Chicago Execs: Advancing Careers

By: Marilyn Fettner

Mission: A to-do list for executives that live in the greater Chicagoland area that will give them practical and creative advice on how to advance their careers to the next level.

Embrace Lifelong Learning: The University of Chicago found that executives who continually learn and adapt are 40% more likely to succeed. Consider enrolling in an executive program like those offered by the Booth School of Business or Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

Network Actively: According to a LinkedIn survey, 70% of jobs are found through networking. Attend local networking events like Chicago Innovation Awards or Built in Chicago’s tech events.

Cultivate Emotional Intelligence (EI): A Harvard Business Review study showed that EI counts for twice as much as IQ and technical skills in determining who will be successful. Consider hiring an executive coach who can guide you in developing your EI.

Foster Diversity and Inclusion: According to McKinsey, companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Make it a priority to build a diverse team.

Think like an Investor: If you were buying stock in the Chicago Bulls, you wouldn’t only buy when they’re in the playoffs. Same with investing in your skills. Invest time and money in areas you want to grow in, to prepare for  your next big career-advancing challenge and opportunity that comes your way.

Mind your Well-being: A Stanford Business study found that a CEO’s physical condition directly influences their decision-making ability. Make use of the Chicago area’s wellness resources like the Lakefront Trail for exercise or Chicago Botanic Garden or Garfield Park Conservatory for quiet reflection.

Get Involved in the Community: Civically engaged executives often have larger networks and better reputations. Serve on a board, volunteer, or sponsor local events.


Q: How much time should I spend networking each week?

A: There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but a rule of thumb is to dedicate at least a ½ hour to an hour a day toward relationship building. That can add up to nearly 7 hours a week.

Q: I’m not located near a university; can I still pursue executive education?

A: Many universities offer online programs and courses that can be completed remotely.

Q: How do I find a good executive coach?

A: Look for coaches with a proven track record, positive client testimonials, and relevant experience. Also, finding a coach whose style aligns with your personality and goals is important. Most coaches offer a complimentary informational call. Seek out someone you can chat with in order to determine fit, before making a commitment.

Remember, the executive path is a marathon, not a sprint. Keep steady, stay motivated, and your efforts will bear fruit.

Case Study: Lisa’s Executive Career Transformation


Lisa had been an executive for a Fortune 500 company based in Chicago for over 15 years. Despite her experience and dedication, she felt stuck in her career. She’d been passed over for promotion several times and felt like she was no longer growing in her role. With a desire to progress and improve her situation, Lisa sought out the advice of Marilyn Fettner from Fettner Career and Life Coaching.


Taking to heart the executive career advice outlined earlier, Lisa made a commitment to implement these strategies:

Embrace Lifelong Learning: Lisa enrolled in an executive program at the Booth School of Business, where she gained a fresh perspective on executive leadership and innovation.

Network Actively: Lisa started attending local networking events and was able to build meaningful relationships with other executives and influencers in her industry.

Cultivate Emotional Intelligence (EI): Through her sessions with Marilyn Fettner, Lisa worked on improving her emotional intelligence, focusing on empathy and self-awareness, and increasing her commitment to relationship management.

Foster Diversity and Inclusion: Lisa worked with her HR team to build diversity and inclusion into their recruitment and retention practices, leading to a more engaged and innovative team.

Think like an Investor: Lisa consciously decided to invest in her skills, particularly those not currently in demand,  like data analysis and digital transformation, to build greater marketability and competency for future executive career advancement.

Mind her Well-being: Lisa incorporated regular exercise into her routine, using the scenic Lakefront Trail for morning jogs.

Get Involved in the Community: Lisa joined the board of a local non-profit organization, which led to expanding her network and giving her a greater sense of purpose and accomplishment.


After a year of committed effort, Lisa’s transformation was remarkable. Her enhanced emotional intelligence, coupled with new skills from her executive program, improved her team’s performance and their perception of her as a leader.

The diversity and inclusion initiatives she led resulted in a 20% increase in employee engagement and a more innovative team culture. Her commitment to personal well-being and community involvement also contributed to a positive shift in her leadership style, which was noticed by both her superiors and team.

Ultimately, Lisa was promoted to a higher executive position. She credited her advancement to her proactive effort, especially the coaching sessions with Marilyn Fettner, which provided her with the guidance and tools to unstick her career and propel it to new heights.

Lisa’s story is a testament to the power of holistic personal and professional development. Her commitment to growth and change, combined with expert coaching from Marilyn Fettner, allowed her to break through her career plateau and reach new levels of success.