3 Keys for Navigating the Job Search Maze

Have you ever been, or even felt, utterly lost?

A few years ago, 2011 to be exact, I was headed to Phil Campbell, Alabama to help following the E5 tornado that devastated that town. Having never been there before and being incredibly directionally challenged, I was completely dependent on my GPS to get me there. Unbeknownst to me AND apparently my GPS, I was following the path the tornado took and several of the roads I needed to travel were blocked by downed trees. I was horribly lost. A gas tank that seemed to be leaking fuel only enhanced my feelings of panic. I was alone and I was lost and I was panicked – not a good combination when faced with trying to resolve a perceived threatening situation.

I know, because my CFOs tell me, that sometimes the job search can evoke the same sorts of feelings. Maybe not all three and maybe not to the extreme, but especially men who hold the breadwinner perspective and have families to support can and do struggle when it comes to participating in the ugly and confusing world of job searching that is often full of either rejection or silence.

Here are 3 keys for combating those negative feelings should any of them rear their ugly heads.

Alone

Navigating the job search maze alone can be overwhelming, especially when there is no objective voice bringing balance to a challenging journey. Even a supportive spouse or family member, when faced with a longer-than-anticipated search, can begin to doubt the wisdom of searching.

The truth is, especially at the C-level, the search is almost always longer than it could/should be. There are only so many Chief Financial Officer positions and companies are terrified of making a costly wrong hire.

Be sure your support system is solidly in place for the long haul.

Lost

How to actually conduct an effective job search is often a mystery to my Finance Executives. They have spent years immersed in doing their jobs with great loyalty to the companies and teams they have helped lead, so when it comes to identifying their next opportunity, they can be at a loss.

At the senior level, the job board black hole is not your friend. Despite how easy the boards seem, the posted position game is neither easy nor particularly effective.

Navigating the job search maze requires a balanced plan that is both proactive and passive … networking and creating visibility among your target audience.

Panicked

My panic was born of having a plan that did not allow for contingencies. A paper map, while maybe not being extremely helpful, would have helped me get my bearings.

Panic (or worry or fear or anxiety) can set in when we don’t have a plan, or a plan that is flexible. If your sole strategy is playing the posted position game or posting something like this on Linkedin …

“looking for my next meaningful CFO role”

… something akin to panic is a likely outcome when weeks turn into months and you find yourself lost in the silence that is too often a big part of the job search process.

Create a balanced, flexible plan that plays to the things you do well and will commit to doing, and then execute that plan consistently and constantly … and start well in advance of when you would like to make a move.

I did, finally, get to Phil Campbell, and it was an experience I am not likely to ever forget! Sometimes the best thing we can say about a difficult journey is … there is often great room for growth in the midst of it.

 

Copyright CFO-Coach 2017

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Cindy Kraft is the CFO-Coach and America’s leading Career & Personal Brand Strategist for Corporate Finance Executives helping clients understand their marketability, articulate their value, and position themselves as the clear and compelling choice. She is a Certified Reach Personal Brand Strategist, Certified Reach Online Identity Strategist, Certified Career Management Coach, Certified Professional Resume Writer, and Job & Career Transition Coach. Cindy can be reached via email Cindy@CFO-Coach.com, by phone 813-655-0658, or through her website at www.CFO-Coach.com.

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If Only Finding Your Next CFO Position was This Easy!

I just saw another CFO organization jump into the “job board” postings game. If only finding your next Chief Finance role could be that easy. See a posting, send off your resume, get the job. Except, it’s not that easy and it rarely works well for the candidate. The truth is, job searching requires hard work and effort … and finding that next right opportunity often takes longer than anyone anticipates.

Please don’t misunderstand. I am not dead set against job postings, although I can’t say I am in favor of them either. The important thing is to keep the job board strategy in proper perspective. Since only about 10% of positions are posted – and most of those are NOT the top-quality positions a CFO is usually seeking – that means only about 10% of your overall job search time should be spent playing the job posting game. It seems like an easy way to find a job. It isn’t. Maybe attaching and sending off your resume is easy, but usually it is not fruitful because thousands of other candidates think it is easy, too.

