Career progression: 5 lessons to be learnt from the FTSE 100 CEOs

Advancing in your career to land a coveted job heading up one of Britain’s best businesses is not an easy feat. But it is worth remembering that every one of the current 101* CEOs started from somewhere and they have worked their way up through career progression. If you’re eager to advance in your career, whether it is to one day be in a leadership or management position, run your own company or even be a FTSE CEO, it takes hard work, perseverance and ambition. There are certain skills and experiences that will help you along the way.

Working your way up the ladder does not happen overnight. In fact, our FTSE CEO tracker found that the average age of the current FTSE 100 CEO is 54 years old and the average time they’ve been in their current position is five years and two months. Career progression requires planning, time and dedication towards achieving goals.

The FTSE 100 leaders are the perfect example of professionals who have worked their way to the top. The following five common characteristics provides solid insight for aspiring professionals to benchmark themselves against:

1. Industry Insight

Developing a deep understanding of a single industry and the competitive landscape will provide you a leg up to advance in your career. The majority (71 per cent) of senior FTSE 100 CEOs have worked in another top job within the same industry - this seems to be the most conventional career progression route for business leaders. When looking to progress your career, be sure to emphasise the industry insight that you have learnt from previous experiences.

2. Leadership Experience

The ability to lead is a skill that needs to be developed for career progression. Inspiring employees to achieve business objectives and embrace a corporate vision is often the difference employers look for when identifying individuals for promotions or career advancement. This is evident for 30 per cent of FTSE 100 leaders who have successfully moved industries to their current positions as their key strengths are in this area. Being able to take lead of a company, team, or manage a project are valuable leadership skills looked for by many hiring managers.

3. A finance background

Organisations value employees who have commercial nous and business acumen, skills often found in professionals with a financial background as they are required to make strategic decisions, monitor performance indicators, highlight trends and analyse causes of unexpected variances. Not surprisingly, more than half (52 per cent) of the current FTSE 100 CEOs began their careers working in finance or accountancy and one in four (27 per cent) are qualified Chartered accountants (ACA). As a result, employers are actively looking for finance professionals who have a broad range of skills, and the ability to apply their knowledge across different areas of the business.

4. Strong education

There's little doubt that having a strong education can help you develop your career. A sizeable proportion (19 per cent) of the FTSE 100 CEOs are Oxford or Cambridge educated and one third (32 per cent) have an MBA or PHD qualification. Professional certifications such as ACCA or CIMA are also linked to career progression, meaning it is beneficial for professionals to invest in their own learning and development if they are looking to progress their career.

5. Determination and confidence

Regardless of anything else, you've got to have determination and confidence in order to achieve career progression. You need to demonstrate your ability to take on heavy workloads and deliver results. Not just as a FTSE 100 CEO, but across the job spectrum. If you are looking to progress in your career, being able to demonstrate you confidence and ability to deliver great results in your work is essential for career progression.

For more information on the FTSE 100 CEO tracker research read our press release.

*The FTSE 100 is currently made up of 101 CEOs due to TUI Group having two chief executives at present. One of TUI Group’s co-CEOs, Peter Long, is reportedly due to step down in 2016.