A Thankful Heart

As we in America pause this week to give thanks for all the blessings bestowed on us, I am thankful for all of you – my faithful readers. This is my 20th year in business and I’ve been writing my blog since 2005. I hope that something, even one seemingly small thing, I’ve written over the last almost 10 years has proved helpful as you’ve moved through your career.

Happy Thanksgiving! May your hearts be overflowing with gratitude this week and throughout the coming year, for we truly are a richly blessed people.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Online Anonymity

Am I the only one who feels like “Online Anonymity” might be today’s ultimate oxymoron? Is there any reason to be online if you want to be anonymous? And if you want to be anonymous, why send a contrary message by being, sort of, online? Riding the fence is not a good option when we are talking about the importance of a digital footprint.

Perhaps I’m feeling just a bit beleaguered as I work through a very, very long list of CFOs who have requested to join my CFO-only careers group on Linkedin. In a list that I have finally pared down from about 600+ requests, I can maybe – maybe – find 50% with profiles that include credible evidence the person is who s/he says he is. If your Linkedin profile is so scaled back that I – a mere career coach who works with Chief Financial Officers – can’t determine that you really are a Finance Chief, what do you think your target market is thinking? My guess would be that much like me, they doubt your credibility. Not that you aren’t credible and accomplished, but there is nothing to support that positioning.

Here’s some advice, which is really only valuable if you actually take it.

Decide whether you want to be online or you want to be anonymous, and if it is the former, then show up fully, completely, and compellingly. It does not help your messaging to have one foot online and the other foot firmly planted in in your desire to be anonymous.

My most recent post on Linkedin Pulse supports my belief that when you show up online, with a value message that resonates with your target audience, you will reap the rewards.

An Authentically Branded CFO

An Authentically Branded CFO

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The Digital CFO

 

Today's CFO

Today’s CFO

Back in April I wrote an article for Linkedin Pulse about the CFO of today and the marketability of technology CFOs.

HP Blogs posted an article about a month ago entitled “Is the CFO of 2020 Ready to Embrace Digital Transformation.” The year 2020 might seem far away, but it is zooming right at us. From a business perspective, CFOs need to be ready.

Kuddos to you if you are armed and executing the latest and greatest technology in your finance department, but what about your technology expertise from a career perspective? Your career perspective? Is your corporate technology savvy also showing up in your personal career messaging? Or is that message among your potential target audience mixed, muddied, and/or diluted?

As the competition for the Chief Financial Officer seat only becomes more and more fierce among problem-solving, value-oriented, impact-delivering Finance Leaders, your technology acumen will also matter. And social media IS a part of that acumen. Many, and in a few short years, most of your finance team will be from the most-socially-connected generation that has ever lived. Will they want to work for a throwback from the last Century?

So get your social media savvy on by …

– Getting rid of your AOL and Hotmail email address. Yahoo isn’t that much better, and all three are hacked on a regular basis. An account hack could totally derail your search efforts and is definitely not a risk worth taking.

– Moving from “Wall Flower” to “Active Participant” within Linkedin groups. Share your thought leadership by posting, comment, and interacting with others. Anybody can be a wall flower, and the majority are. It takes courage and intentionality to step out and step in to differentiating yourself through participation.

– Completing your Linkedin profile. I run a CFO-only careers group on Linkedin, requiring me to actually review profiles before approving new members. The majority of the profiles I see fall so below any kind of acceptable standard that doing this one thing – having a complete and compelling profile – will set you apart from most of your competition.

Technology … it’s for CFOs in their corporate roles AND for their career positioning.

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The Chicken or the Egg?

Which came first? The chicken or the egg? It’s an age-old cliche that still surfaces from time-to-time. And now, we have a similar question from job seekers that is becoming more commonplace as they navigate the ever-changing job search arena.

Which do I need first?
My resume or my Linkedin profile?

Since you need both, the answer – at least from my perspective – is really simple.

The resume first.
Then, your Linkedin profile.

Why you might ask? The long answer lies in my blog post from a few weeks ago, “It’s Not About a Resume,” but here’s the short answer. Your resume – and your Linkedin profile – are only the written results of understanding your value and being able to articulate your value-oriented messaging. It requires the same amount of work to get to your value in order to write your profile as it does to write your resume.

If you are paying someone to merely write your profile on Linkedin … does it really convey your value messaging or does it simply flow better but still with the emphasis on responsibilities held rather than the valuable impacts you delivered?

