How Christopher has built a broad experience base to reach his dream job


Christopher’s story shows how important it is to make purposeful career development choices to gain strategically relevant experience in view of your career target. Building up a broad experience base is a key success factor to reach your dream job.

ChristopheR’s story

Christopher started his career in sales and moved later to marketing responsibilities in a large car manufacturer. He thereby gained broad commercial leadership experience. He has also been able to gain exposure in the field of public affairs through project work that he had volunteered for. This allowed him to reach a country head role in this car manufacturing company. His ultimate career aspiration was to take the CEO responsibility – a highly ambitious objective. He knew that it was still too early for him to make such a move at age 34.

He analyzed what additional experience would be most beneficial when he would apply internally or externally to a CEO role. He realized that he had completely neglected gaining experience in the production and supply chain part of the company he worked for. It had never crossed his mind that this could be a highly valuable addition to his profile. As future CEO of a company in his sector, having gained insight into these functions would without doubt be a highly valuable competitive advantage for him in the job market.

In his company such cross-functional moves between commercial and production were rather the exception. Production was a world apart. When he engaged with the global manufacturing head and his HR partner in a conversation to explore such opportunities, he received very positive resonance. They were convinced that such a move would help them build the bridges with the commercial teams in the organization. He was first promoted to become the head of a large manufacturing plant and quickly moved up to a regional manufacturing role. Christopher is currently considered as one of the top talents in his industry with CEO potential.

What can we learn from ChristopheR’s story?

The experience base is the essence of any career strategy. Understanding the experience gap between your current profile and the experience that is required to reach your dream job should be the cornerstone of your career development plan. That may require challenging certain established career development pathways, as we just saw in Christopher’s example. He understood how important it would be for him to get exposure to production and he proactively triggered that cross-move. Well done!

Step 1: Assess your current experience base:

I would recommend conducting a systematic inventory of the experience you have been able to collect during your career so far by going through your CV in quite some detail. Your experience base may include:

  • Direct people leadership responsibility at different levels (e.g. product, brand, category, country, zone, regional or global level)
  • Functional people leadership (or dotted line responsibility)
  • Project leadership responsibility
  • Sales or budget management experience
  • Headquarters’ experience
  • Involvement in strategy and organizational design initiatives
  • Change management
  • Exposure to different industry sectors
  • International management skills
  • Intercultural experience
  • Multi-country management responsibility
  • Language skills
  • You should also be specific about the functional and technical skills you have been able to acquire

This list is not exhaustive but will hopefully give you a sense of the way you can assess your experience base.

Step 2: Assess your skills and experience gap

As a next step, you should find out what experience is critical in your dream job. You should be just as precise as you have been in assessing your current experience base. There are many ways to find out what experience is required in this dream job. You may find job descriptions online. That is a good starting point. In addition, I would recommend interviewing people who have that knowledge. You may ask recruiters or HR business partners. But you should also reach out directly to the current incumbents. Interrogate them about their job and the skills and experience that they need in their role. You may also investigate what future skills they believe will be required in order to be successful in light of market changes. Finally, you may reach out to people through social media. You will be surprised how many individuals will be quite happy to share their experience.

Follow Christopher’s example. Manage your experience base strategically in view of your career aspiration. Be proactive to make the necessary career steps. Be bold in terms of cross-moves, if that helps you gaining the relevant experience.

More information in my book:

Sven Sommerlatte : Successful Career Strategy – An HR Practitioner’s Guide to Reach Your Dream Job (Springer, June 2023).  ISBN: 978-3-662-66790-3

Click here to find my book

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