The Chief of Staff Leveling Framework was created to help Chiefs of Staff understand and communicate their position inside the organization. The framework is based on research with the hundreds of Chiefs of Staff in our community to better understand how the role progresses from IC execution to strategy & people management at the most senior levels.
The framework consists of 5 levels of Chiefs of Staff, each with different dimensions of growth and advancement criteria. The dimensions are: relationship to principal, scope of ownership, influence & impact, communication & collaboration, and leadership & development. The framework also accounts for differences in organization size and stage, as Chiefs of Staff at smaller or larger companies may face different challenges and opportunities.
The framework can be used by Chiefs of Staff to identify their current level, their growth areas, and their development plans. It can also be used by principals to clarify the expectations and responsibilities of their Chiefs of Staff. The framework is available here on the Chief of Staff Network website.
In this article, we’re going to expand on the experience, remit, and skill sets often found in Level 2 Chiefs of Staff.
Level 2, or the Senior Associate / Junior Manager level, is the entry point into more managerial competencies for Chiefs of Staff. At this level, Chiefs of Staff are moving beyond pure administrative support to run small strategic projects on behalf of their Principal, such as:
- Creating external-facing content for the CEO (e.g. board decks, podcast content, etc)
- Deriving insight from data analysis
- Working on projects, such as improving a given process or running a culture survey internally
- Provide organizational help with external partnerships
At the Sr. Associate / Jr. Manager level, Chiefs of Staff are not only expected to be highly organized, efficient, and detail-oriented, but also to run small self-directed projects. Level 2 CoS roles are a great opportunity to begin flexing one’s strategy muscles. It is also a great way to build relationships with senior leaders, although, as with Level 1, you may not be seen as a peer compared to more senior CoS roles.
Here are some of the skills and experience that are typically required for a Chief of Staff role at this level:
- 2-4 years of experience in a related field, with professional services experience preferred
- Strong organizational and project management skills
- The ability to context-switch across multiple small projects
Even at this junior level, Chiefs of Staff can earn a good salary. Our global research indicates it averages around $93,000, with a 25th percentile wage being $50,000 and the 75th percentile being $127,000.
Based on our 2022 CoS salary report, we learned that there is a preponderance of Level 2 CoS at companies with headcount between 5000-10000. Additionally, > 50% of Level 2 CoS are women and that 70% had 0-5 years of total career experience.
Here’s an indicative Level 2 job description:
- Helping the Principal assess, pilot, and launch new workflow and process efficiencies
- Conducting project management and requirements gathering for new initiatives which may involve operations, marketing and product
- Conducting user research to validate new initiatives
- Working with cross-functional teams to develop and implement efficiency projects
- Collaborating with team leads across Operations, Marketing, Product, and Data to ensure alignment
- 3-5+ years of experience in an operations role at a tech company with a proven track record of success
- Ability to use SQL or willingness to learn SQL to conduct data analysis
- Strength in communicating and prioritizing
- The ability to self-direct and address challenges in a hands-on way, persevering in times of headwinds and failures
- Effective and thorough project & change management skills
- The ability to be a quick learner—you’re resourceful when it comes to figuring out workflows and processes and how each piece ties together
Common personas that operate at Level 2:
Persona #1: Lauren (internal promote, startup)
Lauren is 26 and lives in Chicago. She went to McGill for undergrad and then moved to Chicago to join a Series B SaaS startup as a RevOps Analyst, earning $70k. She demonstrated aptitude for systems integrations, process improvement, & analytics, as well as onboarding new employees. After 2 years, she was promoted to RevOps Manager earning $90k. After 2 years in that role, the CEO of the firm tapped her to become his Chief of Staff, earning $115k.
Lauren is her firm’s second CoS - her CEO previously had another CoS who “graduated” into a Head of People role. Lauren spends most of her time shadowing her CEO and taking tasks and projects off of his plate. This could be as simple as drafting an email to as complex as preparing the deck for the board meeting.
Alex sees the CoS role as a transitory launchpad to catapult herself into management, but she knows she needs to execute exceptionally to do that. Right now, she’s focused on meeting more seasoned CoS to understand what the bar for excellence looks like as she works to ascend to Level 3.
Persona #2: Nikhil (ex professional services)
Nikhil is 25 and lives in San Francisco, but sometimes flies to his company’s engineering hub in India. He attended undergrad at Duke. He did a summer internship at Accenture and joined them full-time immediately after graduation, where his sector focus was finance. Over the course of 3 years, he went from Analyst ($78k) to Consultant ($110k).
He reached out to Golden Gate Recruits and eventually found a fit with a hot Series B fintech company as CoS. He took a pay cut to $100k because of his equity upside in the business and his ability to directly drive the business, a distinct change from his prior experience in consulting.
Nikhil prides himself on his ability to land in an unfamiliar situation, orient himself, and execute quickly and effectively. He carries himself like a much older and more seasoned professional, largely due to his professional services experience in front of Fortune 1000 CXOs. However, he’s never been responsible for execution before; he used to pass recommendations off to in-house teams. Furthermore, he’s now dealing with the nitty-gritty of corporate functions that his projects didn’t touch, such as HR and IT.
Nikhil aims to become a venture capitalist one day. He sees the CoS role as a way to meet investors, learn about the inner workings of startups, and hone his operational skills. He hopes to lead his firm through hypergrowth and become an investor on the other side of that. Right now, he’s focused on meeting senior strategy and ops professionals to avoid reinventing the wheel.
With all this in mind, you now have an understanding of a Level 2 Chief of Staff role. As a recap, this is the Sr. Associate / Jr. Manager level, focused on expanding their principal’s time by taking on small projects for them. This role tends to earn average cash compensation of $93,000.
If you’re interested in networking with CoS of all different levels, you can sign up for membership here.