Although becoming an executive director can be a long process, the steps along the way provide valuable experience, and build the skills needed for the job. In order to become an executive director, the key is to learn as many different aspects of business as possible. Most executive directors start off in lower management roles, eventually learning enough about the company and earning enough trust to take over the lead role. Education can also be an important component.
It may not be necessary to be a business major to become an executive director, but focusing coursework on business and management usually provides a good foundation. These courses often teach basics in human resources, time management, business finance, business law, supply chain management and other important business functions. Majoring in a business field, such as business management, finance, or accounting, could provide you with an advantage over at least some of the competition.
Once you have completed college, the next step is finding a managerial role with a company that interests you. While it is not a requirement to be interested in the type of work or business to become an executive director, it makes the job more enjoyable, and may also make it easier to fit in with the rest of the team. For those just starting out after college, the first role may be more along the front lines, such as a sales or account representative. Do not be discouraged if you cannot find a managerial role at first, but strive to prove your worth in whatever role you land.
If possible, it is a good idea to switch jobs within the company from time to time. For example, moving from a sales position to an accounting position helps you gain exposure to different facets of the business. This may not be possible in all cases, but taking an interest in other areas and learning as much about other departments as possible can help show that you are ready for a more comprehensive role.
Often, the goal is to stay with the company long enough to advance. Therefore, someone striving to become an executive director may start out choosing medium to larger companies that offer some advancement opportunity, and the chance to manage individuals under a chain of command structure. When the time comes for those individuals to move into a lead role, they may actually decide to switch companies, and begin as the head of a smaller organization, at least at first.
When possible, also remember to take advantage of connections you have within the industry, and work to build new connections in whatever company you start out with. Networking can be a big help, if you are hoping to become an executive director at some point in the future. You can network by attending trade shows, conferences and joining professional organizations related to your job or industry.
Remember, when the time comes to actually apply for an executive director position, it is important to stress not only education and experience, but also results. If you were able to increase a company's revenue, or decrease expenses, do not be shy about mentioning that. Further, if you have experience in multiple areas, that could demonstrate that you understand many aspects of a particular business. An executive director is expected to do all of these things.