Upgrades Are Not Created Equally

Upgrade has become a relative term when speaking about social media platforms. And venues like LinkedIn and Facebook come immediately to mind whenever “social media” and “upgrade” are used in the same sentence. And maybe you’ve even noticed that the word upgrade is often a misnomer, since many of those so-called “upgrades” only seem to ratchet up the level of frustration of users.

Take for example the “Congratulate XXX” emails from LinkedIn that are coming fast and furious these days. The problem (and it is a problem) is that LinkedIn is reading changes to your headline as a job change. That error happens because members mistakenly use the headline as a place to restate their current job title.

If you’ve seen those emails or even been embarrassed by offering congratulations to someone who hasn’t really changed positions, only their headline –  or – you want to hear about some actual great upgraded features on Linkedin, you’ll want to read my article in this month’s Futures in Finance newsletter.

Linkedin Upgrades
Linkedin Upgrades

Career Management Blunders

I might be the only human in the universe who has never seen an episode of Downtown Abbey. And there’s an excellent chance I will never see one in the future. But, an article on the Great Leadership blog about Leadership Lessons from the show caught my eye. You might want to take a look.

And, with just a little word-smithing, I thought they became great career management blunders.

– Yesterday’s successes are just that  

The moment you rest on your laurels after executing a stellar initiative is the moment your competition will forge ahead of you. The moment you are no longer  a valuable, contributing member of the Executive Team, your days are numbered.

If the result of either of those two means you are now standing on the outside looking in, yesterday’s successes are trumped by the mark of “now unemployed.”

– Technology dinosaurs die with dinosaurs

Technology is here to stay. In fact, the trend among rising star CFOs is that they bring non-traditional, more tech-savvy backgrounds to the role. If you are resisting technology, including social media, and you are still holding on to your AOL email address … you might find yourself in the dinosaur boneyard sooner than you ever dreamed possible.

– Procrastination could hurt you

It’s so easy to not think about managing your career when you are gainfully and happily employed. However, that is precisely the time you need to be executing your career management strategy because your marketability will never be higher. Waiting until you “need” a job, means you compromise your powerful positioning.

Career management blunders can prove to be very costly. Don’t be caught unaware and unprepared!

Breaking the Networking Barrier

Last week I wrote about the networking faux pas of a friend of mine. As I continue to mull over the ignorance (and that is exactly what it was) of that action and coach current CFO clients, there are two clear, repetitive themes underlying the barrier to effective networking.

1 – A hatred for networking
2 – Not enough time to network

Let me take the second objection first.

Not having time to network tells me that this one action, which is vital to your career, just isn’t important to you. We all have the same amount of time every day, every week, every month … to do the things which we deem important. Networking is important. And you only realize how important it is when you’ve lost your job or leave your job and you have NO network to tap.

Make the time. Put it on your calendar and respect it as an appointment you keep for yourself.  It’s that important.

Hate might be too strong of a word, but certainly there are very intense negative emotions that surround the idea of networking. That is especially true for those who, like Finance Chiefs, don’t always score a high “I” on the DISC profile. The idea of chit-chatting about seemingly meaningless stuff with people they may or may not share interests doesn’t rank among things they prefer doing.

Combine that concept with the fact that we tend to “make” networking something bigger, uglier, and/or more intimidating than it actually is, it can quickly become something we hate doing. In reality, we all network and we do it much of the time.

We talk to people. We ask about their lives, their families. We listen to problems or challenges they are having, and sometimes offer insights or provide possible solutions. Professional networking is just that … listening to others, and when appropriate, sharing you insights as a subject matter expert.

Stop hating – or feeling any other sort of negative – and start networking. It is that important.

You may not want -or even need- a job today. But at some point you will want -and possibly even need- a job, and a solid in-place network will go far towards easing that future transition.

A Potentially Lethal Mistake in Dealing with Recruiters

I’ve covered this topic before. Probably numerous times. But like the old CPA vs. non-CPA topic, it just never seems to go away, permanently.

