative effect on career paths.

3. Earning an MBA from a top five program — based on U.S. News and World Report rankings — was worth 13 years of work experience. A non-top five program MBA was worth just five years of experience. Other advanced degrees were popular, but did not have as great of an effect as an MBA.

4. The best U.S. city to launch its residents to executive levels is New York. Living in Houston and Washington, D.C. decreased a person's chances of making it to the top, according to the report. On a global level, Mumbai and Singapore were common cities associated with executive career paths and Sao Paulo and Madrid were associated with the most negative effects.

5. Gender matters, unfortunately. A woman with the same traits as a man needed 3.5 more years of experience to reach the same probability of becoming an executive, according to the report.

These findings explain why Anne — who lives in New York, has degrees from highly reputable institutions and an array of experience, but all within the same industry — is most likely to reach the C-Suite.

Read more about the study here.


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