This is a post that may contradict all the advice you’ve heard on “becoming a CEO.”
I haven’t completed any MBA Program. I haven’t even earned a Bachelor’s Degree. I left Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA three semesters before I could have finished.
Yet, by the age of 22, I became the CEO for a multi-million dollar marketing company. And, I’m using this post to:
1) announce that over the next year, I’m writing a book about this experience
2) answer common questions folks may have about becoming a CEO (from a non-traditional perspective).
3) In summary, share my two steps for becoming a CEO at such a young age.
Was the company a Fortune 500 company? No, but do you want to do that?
I’m Writing a Book
It might be long overdue, but over this next
year I’m writing a book. I will share much about my experience of leaving college early, pursuing the professional career that I did, and ultimately becoming a 22 year old CEO.
I want to share
about some of the risks I took, the unique work I found (and how others can find it too), and how to work your way up in a flexible organization.
Over the next year, I’ll be releasing posts that sample some of the content that will be in the book. If you want to stay up to date with this, enter your email below:
Anyways, onto the CEO FAQ.
On Becoming a CEO, Common Questions Answered
How long does it take to become a CEO?
For me, it took 18 months, and surely, this is an anomaly. Plenty of luck came my way. An EXTREME amount of luck (and generosity on behalf of my boss and mentor) came my way.
But, this brings up an important point:
Finding the work you may want, one with challenge and learning opportunity, isn’t as far away as you think.
What sort of experience does a CEO need? What’s a career path for a CEO?
Based on my background, you need to have been; a bus boy, a barista, and a youth sports referee (K-4th grade preferably).
My level of experience was never in question in the work that I did. And, that was the understanding in this unique type of work.
Although I did have some side projects that taught me digital marketing, my resume was a blank slate.
What kind of credentials, or education does a CEO need?
In my case, a high school diploma and some college. As I mentioned above, I have no MBA, no Masters, not even a Bachelor’s degree!
In fact, it doesn’t take any of those things…if you’ve come across the right opportunities.
Me becoming the CEO of a digital marketing agency at 22 wasn’t about my credentials, it was more so about the two steps I’m going to share with you below.
You can have your MBA, your AFA, heck you can be in the NBA and you still can never get yourself a CEO job.
Are these answers getting frustrating yet?
Is there specific CEO training?
For me, it was being CEO. Stepping into that role, I had very little idea what I was doing. But what better way to learn?
What sort of skills, or characteristics do successful CEOs need?
From my brief experience as a CEO, I learned that the most important qualities the Chief Executive can have are:
1. A powerful vision and belief for where the organization should go.
2.Empathy and a desire to connect and bring people along with them.
Now how did I become a CEO? Let me explain.
How to Become a CEO (at age 22), in 2 Steps
I’m not convinced you
want to be a CEO. If you hadn’t been one, than how would you know?
I can wager, that you’d want to have work that finds you meaning.
I imagine that you’d want to have the autonomy to work on things that trigger your
curiousity, inspire you, and make a tangible impact.
Following these two
steps I can’t promise you can become a CEO.
Let’s be honest, the title, my story
and the headers are a good way to get you into a post like this.
Yet, if you do follow these two steps, I can promise you’ll find an abundance of professional (and personal) opportunities fall into your lap.
As well, you’ll be able to make more of the impact that you want to, no matter the organization you are apart of.
If you are wanting to become a CEO because they make a lot of money. Go home. Anyways, here are the two steps.
1. Create “Luck”
Good luck created much of the experience I had. I’ll admit that.
My brother was in the right place at the right time (Seattle, WA) for me to meet my future boss. Without that connection, I would have never had the opportunity in the first place.
Although luck can seem out of our control, it’s not.
By being the type of person who receives opportunities that we want, what might we have to start doing?
For example, for my boss to consider me
as an attractive potential employee, I had to have some ambition. As well, some previous experience indicating I could be a high performer.
And, I did have some. I had been building a website on the side, learning some basics of digital marketing. This was all out of my own ambition.
experience I wouldn’t have been able to speak competently about his company and what they did.
Start doing interesting things. Take the actions now that you think may lead to an opportunity being given to you that you couldn’t predict?
Where do you have to be, what traits or skills do you have to learn, what communities do you have to start being a part of?
2. Be Indispensable
Once given an opportunity, you have to over deliver. If you don’t, it was all for not.
If you do, everything with
snowball. Further opportunities, responsibilities and unique connections and experiences will come into view.
And this is the next piece of the puzzle. To get the work you want, you have to be so good people cannot ignore it (thanks, Cal Newport).
You have to learn how to learn. You have to be able to get more of the most important things done. You have
be so generous and giving to colleagues, teams and the organization you are apart of.
This is how I spent my 18 months leading up to my promotion to CEO. I did everything I could to drive as much value as I could back to my organization.
And, by giving as much as I could, I was rewarded.
So the next step, is to first figure out how to get good, then, we get good.
CEO at 22, a Guide to Finding More Meaningful Work
No title has been announced, in
fact much of the basic structure of the book is still in production. But just a reminder, this is the beginning of a collection of posts and articles that will share information relevant to my upcoming book.
I’ll be talking about; “good work,” and becoming an indispensable person. Something of a linchpin.