Going around a recruiter for a position for which a recruiter has already eliminated you is a really, really bad idea. Despite the fact that you, the CFO Candidate, believe wholeheartedly that you are a good fit for the position and the recruiter is just in the way, the fact is the recruiter is in the way for a reason. The company has put him there to cull the prospects down to a list that includes those holding the minimum requirements set by the company. When you refuse to take no for an answer and choose to go around that recruiter, you may be making a lethal career mistake.

This question popped up on Proformative a few weeks ago, and you can read the question, my responses to the question and various comments, and other expressed viewpoints.

Then today, I saw another post by Liz Ryan that is right on target. While the primary gist of her article is about the arrogance of a recruiter on a panel discussion, she also said this …

Unscrupulous search people are famous for throwing resumes at employers they have no relationships with, just to try and get a toehold.

That’s bad for you, if you are one of the candidates who resume is being tossed about, because once a headhunter puts your resume into the employer’s system that company is obligated to pay him a search fee if they hire you. By arriving through the search channel versus approaching the employer on your own, you become 25% more expensive to the employer (a typical search fee being 25% of the first year’s comp plan). That makes you less appealing for many opportunities, not more!

It’s a sad truth. And, another very good reason to make sure you are in control of your recruiter relationships … and your resume!

Poaching & Promoting

It’s the new job search game … poach a qualified candidate and then leave the poached company to promote from within. Well, maybe not “new” as much as today it comes with different rules.

Take, for example, the recent poaching by Stryker of the Dentsply CFO. And the internal promotion of its COO to CFO (not a common promotion, is it?). So what exactly is new about this “Poach and Promote” strategy?


It benefits, and greatly favors, the passive candidate. Greatly favors. As in, it took Stryker 6 months to fill its opening … and you can bet they waited -patiently- to lure away the “right” CFO. Waited to poach rather than hire the many unemployed, readily available CFOs that were undoubtedly knocking at its door.

The concept of poaching isn’t new, it’s always been the “feather in the cap” of top-notch recruiters. What is new is the dichotomy of the job search process … 6 candidates for every one opening. Ready and available, albeit unemployed, CFOs who are routinely passed over in favor of hiring – poaching – someone who is employed and perceived as somehow being a major hiring coup.

There is a perceived, and therefore very real, value around being employed, visible, and marketable.

New Rule: While not a new rule in the context of my blog posts and evangelizing, but perhaps new in terms of actually nudging you to take action … leverage your passive positioning long before you intend to make a move. If you’re currently unemployed, begin positioning yourself for your next move as soon as you land. Passive candidates have greater appeal, and that isn’t changing anytime soon.


Promoting from within isn’t new either, although promoting an operations guy to a Chief Financial Officer role isn’t exactly the norm.

The challenge with effective internal promotions is ensuring that the company has a career succession plan in place, and that the plan is being executed. For most companies, that’s often not an actionable top priority … at least until it becomes a need.

A recent Russell Reynolds study on career patterns of Fortune 100 CFOs and a Volatility Study from Crist Kolder on Fortune 500 and S&P 500 Companies showed that …

— There are vast pay economies among internal and external hires, with internal hires falling into the bottom 25% of compensation packages.

— While 69% of Fortune 100 CFOs were promoted internally, on average they waited a very long time for that promotion. Statistics cited were that well over half had 11 years of tenure while 41% had 20+ years with their companies.

— Of the “heir apparents,” meaning they were the #2, only 15% had 5 or less years of experience when promoted into the top slot.

New Rule: It might be a safer move, but it will undoubtedly be a longer move and overall compensation may not be competitive with making an external opportunity.

It’s Time to Get Serious

Forget resolutions made in a party stupor as you say goodbye to 2012 and welcome a new year with all of its hope and promise. They are rarely stated with any real intent; rarely last more than a few months; and are often merely good intentions rather than intention backed by action.

