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C-Level Career Pathway

Includes CEOs and other experienced, executive-level association professionals. They may not have a certification or credentialing background.

Recommended onboarding includes:

  • Certification program overview
  • General operations
  • Human resources
  • Policies and procedures
  • Annual budgets
  • Financial statements
  • Board policies

Technical development includes:

  • Certification best practices
  • Accreditation standards
  • Financial management
  • Strategic planning
  • Legal issues
  • Governance
  • Benchmarking best practices
  • Compensation

Their role and responsibilities may include the following:

  • Serve as a volunteer in the industry
  • Serve as a mentor to others

Their learning pathway should include certificates, CAE certification, participating in peer learning opportunities, contributing to blogs, journals, and professional society whitepapers, identifying paths for international expansion, and exploring microcredentialing and digital badging technology.

Engagement activities for professional growth 

  • Attend and present at industry conferences
  • Post content to industry blogs
  • Write industry articles

Advancement may entail:

  • (Vertical) CEO in a larger organization or becoming a member of the ICE Board of Directors
  • (Horizontal) CEO in similar-sized organization that may be in a different field or industry


Types of Advancement

Upward (or vertical) mobility: Advancement to next level position, supervisory, or managerial responsibilities.

Dual ladder: Advancement upward in technical skills, but not into a management track.

Horizontal: For the organization, key positions can be filled with demonstrated performers.

About Dual Career Ladders

A dual career ladder is a career development plan that allows upward mobility for employees without requiring that they be placed into supervisory or managerial positions. This type of program has typically served as a way to advance employees who may have particular technical skills or education but who are not interested in nor suited to management.

Dual career ladder programs are more common in scientific, medical, information technology, and engineering fields, or in fields that typically exhibit one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Substantial technical or professional training and expertise beyond the basic level
  • Rapid innovation
  • Credentials or licenses

To be effective, a dual career ladder program must be well managed, as the program can become a “dumping ground” for lower-performing managers. In addition, there may be resentment from employees not chosen for the program or from managers who feel that dual career employees are receiving similar pay as managers without the added burdens of supervising staff.

About Horizontal or Lateral Career Paths

The concept of horizontal career paths (also called “career lattices”) was introduced in many large organizations in the mid-to-late 1990s. In organizations with a limited number of management and leadership positions, employees are encouraged to think of career paths both horizontally and vertically.

The potential benefits of formal horizontal career paths include the following:

  • For a business with many distinct functions, employees can find challenging and rewarding work, broaden their skills, and contribute in new ways when they move laterally.
  • For the organization, key positions can be filled with demonstrated performers.
  • Horizontal paths can help employees who want to experiment in a related field.
  • Structured programs also help employees quickly understand how their job fits into the overall success of the organization and how they can meet their professional goals at their current workplaces.
  • Lateral career paths may help attract and retain employees from younger generations.

A career lattice strategy has to be understood by both managers and employees, and appropriate incentives need to be in place to reinforce the desired behavior. Organizations with successful lateral career programs share several common characteristics, including:

  • Employee development is part of the culture and beyond training courses to include rotational assignments or temporary assignments in other functions, roles, or locations.
  • Compensation is not reduced from the current level, but employees in developmental roles may not receive the same bonuses or merit increases when making a lateral move.
  • Well-developed competency models define the skills and experiences needed to be successful in more senior roles.