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How to Become a Chief of Staff

The chief of staff is essential to the effectiveness and productivity of any team or organization. They serve as the right hand to executives that are commonly company presidents, chief executive officers (CEOs), and government leaders.  

As chief of staff, you would act as a point of contact between top management and the rest of the organization. You would take over smaller responsibilities and handle the day-to-day tasks on the executive leaders’ behalf to help lead employees. This could consist of attending meetings, taking notes, and assisting in the implementation of strategic planning processes. 

The ideal candidate for this role will have experience in a business management role, and a focus on executive-level advising. The position is perfect for those who are detail-oriented, organized, and enjoy holding positions of leadership.

Sample job description

[Your Company Name] is searching for an experienced chief of staff to join our team and help lead our company to the next level. To be considered an ideal candidate, you must be a self-starter and strategic thinker who acts with a sense of urgency and delivers timely results. You should be adept at navigating the complex business and management challenges that occur in a large management position. It’s important that you are a team player and can collaborate with a variety of business partners. Preferably, you’ll have at least 5-10 years of experience in a related field of business management assisting an executive of the C-level.  

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Gate-keeping and overseeing the flow of communication between others and the executive that you are responsible for
  • Assisting with and ultimately ensuring completion of projects by the given deadlines
  • Act as a liaison between executives and all other departments/levels 
  • Keep the executive organized and aware of any schedule changes
  • Ability to make good decisions quickly on behalf of the executive if they are not available 
  • Keep up to date on industry trends 
  • Assist in keeping executives aware of ongoing company initiatives, promotions, and marketing initiatives
  • Plan events, if needed 
  • Extremely detail-oriented and organized while working with a fast-paced team, often under pressure
  • Ability to handle confidential information with discretion and professionalism
  • Must have great interpersonal skills and the ability to interact with employees of all levels

Education and experience

  • Bachelor’s degree in business administration, or in a related field, such as finance, logistics, or economics
  • Master’s degree preferred, but not required
  • 5-10 years of relevant experience

Required skills and qualifications

  • Experience directing and organizing multiple departments and teams 
  • Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal 
  • Very versatile, able to complete tasks efficiently and effectively 
  • Experience leading and planning strategic initiatives

Bonus Qualifications

  • Experience with budget management
  • Experience with data analysis 
  • Consulting experience with an operations management focus 
  • Experience in a project coordination role with proven success 
  • Adaptable business mind with the ability to think critically

Typical work environment

A CoS works in an office as part of a team. They often consult with employees of all levels throughout the company. They collaborate with C-level employees on a day-to-day basis as well. 

A chief of staff usually keeps regular office hours. Since no two days are alike, they will occasionally need to work late or over weekends to meet deadlines. The schedule can vary significantly based on what executive they are working with and what that executive’s schedule will look like. Most likely they will have a very similar schedule to the executive they are paired with.

Typical hours

The typical work hours for a chief of staff in an office setting are 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. These hours can vary depending on the schedule of the executive that you are assisting.

Available certifications

Although certifications are not required to work as a chief of staff, there are some certifications that can definitely benefit you in the job search. There are a few institutions that offer certifications, including:

  • Project Management Institute’s Project Management Professional Certification: This certification is the world’s leading project management certification. They provide project leadership experience and they pride themselves on the ability to supercharge careers for project leaders. To get into this program you need to pass the PMP exam.
  • Northwestern University’s Leadership Certificate: This program is designed to focus on people, change, and strategy. They provide real-life examples that give students the opportunity to gain hands-on learning experience. Students must complete three courses in order to attain this certificate.
  • University of Oxford’s Chief of Staff Certification: This certification consists of a four-day residential program that takes place at the University of Oxford. This program features insights from many different leaders. Students are able to participate in discussions and debates and learn from world leaders. The program does cap at 40 students though, so it is extremely competitive.

Career path

The journey to becoming a CoS begins by earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration, finance, economics, or a related field.

Students who aspire to be a chief of staff should attain a business management role. Oftentimes, people with less experience will have a better chance at gaining experience at a smaller company or a startup company. Gaining a project management or leadership certification can definitely help make you stand out in the recruiting process. 

The CoS needs to develop soft skills like attention to detail and organization. They need to gain skills that allow executives to trust them with the small details of their day-to-day job, and to be able to communicate effectively with all levels of employees.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 11-1010

2020 Employment107,000
Projected Employment in 2030107,000
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 4% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift114,000 increase

Chief of staff is a good career move for someone looking to get into leadership at specific organizations. This job allows you to function as the stand-in executive, which allows you to see if being an executive is a career path you want to pursue. 

Chief of staff roles are growing in popularity due to the fact that they save executives time in the long run, and they are able to essentially train their employees directly for more senior roles down the line.