Whose Responsibility Is It?

I was contacted last week by a CFO expressing great frustration in his job search. Why, he asked, was he the only one who could see how easily he could make the transition back into a private industry leadership role after being out of private industry for the last 10+ years. He was confident those last 10 years only ADDED to his ability to lead a finance department. Looking at his marketing documents, I understood why.

My question to him – and to you – is this …

Whose responsibility is it to connect the dots so your value is obvious? Yours? Or, the prospective company?

There is no question that the job search today is challenging. However, it is made all the more exasperating by, in my opinion, these two things … 

Not understanding your positioning 

It is not what you did (responsibilities) that a company is buying. It is your ability to solve problems, and particularly their problems, that they will pay good money to get. If you aren’t positioned as a problem solver, your positioning is weak, vulnerable, and suspect and relegates you to commodity status.

Maybe you do understand your value proposition, and you can even clearly articulate it. Do your marketing documents convey the same message? Resume writing is about strategy, which is why templates often fail to make the grade. A one-size-fits-all approach isn’t a good marketing document strategy, nor is it a good candidate strategy.

–Being all things to all people

Being niched … and branded … I am a bit biased in this regard. Still, my belief is that being a subject matter expert trumps being a generalist; knowing a lot about a little is more valued than knowing a little about a lot; and everyone has one or two things at which they excel and would differentiate them from the competition. Most people just haven’t taken the time to figure it out. Rather, they rush into a job search trying to be all things to all people in order to get that next position. 

If you can’t clearly convey why you are the best of the best at solving a company’s financial/operational problems, the prospective company probably won’t take time to figure it out either. That responsibility is yours as the seller of Product You.


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11 Responses to Whose Responsibility Is It?

  1. Great advice. I get a lot of people coming to me for career advice or job hunt advice. I haven’t written a resume in a long, long time so I don’t have much to offer there. But I see often people frustrated at the hiring company’s inability to “get them.” But when they show me their resume, I don’t see the person that I know through direct exposure. They aren’t telling the story very well. It is your responsibility to fix that.

  2. Thanks for reading and commenting, Jamie.
    It frustrates me when people of influence evangelize that EVERYONE should write their own resume. Some people can, but many people cannot … not effectively anyway. I think those folks do a great disservice to their audience and only add to the angst of the job seeker who may already be suffering a crisis of confidence.

  3. This is such great advice Cindy. I speak with frustrated people every day that don’t understand why companies aren’t valuing their expertise and experience. It hasn’t occurred to me to tell them that it’s not the companies’ fault.
    I give the same advice to my candidates but I can’t re-write the resume for them. I don’t have the time nor do I have the expertise.
    There are many executives that present well-written, targeted and well-positioned resumes….but that is not the rule. In good times an “okay” resume can help you get a job. In these times your single most important marketing tool should be left to an expert.

  4. Thanks for reading and for commenting, Fran.
    You’re right … today “okay” is rarely good enough.

  5. Great post Cindy…and on target.
    I had many interviews over the last 2-years as I adapted to the market and pursued the few available opportunities. For the offers that were extended, it all came down to the return I would deliver to the company for their investment in me and the immediate value I was expected to deliver to the company. The value proposition was a core part of those interviews. I ensured that they received that ROI and the results helped me land a position with my dream company.
    Keep sharing the insights…!
    Jeffrey Ishmael
    jeffrey@corpfincafe.com

  6. Jon Jacobs says:

    Agree with all that this is one hugely useful post. And the advice is just as applicable far beyond the CFO role, the financial profession or the finance industry.
    Still, I think it’s going overboard to say everyone needs a resume pro to get their resume right. Once a job-seeker comes to learn that the resume they’re using isn’t divinely ordained, but rather is a fluid document they should always be working on, constantly thinking how to improve (rather like a poem!), and modifying to align with the specific requirements of each employer they approach … the door is open for the job-seeker to become his or her own resume consultant. Then, the means of improvement can be picked up here and there: tidbits of advice like those in the above post and others; books and newspaper articles on the subject; and feedback from professional peers, such as former colleagues. Really, it isn’t rocket-science.

  7. Thanks for reading and commenting, Jon.
    I don’t think anyone who commented (me included) said “everyone” needs the assistance of a resume professional. Anytime the “every” or “never” words get used, they are usually exaggerations. Some people can write their own resumes, many cannot. Those who cannot should not be made to feel as if getting help is some kind of weakness on their part. In fact, it is just the opposite. Often the process of unearthing value as part of the resume writing strategy inspires confidence. I agree it isn’t rocket science; it is strategic though.
    And you’re right, Jon, that a resume is fluid, and today, a digital footprint (Linked In, Facebook, etc.) is really a portable portfolio that should always be kept current along with a resume. Many of us teach our clients how to proactively manage their careers on a go-forward basis so they can act independently. That said, many of my clients – even from back in the mid-90s – still come back to me for updates because they know that it is easier for me to guide them through the process than it is for them to do it themselves. They could do it themselves … they choose not to.

  8. Thanks Jeff. You rock – what more can I say?

  9. Mike Wilke says:

    Happy New Year, Cindy!
    I totally agree with you on everything you have said.
    First, it clearly is the job seeker’s responsibility to connect the dots. It is exactly the same requirement that businesses have when prospecting or selling to their customers (whether comsumers or other businesses).
    Second,a job seekers experience and past accomplishments establish a professional capability baseline. But this step is only the start of convincing the employer that you are the one. The job seeker has got to make his capbilities\experience relevant. He or she must demonstrate an understanding and empathy for the employer’s problems, business environment and other challenges.
    Third, the help of a professional resume writer really can make a huge difference. CFOs aren’t necessarily marketing specialists. Let’s face it, job hunting is the ultimate form of personal marketing. More often than not job seekers do not or can not effectively document and promote themselves. A stategy is needed.
    Cheers and have a wonderful new year!
    Mike Wilke
    http://www.bizsenseblog.com

  10. Thanks Mike. I truly appreciate the affirmations in your post.
    You nailed it with … “job hunting is the ultimate form of personal marketing.” And that is one of THE toughest marketing jobs. Most of us have been raised to not brag about ourselves and that translates to wrapping oneself in responsibilities. In today’s tough market … responsibilities, as you said, just don’t cut it.
    May 2010 be a spectacular year for you, Mike!

  11. Cindy, great advice and so clearly delivered! You are so right; many careerist/executives do not own the responsibility of making the connection for the future employer. It is they, job seekers, who are selling a product just as you conveyed. And so, it is up to them to promote value (connect dots)…with your help, of course.
    Insightful and spot-on article!

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