How to Gain the Experience of a Senior Level Executive Without Being One : Under30CEO How to Gain the Experience of a Senior Level Executive Without Being One : Under30CEO
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How to Gain the Experience of a Senior Level Executive Without Being One

| December 21, 2009 | 7 Comments

senior executive One of the biggest misconceptions of how you are going to develop the skills of a senior executive is by climbing the corporate ladder. Climbing the corporate ladder is one of the most inefficient and time consuming ways to gain the skills of a senior level executive. It’s a long road and standing out among the masses is tough. Even if you are in the process of getting an MBA or have recently completed one, it’s unlikely that you are going to step into the role of a senior executive right out of business school. This applies even more if you are fresh out of undergrad and probably will be even more powerful if you are younger.

So the question becomes, How can I gain the leadership experience of a senior executive without being one? Believe it or not a few hours a week of volunteer work can propel you into the stratosphere when it comes to developing the connections and skills to becoming an under 30 CEO.

Many of the ideas I’ll present below are rooted in an excellent book by Brian Tracy, called The Luck Factor. I’m going to use two organizations that are of personal interest to me to outline exactly how anybody can gain the experience of a senior level executive in just a few short months.

The City of Malibu Chamber of Commerce

As a recent graduate of the MBA program at Pepperdine University, I was somewhat late to realize that the City of Malibu is one of the most underutilized resources that Pepperdine MBA students have access to. The City of Malibu is extremely unique in that the members of the community are generally extremely wealthy, and are highly influential throughout the Los Angeles Area.

In the Luck Factor, Brian Tracy talks about how he volunteered for the Chamber of Commerce, eventually served on committees, and became extremely connected to a large number of people who kept carrying him further in his career. One of the most interesting facts that he made mention of, and many career experts will tell you is that every time your network of contacts doubles your income will double. This also happens to be the fast track to gaining the skills of a senior level executive.

Let’s get back to the City of Malibu and see how this can be applied.

There a number of committees at the Malibu Chamber of Commerce. Below I have listed just two of these committees. What’s important to note about these committees is that they are staffed mostly by people who are volunteers. No matter what city you live in, there’s never any surplus of qualified volunteers.

By taking a leadership role you’ll not only gain significant leadership experience, but also connect with influential members of the community in record time. Making the same kind of traction while climbing the corporate ladder would take three times as long. Try walking into your CEO’s office and say you want to volunteer to be the Vice President of the Company for a few weeks.

Business Growth & Development
When: 2nd Friday of every month @ 1:00pm
Where: Chamber office
Members of the MYP (Malibu Young Professionals) assist promote and provide opportunities for Chamber members to grow their businesses. From ‘member to member’ connection to Business building workshops, participants in the MBS bring new and innovative ideas to the members of the Malibu Chamber of Commerce.

* Business Development Workshops
* Business Roundtables (various meeting schedules) MIXERS
* Malibu Sunset ‘After-Hour’ Mixers
* Malibu Networking Luncheons
* Xchange Networking Breakfasts-(Speakers will be showcased to talk about community connection. Such as, Fire Dept, Sheriff, City of Malibu, representatives from the government.

Event Planning:

Organizes and implements special events and programs such as the Malibu Arts Festival, Malibu Wine Tasting, Malibu Celebration on the Pier, Golf Tournament and more. This team promotes and coordinates such events working with other business people to support the fundraising and networking efforts of the Malibu Chamber of Commerce.
What: Malibu Arts Festival
Co-CHAIR: Heidi Bernard
When: Every Wednesday @ 9:00 am (except the 4th Wednesday)

Where: Malibu Chamber office

The Surfrider Foundation

The other example I want to use for the purposes of this study is the Surfrider Foundation. My own interest in the Surfrider foundation stems from the fact that the ocean is my 2nd home. In fact I’ve probably spent more time there than I have in my actual home in the last 6 months.

That being said the foundation provides a number of opportunities to get involved. While you might start out in an entry level role, within just a few hours a week of dedicating time to the organization you can quickly climb into a senior leadership role. Unlike the corporate ladder you are not competing with the masses because the masses don’t usually see the value in this kind of time commitment if there’s no money involved.

These strategies can be applied to almost any organization. How do you go about figuring out what organizations to get involved with?

  • Identify professional groups in your area of interest in your city or town (i.e. toastmasters, young professionals associations, school alumni groups, etc)
  • Find community organizations (i.e. Chamber of commerce, City Support Groups, etc, etc)
  • Figure out what roles in those organizations match up with your career interests and get involved.

Below are just a few posts that I think can help you take your networking and growth to the next level:

How to become a connector

How to become a connector part II: World Domination

How to get free drinks and get treated like VIP everywhere you go (I personally think that this is an extremely useful skill).

Srinivas Rao is a personal development blogger at The Skool of Life where he writes about self help, spirituality and personal development through his love for the sport of surfing. He’s a recent graduate of the Pepperdine MBA program and has a bachelors degree in economics from UC-Berkeley.

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  • Ryan Hanley

    Gen Y has no interest in waiting till 50 for success and the only way to obtain the leadership and decision making skills necessary to be successful at an eary age is by civic involvement. (i.e chamber, civic orgs, Not-for-profits, local schools, etc.) Although I warn anyone reading this about getting involving with your local Zoning board… that is a headache you don't want… ha


    Ryan H.,

  • Srinivas Rao


    There's absolutely no reason Gen Y should wait to obtain these skills. I'm currently 31, which probably makes it someone ironic for me to write at a blog called under30Ceo, but I didn't do some of this stuff in my 20's, but I have every intention of doing it all going forward.

  • Ryan Hanley

    Under 30 or not I like the info your putting out here. keep it up. Thank you!

  • membershipjedi

    Stellar post Srinivas. It also shows the effort and work necessary to become seasoned and that it does not necessarily have to be in your industry of choice. Chairing an economic development committee in my 20s that had much older CEOs on it was a profound learning experience in addition to great teachers, mentors, coaches and a network to be envied. We are performing in an age when the old stolid ladders are no longer there to climb (they're not as much fun anyway). Rock on and crush it.

  • Srinivas Rao

    Membership Jedi,

    Thanks for sharing your insights. I can imagine that getting to work with people who were older than you really was a great learning experience. They always say surround yourself with people who know more than you do if you want to be successful.

  • Srinivas Rao

    Membership Jedi,

    Thanks for sharing your insights. I can imagine that getting to work with people who were older than you really was a great learning experience. They always say surround yourself with people who know more than you do if you want to be successful.