If you really want to move into that next, right-fitting opportunity, avoid the posted position trap as the sole strategy for finding it. Know your value, practice articulating it clearly and succinctly in a manner that begs follow-up questions, and build and nurture a vibrant network. Those activities will yield far better results than sending off your resume to a job posting.

Copyright CFO-Coach 2017

***********************

Cindy Kraft is the CFO-Coach and America’s leading Career & Personal Brand Strategist for Corporate Finance Executives helping clients understand their marketability, articulate their value, and position themselves as the clear and compelling choice. She is a Certified Reach Personal Brand Strategist, Certified Reach Online Identity Strategist, Certified Career Management Coach, Certified Professional Resume Writer, and Job & Career Transition Coach. Cindy can be reached via email Cindy@CFO-Coach.com, by phone 813-655-0658, or through her website at www.CFO-Coach.com.

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Are We Losing the Ability to Right Write?

Yes, I did that intentionally, and it was incredibly painful to do so. But the question remains … are we? Which begs another question … does it matter?

Many years ago, a 5th grade English teacher told me that she instructed her class to write an essay. Half the class turned in a “text” version (u r c-ing an xample rite here). She also told me that outside of spelling class, incorrectly spelled words did not matter. I remember being completely shocked at the time, but I am even more shocked as I see what passes for “English” on social media.

I can almost – almost – look the other way on Facebook. Almost. As someone who makes a living writing, it is very challenging. However, seeing the complete inability to use proper grammar, spelling, and sentence structure on Linkedin, a professional network and the digital home for many executives, is distressing and worrisome.

A week or so ago, I saw a comment by a CEO of a small company. Perhaps this person was educated in a school where text talk in essay writing was okay and spelling did not matter. I took a snapshot of the comment, but cannot bear to post the graphic. Suffice it to say, there was no punctuation, not even periods to end sentences, and therefore, no initial caps to begin new sentences. It was 8 lines of text containing, I think, 5 sentences – but I cannot be sure. This from a person with a title of Chief Executive Officer.

Now, the CFOs with whom I deal are typically 45+ and, like me for the most part, hold the belief that the English rules of punctuation, grammar, and spelling apply, even if we don’t always get the latter correct. And I believe that those in positions to hire C-suite executives care, at least for now, about their executive team’s ability to write coherently, logically, and legibly.

I would caution people that everything on social media that is posted by you can be found by others, and that your digital footprint has the ability to make or break your candidacy for certain positions. If you cannot, or chose not to, write a legible post or comment on Linkedin, why ever might one believe you could or would be able to do so in a senior leadership role where communication skills are so vitally important?

So I am curious what you think … does it matter in this day and age whether or not we can write right?

Copyright CFO-Coach 2017

***********************

Cindy Kraft is the CFO-Coach and America’s leading Career & Personal Brand Strategist for Corporate Finance Executives helping clients understand their marketability, articulate their value, and position themselves as the clear and compelling choice. She is a Certified Reach Personal Brand Strategist, Certified Reach Online Identity Strategist, Certified Career Management Coach, Certified Professional Resume Writer, and Job & Career Transition Coach. Cindy can be reached via email Cindy@CFO-Coach.com, by phone 813-655-0658, or through her website at www.CFO-Coach.com.

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The Proverbial Elevator Speech

Every time I hear the term “elevator speech,” it makes me cringe. I know it serves a purpose and I’ll talk about that in a minute, but most people use an elevator speech to talk “at” people – about themselves – far too often. That is especially true when one is in job search mode. Think about a wife talking at her husband, or vice versa. How much listening is really happening? Or, is the other person …

– planning what s/he is going to say next;

– mentally wondering what else is on his “to do” list;

– trying to determine how soon he can disengage from the me-centered conversation; or

– strategically scanning the room to see who else is there?

That is a consequence of using an elevator speech when a back-and-forth conversation would be much more effective. Such communication is much easier when you understand your value and can articulate it in problem-solving language. When asked what do you do, there are conversation stoppers and more intriguing conversation hooks with which to respond. For example,

I am a CFO for XYZ Company; or

I help small mid-cap companies meet their growth objectives.

