CFOs Really Can Move On and Up!

Business Finance Magazine recently published an article about the many choices open to CFOs, once they’ve made the decision to move on to bigger and maybe better options. The author included 8 keys he felt would provide career attractiveness to Finance Chiefs. I have my own thoughts on a few of his.

1. Develop a coherent CV. Recruiters are now often looking for particular experience, such as M&A, capital markets or rapid-growth markets. If you have deep experience in a particular domain, such as M&A, then this will give you a good chance of being matched with certain positions on certain boards.

Here in the states we call them “resumes.” Being a subject matter expert matters not unless it is accompanied by a clear track record of being able to solve problems that arise within your area of expertise.

And please, don’t fall into the “job board” posted position game. It’s rarely effective, particularly at the C-level.

2. Develop a personal profile. A CFO seeking a directorship or onward executive step should still work on building a public profile of expertise and accomplishments that extends beyond his or her core role.

I can’t stress how important it is to have a visible, credible presence today. At minimum, a professional Linkedin profile should serve as your Web 2.0 version of yesterday’s paper corporate bio.

3. Gain international experience. Companies increasingly expect board directors and senior executives to have spent time in different countries. Experience in rapid-growth markets is particularly desirable.

It is one thing to manage global teams from the comfort of a US office, and quite another to have actually lived in another country guiding those teams. A recent Russell Reynolds survey revealed that 43% of CFOs named within the last 3 years worked outside the US prior to their last appointment vs. 25% of CFOs appointed more than 3 years ago who held that international experience.

4. Start planning early. It is never too early to start planning the next step. CFOs who spend their entire careers in the finance function will be at a disadvantage to those who have taken a more structured approach to career planning.

You must know I agree with the “planning early” for your next move. At least 9-12 months before you plan to move and while you are still a high-value target as a passive candidate, is not too early. And once you land, continue executing those good career management habits so you never have to “hunt” for another job again.

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