This Career Skill Is More Valuable Than an MBA, Study Finds

Sophie Miura

If securing the covetable corner office and climbing the ranks to CEO seems like a distant career dream, new research suggests these things might be more attainable than you think. We often perceive the path to the top job as requiring years of experience and college education, but a new study by LinkedIn reveals an easy and effective shortcut to climb the corporate ladder: working across multiple departments.

The study, “How to Become an Executive,” examined the different ways people reached the top of their careers. LinkedIn scanned data from 459,000 global members who worked at a major consulting firm over a 20-year period and scored an executive role. According to Inc., only 64,000 (roughly 14%) managed to reach this high level.

What propelled these individuals to succeed above their peers? Researchers discovered that those who worked across multiple departments at a particular job had a surprising edge over colleagues who focused purely on one role. Switching roles within a company gave an advantage equivalent to about three years of experience. What’s more, those who had worked in four different functions at a company earned benefits on par with an MBA from a top-five graduate program.

“Work used to be much more hierarchical, and in many instances rote,” Gary Pinkus, managing partner of McKinsey & Company for North America, told The New York Times. “If you look at most companies now, work has become incredibly cross-functional.”

Shop The CEO Difference by D.A. Benton ($21) for more tips to get ahead at work, and tell us if an unconventional path has helped your career.

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