The first response is typical and completely misses the value piece of a message. Short of something like how long have you been there, the conversation is on its way to a quick end. Conversely, the latter response invites a follow-up question. If you are skillful at handling the follow-up questions, you can keep the conversation flowing while simultaneously creating rock-solid problem solving positioning.

Save your elevator speech – that 60-to-90 second spiel that tells people about you – for round table networking events and when answering the question “tell me about yourself” during an interview or in a conversation with a recruiter. At that point, it is both appropriate and useful because your written marketing documents (resume, cover letter, leadership brief) and digital footprint have already answered the value question.

Proverbial or not, I do not believe an elevator speech is appropriate when you are standing in an elevator or attending a networking event. Talking at people will never be as effective as engaging people by talking with them.

Copyright CFO-Coach 2017

***********************

Cindy Kraft is the CFO-Coach and America’s leading Career & Personal Brand Strategist for Corporate Finance Executives helping clients understand their marketability, articulate their value, and position themselves as the clear and compelling choice. She is a Certified Reach Personal Brand Strategist, Certified Reach Online Identity Strategist, Certified Career Management Coach, Certified Professional Resume Writer, and Job & Career Transition Coach. Cindy can be reached via email Cindy@CFO-Coach.com, by phone 813-655-0658, or through her website at www.CFO-Coach.com.

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Do You Need a Disrupting Irma in Your Job Search?

There is nothing like a Cat 5 hurricane bearing down on your state to make you put your priorities into perspective. This is one of those times when I’m thankful I don’t live on the coast, but I’m not sure this particular monster cares much about location. She is bigger than Michigan, twice as big as Alabama, with winds far exceeding the Cat 5 minimums. Talk about a disrupter.

It did get me thinking about what it takes for most of us to be disrupted in our lives to the point of actually taking some action or a different action. It seems to be human nature to be content with misery rather than to risk pursuing and embracing change.

Maybe, as a job seeker, you need a personal “Irma disruption” in your life. Granted, a job search doesn’t cause the kind of physical devastation that a hurricane does … but an extended job search can feel pretty devastating. Stephanie Carson wrote about the ugly side of being unemployed and job searching.

What would happen if you disrupted the status of your current job search?

Your Plan is Only YOUR Plan

And YOUR plan is only as good as all of the external elements cooperating. Much like a hurricane, the job search process can have a lot of un-cooperating aspects …

– A lack of right-fitting opportunities

– The black hole phenomenon

– The ineffective spaghetti strategy

– Far too few responses.

If your plan isn’t working, it might be time to ditch it and do something new and different. The bottom line, though, is that you need a plan.

Refocus on what is Really Important

Usually in an executive job search, what is most important is a strong network. It takes time and effort to build, and most CFOs are quick to tell me they don’t have a strong network in place.

Besides, searching job postings online is easier and infinitely more comfortable … right? It might be easier and even comfortable, but it is definitely not an effective job search strategy for senior finance executives. Refocusing your efforts on building a strong network will ultimately provide a much greater ROI.

Become Other Focused

Who needs your particular problem solving skill set? Sometimes we can become so focused on duties and responsibilities that we forget good marketing means being able to meet the need of someone in a position to buy what you’re selling. In a job search, you are selling yourself.

Hurricane prep is all about “me.” But the reality is, post-hurricane it is all about community. The job search is all about you finding a new position. From a company’s perspective, it is all about what you can do for it.

Fortunately, my business is portable so Irma‘s disruption to my life and business is, hopefully, significantly reduced. My thoughts and prayers go out to those who are in her direct path and to the many first responders standing at the ready.

Copyright CFO-Coach 2017

***********************

Cindy Kraft is the CFO-Coach and America’s leading Career & Personal Brand Strategist for Corporate Finance Executives helping clients understand their marketability, articulate their value, and position themselves as the clear and compelling choice. She is a Certified Reach Personal Brand Strategist, Certified Reach Online Identity Strategist, Certified Career Management Coach, Certified Professional Resume Writer, and Job & Career Transition Coach. Cindy can be reached via email Cindy@CFO-Coach.com, by phone 813-655-0658, or through her website at www.CFO-Coach.com.

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Don’t Do This to Your Network

If you have read any of my previous articles, you know I believe that a strong network is an integral part of the job search process, especially at the executive level. Strong is the operative word because anything less might result in committing this kind of fatal networking mistake.

