Value, not Data

I saw an article on CFO.com come through my email box this week, and a quick scan made me think about my constant evangelizing about career positioning from value rather than responsibilities. Addressing his finance staff, the CFO of Kimberly-Clark, Mark Buthman, said

a CFO “delivers insight, not data ….”

In very much the same way, from a career perspective…

A top-notch Finance Chief showcases value, not responsibilities.

What you do (responsibilities) only matters in the context of how it positively impacts a company (value). If you really want to distinguish yourself from the myriad other candidates, don’t talk about the what (responsibilities), wow them with the how (value).

– Where were you able to mitigate or eliminate potential risk?
– How did you slash costs and what did that mean to the company?
– What problems did you solve that got a company unstuck?
– What can the company now do that it couldn’t do before?

That’s value! That sells! That makes you competitive! Showing how you can take away a company’s chief pain point is power positioning!

Power Positioning
Power Positioning

Your Brand and Your Email Address

Good, bad, or indifferent, the fact is that today, more than ever, perception is everything. The good news is that you can choose to drive that branded perception. The bad news is few executives choose to invest the time to do so.

Your email address is a great example. What does it say about you? Many would argue it doesn’t matter. In the world of branding, it really does matter. In fact, I would say (and even have said) it matters greatly.

Dinosaur boneyard
Dinosaur boneyard

As CFOs increasingly face a younger and very tech-savvy workforce, your email address can speak volumes. It can help to validate that you are in the 21st Century -or- that you are hanging out in the dinosaur graveyard just biding your time. It can show your willingness to embrace technology -or- your stubborn refusal to embrace change. Remember, perception is in the eye of the beholder.

In a recent FENG newsletter, Dave Morgan of the Detroit Chapter, provided some very interesting insights on email addresses from his perspective as a CFO in the technology industry. With his permission, I am providing an excerpt of his article.

Recently I was the CFO at a software company looking to hire a director of FP&A. Our company’s practice at the time was to roundtable the resumes of all final candidates for senior management roles with all current members of senior management. Any member had a blackball right. (Whether you agree with it or not, that was the company’s practice. Different subject for a different time.) My preferred candidate had a personal email address with a domain name of “earthlink.net.” Our CTO mentioned this in the roundtable and everybody quickly shot knowing glances at each other when this fact was surfaced. It was the look of death. No words had to be spoken. (Every member of senior management had a strong tech background.) The candidate was now dead on arrival.

If you have any of the following domain names in your personal email address, your candidacy is probably dead on arrival at any technology company or any tech-aware company: prodigy.net, compuserve.net, earthlink.net, and, yes, even aol.com.

You’re on life support if you have any of the following domains: comcast.net, hotmail.com, yahoo.com, and even msn.com.

This may seem harsh, but it is a reality. Knowledge is power. If you don’t know something is working against you, you can’t fix it. Now that you know, maybe it is time to fix it!

Prime Resume Real Estate

On average, how long does it take before you stop listening to the person who is talking to you and begin mentally going over your remaining “To Do” list, think about what you’re going to say next, or plan how you can tactfully extract yourself from the person and the conversation?

We’ve all been there, right? And it’s even more challenging for the High D folks – which encompasses most Senior-level Executives and particularly the less-people-oriented people operating within the finance realm.

So take that same concept … tell me what’s important, make it quick, and hit my pain points … and apply it to your resume.

Learn how in my column for this month’s Futures in Finance newsletter.

Prime Resume Real Estate
Prime Resume Real Estate

The Incredibly Uncredible Profile

Uncredible. Maybe it isn’t a real word among grammar-hounds, but when I Googled it, I found this from WordReference Forums …

“A new word to fill a need. It means something lacks believability.”

Who are you?
Who are you?

Enter the incredible, completely uncredible, and unbelievable Linkedin profiles I see daily when approving CFOs for my CFO-only Careers group. Listen, if I’m not sold on your fit for my group based on your profile, I can assure you recruiters and hiring managers will not be sold on you as a viable candidate either when you choose to …

– Call yourself a CFO despite offering no credible evidence you actually are one other than a current job title.

– Show only your most recent CFO title with a graduation date that leaves a ginormous gap along with lots of questions and plenty of red flags.

– Conversely, that you were a CFO immediately after graduating from college.

