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Have you ever wished you were the top executive in your department? For many, becoming a C-level executive can be a lifelong goal. Whether it’s Chief Executive Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, or Chief Financial Officer – the C-suite has real perks.

Let’s start off with recognition. Making it to the C-suite means that people respect you. Not only do you know about the subject matter at hand, but you’re a strong leader and you make a big difference to the company. Then, there’s the pay. C-level execs often make exponentially more than other employees.

Making it to the corner office can often take years of hard work and sacrifice. When you make it there, it’s like you’ve found your destination. You’re where you were always meant to be. The climb is over. It’s time to get to work, making a lifelong contribution.

I suspect there as a time when this was true. But, generally speaking, that was a time before me. Over the years, I’ve worked with a number of C-level executives at work. And, as I reflect back on those great folks, they’ve all switched jobs since I first met them.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the average tenure for a Chief Marketing Officer was 3.5 years in 2016. The average tenure of a CEO was 7.2 years and the average tenure of a CFO was 5.7 years.

These tiny numbers make some sense. As companies are pressured to make money, they constantly revise their business strategies. And, new strategies require new strategists.

The problem is, when a company changes their corporate guard, the executives left without a job are hit hard. It can take them months, or years to find new employment on the same level. It most certainly leaves the impacted executives wondering what’s wrong with them.

In reality, nothing is wrong. It may have taken them ten or twenty years to land the title of Chief. That period of hard work was like a long interview. And really, each company only needs one CEO, one CMO, and one CFO. They are both the most coveted roles and the rarest.

So, what’s the point of all of this? I don’t want to discourage you from a corner office dream. But, if this is part of your future career, take today’s business environment into account with your personal career plan. The C-suite has changed. Once you do land a top spot, carefully plan your financial future. By living below your means and creating a financial safety net, you loosen the corporate handcuffs that can otherwise hold you hostage.

If you’ve already made it to the top and you find yourself without a job, remember that you’re not alone. This is a phenomenon that many executives are facing today. To make it through with the least number of bumps and bruises, give yourself a generous amount of time to land your next big gig.

Angela Copeland, a career coach and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at

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