“Hey stranger – I hope you are doing well. Does your daughter still work for XXXX? There is an opening in XXX I am interested in.”

Notice the introduction … Stranger. Yep, that is pretty much what we are. The 6-word polite inquiry into how I am doing is merely that … polite, and a vehicle to get to the real purpose … perhaps gaining an edge.

Or, so I thought. After a few email exchanges, she said she was merely curious about whether or not it was a good company. Asking that specific question would have been a more palatable request. Regardless of intent, I don’t think I am amiss in saying this kind of request can be a networking killer.

Here are 3 don’ts in networking for a new position.

Don’t think you have trust and relationship where you don’t

If you haven’t worked on your networking relationships, don’t expect trust –or help- to be in place or even available. When you burn and churn even a fledgling network, you quickly destroy it and then have nothing.

Don’t take without first giving

The “golden rule” in networking is give to get. That means, you build before you use. The best way to do the building is to give others help, support, advice, referrals, and recommendations before you need them yourself.

Don’t burn and churn your network

If you do take the time to build a network in anticipation of making a move sometime in the future, then continue to nurture it long after you land that new position. Requesting and taking help from a contact, and then dropping that person like a hot potato once their ability to help is gone, just might mean they will not be willing, or make themselves available, to help in the future.

Most CFOs are so busy working their jobs that working a network has not been a priority. However, good networking strategies are a great career management habit for all executives and leaders.

Copyright CFO-Coach 2017

***********************

Cindy Kraft is the CFO-Coach and America’s leading Career & Personal Brand Strategist for Corporate Finance Executives helping clients understand their marketability, articulate their value, and position themselves as the clear and compelling choice. She is a Certified Reach Personal Brand Strategist, Certified Reach Online Identity Strategist, Certified Career Management Coach, Certified Professional Resume Writer, and Job & Career Transition Coach. Cindy can be reached via email Cindy@CFO-Coach.com, by phone 813-655-0658, or through her website at www.CFO-Coach.com.

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5 Reasons to Hire a Resume Writer

Last week one of my colleagues wrote an article opining that no one should ever hire a resume writer. Rather, candidates should all enroll in her *paid* class so she can teach them how to write their own resume. It is definitely a choice.

I’m going to offer the flip side of why it makes sense for most people, particularly C-suite executives, to hire a resume writer.

Writing is not your forte

As a CFO, your area of expertise is finance, and operations, and possibly IT, and quite possibly you oversee HR, legal, real estate, construction, purchasing, to name a few. None of my finance clients, though, have ever told me that they felt they excelled at writing their own marketing documents.

However, if you do excel at writing about yourself … fabulous! Just be sure you are writing through the lens of value.

You are surrounded by your own paradigms

And those paradigms are usually responsibilities held and duties performed. It is tough to be competitive when relying on things you did rather than how you delivered. And sometimes, it is challenging to step out of that perspective and look at your contributions through the lens of value. It is precisely why athletes hire coaches. The coach can see and evaluate performance from a different perspective.

My one caveat to hiring a resume writer would be when working together is all superficial without being an authentic representation of who you are, how you communicate, and your clear and compelling value as a leader who solves problems. In that case, save your money and do it yourself.

You have one chance to make a first impression

Whether that first impression comes through your resume or a networking contact or your Linkedin profile, your written documents, elevator pitch (if you use one), and introduction all need to convey an integrated value message.

Your value message must be cohesive across all your marketing documents

That does not mean that your documents should be repetitive or redundant. In fact, they should be the opposite. Think of your marketing documents (resume, cover letter, Linkedin profile, leadership brief) as building blocks. Every time a company decision maker or recruiter looks at another one of your documents, they should see more and more evidence, credibility, and viability as the problem solver they want and need.

You have support with a vested interest in your success

Job searching is not for the faint-of-heart. Even with a top-notch resume, if you don’t know how to use it effectively, it probably won’t do what you need it to do. Sometimes, it is nice to know that you have an objective coach in your corner who can keep you accountable and provide support and insight.