– Show a profile with only the bare bones of information, none of which is based on your value proposition to a prospective employer.

– List one position, your most current, with nothing else. No photo, no summary, no experience, and no education … and no network.

– Have multiple accounts – same name, same photo but different job titles.

My bar to enter the group is that you are a sitting CFO or have held the Chief Financial Officer title in the past. But if, in a cursory review of your profile, I can’t tell that you are legitimate and/or your position is legitimate, I won’t approve you.

If that’s my standard for a Linkedin group, imagine how recruiters and decision-makers might be responding when seeking potential candidates and their reputation and commission is on the line?

It is critically important that you have a complete profile –and– that it is credible and compelling. Use your profile to answer the question the people who are hiring are asking: Who are you and how can you solve our problems?

Job Title vs. Branded Positioning

My week started off with a delicious cup of coffee and engaging convo with a dear friend of mine who also happens to be a Chief Financial Officer.

He recently decided to leave his job. Which left him with a dilemma …

how to identify himself?

It is an interesting, but not insurmountable, challenge. And coincidentally, I had the same question from another CFO last week. There are probably quite a few Finance Executives who are now in active job search mode wondering the same thing.

If you read my blog regularly, you know I am a big proponent of branding. Understanding how you are perceived by others as it aligns with how you view yourself, and then leveraging those emotional (relational) attributes in talking about how you do what you do is very powerful positioning. And, …

Brand transcends job title. 

Your brand is what appears in your Linkedin headline.
Your brand statement is in your email signature line.
Your brand tag is on your business cards.

And when someone hears your name, they see your brand not your job title – or lack thereof.

Your brand also speaks directly to fit-for-culture, which gives you a leg up over the competition in the trickiest part of the hiring process. Being branded also helps to ensure the right-fit companies are the only ones courting you … so you will land in the best environment to continue your record of success.

It is time to stop defining yourself by your job title and begin embracing and living your brand!

Congrats, You’ve Got a New Job!

Perhaps because I just completed a webinar on how to more effectively use Linkedin –and– because I’ve also seen an increase in “Congratulate XXX on his new job” email messages, this article jumped out at me.

Might you be sabotaging your job hunt by incorrectly using the Headline space underneath your name on your profile? You might be if it houses your latest job title rather than a branded value statement of who you are.

It's a Headline!
It’s a Headline!

Anytime you do make dramatic changes to your profile, be sure to turn OFF your “activity broadcasts” setting so your network isn’t bombarded with updates –and– Linkedin bots don’t presume things that aren’t true but notify everyone in your network about them anyway.

You can learn about these two significant Linkedin features – and much more – in the recording of my webinar and accompanying resource, available for a limited time at the pre-event price.

What you don’t know about how you’re using Linkedin – or not using it – could be negatively impacting your job search and/or your value positioning.

Please, Don’t Think it Can’t Happen to You

I love when CFO.com begins publishing articles espousing the things I’ve been evangelizing for years. If you haven’t read this article by John Touey, “Start Managing Your Career Before It Manages You,” you might want to. It’s important. I would even say today, it is critically important.

CFO Careers
CFO Careers

– Competition for available positions has never been more fierce, and that is not going to change in the foreseeable future.

– The hiring process has never taken so long, even when the need is desperate … and that time is exacerbated when unemployed.

– Fit-for-culture is a key piece of the decision-making process, so you must understand how and where you fit. The very best scenario is that you are driving that understanding, not defaulting to what a prospective company believes, perhaps incorrectly, about your fit within its organization.

Those who think job loss can’t / won’t happen to them believe they are immune from unexpectedly losing a job; think it will be no big deal if they lose a job because they can “easily” get another one; or know job loss is inevitable because their company was just acquired, but are too busy to do anything career-related right now … are extremely vulnerable in today’s job market.

You are never more desirable as a potential candidate than when you are happily and gainfully employed. And the challenge to find a new position is never steeper than when you find yourself unemployed.

Please, don’t think the unthinkable can’t happen to you. It can. Being in the driver’s seat of your career is an empowering, and very wise, strategy!

Don’t forget my webinar this Friday, January 24, at 2:00 Eastern on leveraging the power of Linkedin. You still have time to register!

The Technology CFO

Like it or not, this new brand of Chief Financial Officer is on the rise.