Cindy Kraft, the CFO-Coach

Cindy Kraft, the CFO-Coach

You really do have to do the hard work to get the reward. There are only so many Chief Financial Officer positions, so the competition can be fierce.

Taking the seemingly shortest route when it involves your career – the thing that provides the funding for everything else in your life, including providing for your family, can often turn into anything but a shortcut today. You wouldn’t think of shortcutting your company in strategically guiding its growth and direction, so don’t do it to yourself either.

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Want to versus Have to

I just returned from an intensive 3-day retreat with my colleagues. The non-stop brainstorming, idea generating, planning, and strategizing is always energizing and completely refreshing.

One of the very insightful topics we discussed was the “want to” versus “have to” mindset.

Want to … pie-in-the-sky dreams that may or may not come true but we definitely spend time thinking we would sure like to do them and even how fun it would be to do them.

Have to … can be life-changing and empowering steps that often lead to fulfillment of our “want.”

My take-away … The things we want to do only happen when we do the things we have to do in order to achieve them.

If you have a to-do list, which ones of those items fall into the “want-to” and which fall into the “have-to” category? Which are you actually doing? Which ones are you moving forward from one day to another because they are wonderful ideas, you would really like to do them, however there are more pressing have-tos that always seem to require your attention? Which of those have-to actions are moving you closer to the thing(s) you want?

What you want is that big, audacious, hairy goal or dream. The action steps to get there are the things you have to do in order to achieve the goal.

What is Your Want?

What is Your Want?

If you are gainfully and happily employed … congrats and kudos to you! However, you are only between your last search and your next search. What are the things you have to do in order to position yourself for the next position you want?

Want is the goal.
Getting there suggests there are things you have to do in order to attain your goal.

Waiting until you need a job before you begin doing the things you have to do in order to get that next position takes away all of your power and puts it completely in the hands of prospective employer. Even if your new job want is 1-3 years in the future, identifying the actions you have to do NOW and executing them along the way will allow you to effectively land, and land more quickly, while you are still in a position of power, leverage, and desirability.

If you are a CFO with aspirations, what are the things you have to do in order to win that big want in your personal or professional life?

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It’s Not About a Resume

When prospects reach out to me, it is almost always because they need / want a resume. But it’s not about a resume. It never is. It never will be. The resume is just the end piece of a process to uncover a CFO’s marketability and value to a prospective company.

Resume

Resume

Don’t get me wrong … a resume is still necessary somewhere along the job search process, but the real value of developing a resume is in helping a client understand his potential value to a target audience and then crafting both the verbal and written value messaging to give him solid positioning.

It’s easy to write a long list of responsibilities you’ve held. It takes hard work and effort to dig down into understanding your value as a problem-solver with a track record of delivering bottom-line impacts to companies.

It is extremely difficult to compete on responsibilities. It is much easier, differentiating, and compelling to compete on value. In fact, it is also unusual … which ensures you stand out from the competition.

You do need a resume. But what you need first is value messaging. What do you have, what have you done, how have you contributed in a way that has solved a company’s problems, and delivered tangible value? Once you know that, you are ready to oust the competition and craft a powerful value-driven resume!

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Feeding the Un-hatched Chicken

You are no doubt familiar with the cliché … don’t count your chickens before they hatch … right? And yet, it is a common phenomenon in the job search process. Maybe somewhere in your career climb, you were tripped up by the perception of “it’s a done deal,” when it wasn’t even close to done.

Everything seems to be moving along quite nicely …

You go on an interview … Score!
You continue through the process … Score again!
You become a top three candidate … Score big time!

And then,

You wait … Score, um, … maybe?
And wait … Not sure it was a Score after all.
And wait a while longer … Score officially turns to fret.

Maybe you -eventually- get the good news. But maybe the news isn’t what you were expecting. And all the while you thought that chicken had hatched you were doing nothing else on your job search. You counted your chicken before it hatched, only to find out – it didn’t hatch.

Now, you’re back at ground zero once again. Only this time, it feels a little harder, a little more challenging, a bit more of a struggle as hopeful expectation turned to disappointment and self-confidence took a beating.

Just because you have a “potential” opportunity, don’t lose sight of the bigger goal of obtaining a new position. Until you have received a written offer and accepted it in writing, you have nothing but an unhatched egg in your job search basket. Don’t feed only it, because it may not be the one that ultimately hatches.