If you are a Chief Financial Officer or up-and-coming CFO who is ready to make that great first impression with a compelling value message as a problem solver who delivers tangible impacts, let’s talk. Historically, we see the middle of September as the beginning of an active job search season so the time to get ready is now!

Copyright CFO-Coach 2017

***********************

Cindy Kraft is the CFO-Coach and America’s leading Career & Personal Brand Strategist for Corporate Finance Executives helping clients understand their marketability, articulate their value, and position themselves as the clear and compelling choice. She is a Certified Reach Personal Brand Strategist, Certified Reach Online Identity Strategist, Certified Career Management Coach, Certified Professional Resume Writer, and Job & Career Transition Coach. Cindy can be reached via email Cindy@CFO-Coach.com, by phone 813-655-0658, or through her website at www.CFO-Coach.com.

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Four Reasons for an Extended Job Search

In a recent phone conversation with a prospective CFO client, he asked me how long a job search might take. It’s a firebomb question, and the truth can be discouraging. It might take 3 months, 6 months, or more than a year. Because I want my clients to be reasonable in their expectations of what is ahead in that land mine known as “job search,” I am truthful with them.

My expertise is in creating a cohesive value message and giving my clients the tools to conduct an effective job search. However, the job market is the job market and the hiring process is incredibly flawed. That said, there are a few reasons why a job search can take longer than it should. These are my top 4 reasons why a job search may be extended … and age is not one of them.

Position you are seeking

There are limited Chief Financial Officer opportunities. In fact, opportunities are limited across the board in the C-suite. Add to that fact that hopefully you are seeking the right-fitting opportunity and not just any opportunity, and you can reasonably expect that your job search may be longer than you would like.

At the risk of beating a dead horse …

Lack of planning

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Because it can take time to secure that next right-fitting opportunity, it is incumbent upon a serious executive candidate to create and execute a job search plan in anticipation of a move well in advance of actually needing or wanting to move.

Keep in mind that the passive candidate (one who is open to new opportunities AND employed) has much more power (to negotiate a compensation package) than does the unemployed candidate. I am not saying that is right or fair; merely, that is the case more often than not.

One mitigating factor to my last statement is …

Strength of your network

I’ve covered this in my prior blog post. I find one of two things typical with my finance leaders. Either they have no network or they are not using their network effectively. If you truly want that next, right opportunity … the strength of your network and the effective use of your network matters.

Geographic area

You miss 100% of the opportunities that never cross your path. When you throw too narrow of a net in your job search, i.e., too small of a geographic area, the pool for those limited opportunities shrinks even further.

Two things happen when a geographic area is expanded. You may hear about …

– a dream opportunity in a location you just might be open to considering; or

– an opportunity right smack dab (that is a southern term of precision) in your preferred geographic area.

If you want to discuss how I can help you maximize your unique value in order to leverage your power positioning, give me a call.

Copyright CFO-Coach 2017

***********************

Cindy Kraft is the CFO-Coach and America’s leading Career & Personal Brand Strategist for Corporate Finance Executives helping clients understand their marketability, articulate their value, and position themselves as the clear and compelling choice. She is a Certified Reach Personal Brand Strategist, Certified Reach Online Identity Strategist, Certified Career Management Coach, Certified Professional Resume Writer, and Job & Career Transition Coach. Cindy can be reached via email Cindy@CFO-Coach.com, by phone 813-655-0658, or through her website at www.CFO-Coach.com.

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Are You a CFO with the Goal of Being CEO?

I have thought for years that the Chief Financial Officer was a natural fit to step into the role of Chief Executive Officer, even before the expansion of the Finance Chief’s responsibilities. And while I still believe the facts support my perspective, the statistics of those finance leaders “actually” stepping into the top position at a company are quite low.

However, for those CFOs who have the CEO seat in their sights, Crist Kolder’s president says

“For about 80% of the CFO searches we’re doing, our clients are specifying that they want someone who can be a CEO successor someday.”

Regardless of whether your goal is your first CFO role, a new CFO position with more responsibility, a CFO position that leads to a CEO role, or our first Chief Executive Officer role, there are 3 things that are critically important to positioning yourself for any of those roles.