Back in September of 2012, I talked about the evolution of the CFO in a webinar for Proformative, saying …

CFOs used to be in control of the numbers. That’s it. That was their job. About 5-6 years ago, we saw that pure finance executive begin to morph into an operational finance role. Within the last year, there are two tracks that seem to be in play for future CFOs … International operations and operational IT finance.

Some of the career-related statements I make when it comes to things like credentials and technology, or the lack thereof, are not well-received by Finance Chiefs. The reality is, not speaking truth doesn’t change the truth.

Here’s a truth. Technology is here and it is here to stay. Choosing to not embrace it is choosing to seriously negatively impact your future career.

I work primarily with a demographic that is over the age of 45. One of their biggest concerns is age discrimination … and rightfully so because age discrimination exists. But do you know what counters age discrimination? Value, not responsibilities. Positioning as a problem solver, not as a dinosaur.

Without question, in my humble opinion, technology is going to replace the CPA credential as THE biggest differentiator for the savvy Finance Chief going forward.

In a recent blog post for “The Decision Factor, Richard Barrett said …

An increasingly proportion of these younger CFOs will not have come up through the traditional accounting, consultancy, or treasury track like the previous generation. They have made their mark as financial leaders in pre-IPO companies, where making best use of limited funds, winning the next deal, and excelling at financial planning and analysis are the pre-eminent financial skills needed for success. These people and their peers are now bagging CFO jobs in listed companies, where they’re grasping technology to drive transformation with an enthusiasm and vision that convinces their boards and CEOs to give them the CIO as a direct report.

The new competitor in town has also created the latest bias in future hiring … the operational finance executive with technology expertise will be in high demand.

Leverage the Power of Linkedin
Leverage the Power of Linkedin

On the social media side of technology, if you’ve been dragging your feet on doing anything other than establishing a bare bones placeholder, I’ll be conducting a webinar on leveraging the power of Linkedin next Friday, January 24, at 2:00 Eastern. Hope to see you there!

CFOs and the End-of-the-Year Job Search

Everyone in my industry writes a list of things job seekers should do during the crazy time of every year that begins about mid-November, but as a CFO … what should you avoid? Here’s a “don’t list” for Chief Financial Officer job search candidates.

End-of-Year Networking
End-of-Year Networking

Don’t neglect networking or drive away potential contacts between now and the end of the year. Social engagements are a great time to re-connect in a completely relaxed and non-defensive atmosphere. Don’t ruin future potential leads by ramming your business card or resume in their faces. That is not the time nor the place.

Instead, follow up after the party in order to schedule a time for a face-to-face meeting.

Don’t introduce yourself as “unemployed” or “looking for a job” or even as “currently in job search mode.” That is not who you are, it is merely your current situation. A brand of “unemployed” is not helpful to you nor is it the “first impression” you want to leave with new and potentially helpful contacts.

Rather, identify your brand and exploit that positioning in your introduction, business cards, and email signature line. Your brand transcends your employment situation. 

Don’t buy into the misconception that no hiring happens during the last two weeks of the year (or over the summer). It does. So keep the pedal to the metal to maintain your momentum heading into the first of the year.

This is a good time to network, focus on raising your visibility, and create or fine-tune your 2014 career management plan.

Don’t wait until you lose your job before you think about your next position. To do so, negatively impacts your marketability and positioning more than you can imagine … at least until you have to defend why you’re now unemployed. That positioning can have an unfavorable impact on your search, your candidacy, and your salary package.

The high-value CFO candidate in 2014 is not only a transformational strategist, but he is in full control of his career.

Experience vs. Impact

Years of experience or tangible impacts? Which of those two do you think will …

– Set you apart;
– Facilitate value positioning; and
– Garner the highest salary offer?

Impact
Impact

In my experience, impact – your proven ability to take away a company’s problems / challenges / issues / situations and deliver tangible value will win over years of experience and knowledge base every time.

You can read my thoughts on each one individually and then as a package deal in the November issue of Futures in Finance.

Messaging, internally and externally, should always flow from unique value positioning. Your specific experience and knowledge base, and how you used them to execute strategic initiatives that generated value, are often uniquely yours. Unique means differentiated. Differentiated means standing out from the competition. Standing out from the competition is purple cow positioning! And purple cow positioning should be the goal!