In fact, don’t stop executing your good career management habits after you land either, because that place where you landed is only temporary … regardless of how you define temporary.

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Super CFOs are Strong CEO Prospects

In the last week, I’ve read numerous articles about the appeal of Chief Financial Officers to fill the top seat of Chief Executive Officer. Articles in the Wall Street Journal, Crain’s, and the StartUpProfessionals blog, among others, are buzzing.

On the flip side, there was a question in the Proformative community asking … can’t I just be content to be a CFO?

Apparently the train has now officially left the station. That does not mean …

– You missed it, or
– You have to be on it

Aspiring to be a CFO and being perfectly content with your role in that capacity is completely dependent on what’s right for you. Embrace your contentment and effectiveness. Doing what you love is a wonderful thing.

Having a goal to sit in the CEO seat, sometime soon or in the future, is a personal – and very achievable – goal. I believe it will only continue to be more and more possible, and even typical, for the accomplished Finance Chief.

However, to move up requires that you understand, and be able to message, “how” you are qualified to hold that top leadership position. It will require you to step away from your responsibility messaging and step into value messaging backed by your compelling track record of tangible impacts.

 

Step Away from the Herd

Step Away from the Herd

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The Job Search Breakdown

Remember the good old days when someone needed a job, they would apply for a position that was a good fit for their skills and get hired in a relatively short period of time? Me either. And I sincerely believe those days are gone forever.

The Broken Process

The Broken Process

There are several things in play in today’s job search that I think support my belief.

It is MUCH more challenging to find a job if you don’t have a job.

“Fair” is not a word that has any weight in the job search process, at least from a candidate perspective, when that candidate is unemployed. Passive candidates still get the nod, have the upper hand, and are the most-preferred candidates among companies who are hiring.

Add to that the fact that there are only so many CFO positions, and, if you lose or job or quit your job before you have another position, you might find yourself in a long and challenging job search.

Relationships, and networking, matter … greatly.

The only way to begin to mitigate the stigma of being unemployed (not in my mind, but in the mind of those who do the hiring) is by having a strong, solid, and influential network in place before you need to tap those people.

That same network is critically important to the passive job seeker as well since most qualified leads hit “trusted advisors” long before they go to recruiters.

Competition is fierce and proof is in performance, not responsibilities.

A candidate’s default messaging is always “what” they did – responsibilities they’ve held. The messaging from the top-notch, hunted, and most-coveted candidates is around problem-solving and impacts. Companies hire because they have problems they want solved. They hire candidates who demonstrate they can do just that. That demonstration shows up clearly in the candidate’s messaging.

Even with a value-driven message, the candidate still is not in control of the hiring time frame … a process that can still take an agonizing long time, even when everything is going well.

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CFO Volatility – 2014

The latest Crist | Kolder Associates volatility report was recently released. Those releases are always fun reading in my office as I compare what they say with what I’ve been seeing. This report is no exception!

Here are a few highlights, along with my thoughts.

CFOs and COOs

For quite some time we saw upheaval in the C-suite as Chief Operations Officers were being replaced by operational Chief Financial Officers. While, according to Crist Kolder, that situation seems to have stabilized, COO turnover is expected to rise while CFO turnover is expected to drop. Maybe that has a good deal to do with long-term incentive compensation plans.

That said, despite the seeming trend, I agree with Mr. Kolder …

Tom Kolder, president of the recruiter, says he wouldn’t be surprised if there were a solid or even “dramatic” uptick in CFO turnover over the next few months.

… which is based solely on the number of prospect inquiries I’ve been getting over the last few weeks. According to the CK report, we’ll see the highest CFO turnover within the healthcare and industrial sectors.

Investment banking vs. CPAs

Crist | Kolder reports that while 30% of Fortune & S&P 500 company CFOs hold CPAs, for the first time ever 10% have investment banking backgrounds.

Will we see the CPA requirement begin to lose its luster? I know lots of non-CPAs who hope so.

External candidate hires

According to Crist | Kolder, an astounding 55% of external hires were sitting CFOs.

In my opinion, that’s good news on both fronts. Sitting CFOs are still marketable (with the right value message to the right target audience) and there’s a 45% block of opportunity for the rising stars.

Women in the CFO Seat

And one last tidbit.

The number of female CFOs is at an all-time high, having doubled in the last 10 years. Competition for the coveted Finance Chief role is coming from yet another direction.

See, I told you there was exciting reading in the Crist | Kolder volatility report!

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