Financial security is the major reason why executives vie for CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies. According to AFL-CIO, CEOs at Fortune 500 companies earned an average of $12.3 million in 2013 with about half that amount coming from company stocks and options. In the same year, the total compensation for Fortune 500 CEOs above $5 billion, which means there are huge financial benefits in becoming a chief executive officer in a Fortune 500 company.

If your goal is to become a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, then you will need an outstanding resume or CV, the appropriate educational background, and the zeal to work harder than your competitors. Becoming the CEO of a Fortune 500 company is possible—though not easy. Here are the gradual steps involved.

How to Become a CEO of a Fortune 500 Company

1. Pursue an undergraduate degree

Your first step towards becoming a Fortune 500 CEO is to pursue an undergraduate degree in your desired field. Strive to complete major coursework and general education requirements with excellent grades—because excellent grades will separate you from the rest of the pack. To broaden your experience and worldview, you should augment your undergraduate education with internships and study abroad opportunities; since most Fortune 500 companies are global companies.

2. Enroll for a MBA program

You can significantly boost your chances of becoming a Fortune 500 company by receiving a Masters of Business Administration from a reputable program or institution. Although bagging an advanced degree in your academic field is a good step, it will not necessarily provide the leadership skills and experience needed for CEO positions. And that’s exactly what an MBA gives you.

3. Write a compelling resume

Your resume is your sales pitch. So, use it to highlight your organizational, communication, and leadership skills as you apply for mid-level positions. You must not leave out any managerial or supervisory positions you have held in the past, going back to the start of your career.

You must also ensure that you emphasize those qualities that you think will appeal to hiring managers. And demonstrate a positive reputation among previous employers by having an extensive list of references.

4. Dress well

One of the shortcuts to success in the corporate world is to dress in a way that leaves your managers and employers impressed. Gather as much as black, blue, and brown suits and accessories as possible. And fill your wardrobe with enough matching shirts, belts, jackets, and shoes for a week without replication. Continue to add to your wardrobe every month to avoid wearing the same clothes too frequently.

5. Target leadership roles

At every stage of your career, you must aim for leadership opportunities, as this will prepare you for the position of a CEO. Even if you are a mail-room clerk, salesperson, or administrative assistant, always volunteer for project leadership positions. Your achievements with these roles can greatly improve your CV and demonstrate your qualifications for management and leadership positions.

6. Learn more by attending seminars and workshops

Attend night and weekend seminars in business management organized by industry groups and professional bodies. These seminars will help you integrate traditional management practices with new technology, so you can keep abreast of technology trends.

7. Interact with CEOs

Always exploit any opportunity to meet with the CEO of your company to learn about keys to successful management. You can enjoy brief outside-the-office chat sessions with top company executives by attending company-sponsored events and optional meetings. Though you won’t have more than few minutes to spend with these top executives most of the time, you will learn a great deal from each brief session.

8. Network with others

You can increase your profile and at the same time develop references for future advancement by cultivating contacts within your industry—beyond your current company. Attend conferences where you can meet with CEOs and other top executives from rival companies to learn about the industry from another perspective. In addition, keep in touch with your former employers and colleagues to learn about executive-level opportunities.

9. Be heard

Stick with particular viewpoint on your industry and advocate for it through offline and online media outlets. Create a personal blog for publishing your views on industry trends, competing companies, and other related information. However, be careful not to damage your employer’s reputation.

In addition, you can submit articles on your company’s behalf to business magazines, such as Entrepreneur and Inc. But this must be done with the company’s permission.

10. Develop a keen eye for opportunities for advancement

Instead of rising slowly through your first or current employer, look within the whole industry for opportunities for advancement to the position of CEO. Your chances of becoming a CEO may be brighter with a competitor rather than your current employer.

So, instead of toiling away for decades in mid-level positions, keep watching out for executive-level openings within your industry.

Ajaero Tony Martins