A cohesive message of being a leader who solves problems

Whether you are positioning yourself for an internal or external move, your ability to solve problems and deliver impacts matters … greatly. There are limited CFO and CEO opportunities in the marketplace. Separate yourself from the competition, who largely focus on duties and responsibilities, by concentrating on the challenge you faced, the potential risk or consequence of doing nothing, and the action(s) you took to resolve the issue and position the company to achieve its objective.

I have heard Finance Chiefs say … “if I can only get in front of someone, I can close the deal.” That’s great. But you need the opportunity to get in front of a decision maker. Your value message must be cohesive and flow throughout every written marketing document, including a Linkedin profile, as well as verbal messaging.

There is also a mistaken belief by internal candidates that they do not need to work as hard as external candidates. That is a flawed perspective. If anything, the internal candidate needs to be even more visible and vocal about his or her contributions. You might think the people who need to know do know, but your job is to make sure they know rather than assume they know.

Proven and recognizable soft skills

I talked about this in my previous blog post – In Demand CFOs – but it is worth repeating. You did not get to be a Chief Financial Officer because you do not have finance skills. But it might very well be the case that you miss out on a really great opportunity without proven soft skills.

A cone of influence

The truth is you need to know people who know people. Job boards are seductive, and ineffective. Recruiters want the perfect-fitting candidate and they don’t have a monopoly on the market. Your network is the best source of leads and referrals to those great opportunities you are seeking.

When you are looking for that first position – whether it is as a CFO or CEO – someone who knows you and can vouch for your ability to do the job just might be the influential lynchpin that gets you in the door.

A strong network cannot be understated for any executive candidate.

Copyright CFO-Coach 2017

***********************

Cindy Kraft is the CFO-Coach and America’s leading Career & Personal Brand Strategist for Corporate Finance Executives helping clients understand their marketability, articulate their value, and position themselves as the clear and compelling choice. She is a Certified Reach Personal Brand Strategist, Certified Reach Online Identity Strategist, Certified Career Management Coach, Certified Professional Resume Writer, and Job & Career Transition Coach. Cindy can be reached via email Cindy@CFO-Coach.com, by phone 813-655-0658, or through her website at www.CFO-Coach.com.

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In Demand CFOs

An opinion post appearing in the North Bay Business Journal certainly seems to be spot on in identifying the traits of an accomplished CFO. I’ll add my thoughts on two things that I believe are critically important.

<<As the role of the chief financial officer continues to evolve, the most effective CFOs are those who continue to add value beyond the traditional finance function and help deliver strong business results.>>

I doubt this is a surprise to any CFO. After all, today’s CFO has really morphed into a CFOO (Chief Financial Operations Officer) and in some instances, more of a CEO (Chief Everything Officer).

To be a competitive candidate for a finance leader position, the CFO or aspiring CFO must move outside the finance bubble.

Adding value matters. So does being able to effectively communicate how you add value that translates to tangible business impacts. Which leads me to the second point …

<<Other traits of an effective CFO include strong communication skills and the ability to listen attentively.>>

Soft skills are integral to the top-notch CFO. All the finance expertise in the world won’t matter if you cannot communicate with the Board, investors, the rest of the C-suite, clients or customers, bankers, your finance team, and intra-departmental teams as well as build trusted relationships with them in order to achieve corporate objectives.

I wrote this article in March, saying …

Companies understand brilliant Chief Finance Officers bring financial acumen and skills to the table. They also recognize that while industry knowledge can be taught and gained; teaching communication, relationship management, team building, and leadership is a much more difficult, and maybe even impossible, endeavor. 

I believe my comment is still very true today and will be true for the foreseeable future!

Copyright CFO-Coach 2017

***********************

Cindy Kraft is the CFO-Coach and America’s leading Career & Personal Brand Strategist for Corporate Finance Executives helping clients understand their marketability, articulate their value, and position themselves as the clear and compelling choice. She is a Certified Reach Personal Brand Strategist, Certified Reach Online Identity Strategist, Certified Career Management Coach, Credentialed Career Master, Certified Professional Resume Writer, and Job & Career Transition Coach. Cindy can be reached via email Cindy@CFO-Coach.com, by phone 813-655-0658, or through her website at www.CFO-Coach.com.

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