Career Corner CFO Studio Magazine
Career Corner
CFO Studio Magazine

Now that the new year celebration has passed and the new year has begun, let’s look at 5 things you can – and should – do this month in this new year in order to elevate yourself above your chief competitors.

1. Identify your brand

2. Craft and hone your value messaging

3. Identify your target audience

4. Raise your visibility

5. Network, network, network

You can read my entire article at CFO Studio Magazine.

What is a CFO?

This was a recent question on a Proformative discussion board. Maybe the question – and the answers – actually raise a more important question.

What do you do?
What do you do?

When someone asks you “what do you do,” how do you respond? If it is with something akin to “I’m a CFO,” maybe you want to read some of the answers and begin reconsidering your response. Apparently, not many outside the finance arena even know what that acronym means.

Interesting that some of the folks choose to call themselves “accountants” rather than CFOs … so “outsiders” would have a better understanding of what they do.  Yawn. Sigh.

I’d like to suggest that “what” you do is not nearly as interesting to folks (and interviewers) as “how you impact.” And if what you do isn’t interesting or not understood, whoever you’re talking to will have moved on (in their heads) to …

— what they are going to say next,

— what is still on their “to do” list,

— where they are going after this event, or even,

— who they want to talk to as soon as they can dump you.

The next time you’re asked what you do, respond in a way that is intriguing and begs a follow-up question. And make sure your answer honors your brand!

Career Business Plan for CFOs

Life is good. You’ve got a beautiful corner office with a great view. Sure the job is 60-80 hours a week and the Board and CEO are constantly breathing down your neck … but you’ve got a job and the company needs you. Right?

Or, maybe it’s time for a reality check.

— Corporate loyalty is dead unless you are delivering, and even then it’s not necessarily a slam dunk.

— If you’re not driving your career, you’ve given over control of your career to a Board, PE firm, or investors.

— The CEO will likely watch out for himself and his position over your ethical stand.

— CFO positions are limited, and competition for those positions is fierce.

— MOST senior finance executive positions come through referrals.

Make a plan ... then execute!
Make a plan … then execute!

My point? Don’t fall under the illusion that your position is safe … no matter how things look today. Every Finance Executive should have an ongoing career management strategy similar to the 3-5-year business plan he executes for his company.

Read the balance of the article and my suggestions for formulating a solid Career Business Plan in the August issue of Futures in Finance.

The Non-apologetic Apology

I honestly didn’t think the “Adam Smith brand” could sink any lower than it was following his verbal attack of a Chick-fil-A employee and subsequent firing. I guess I was wrong. Apparently, his arrogance knows no bounds.

Smith recently posted his “apology” video, which is really much more of an “all about me and why I did what I did” video. We are supposed to learn from our mistakes, but rarely do we. Smith certainly hasn’t.

Watch – if you can – round 2 of his non-apologetic apology video antics.

He might have done himself SOME good if he had been contrite, actually apologized, and then stopped. But I guess he just can’t help himself … it’s core to who he is and therefore an overwhelming part of his brand.

The definition of “apology” is “regretful acknowledgment of an offense.” I fail to see how the word “regretful” is evident in this shameless, defensive, and poorly-thought-out” move which merely attempts to rationalize his very bad behavior.

This CFO sorely needs a career coach … and he needs to take the coach’s advice if he ever expects to salvage his career.

CFO Success & Lessons Learned

It absolutely makes my day when clients call me with their success stories. It’s actually why I do what I do. The money pays the bills, but helping my Finance Chief clients navigate the new job search economy to achieve their desired outcome is, for me, priceless!

And so, the conversation with Sarah (not her real name) Tuesday morning set the tone for my entire day. And, it offers a few great career management lessons for my readers.

1. When you are employed but too busy to conduct a full-fledged campaign, don’t forget Linkedin!

Sarah has been super-busy in her job for months. Having made the decision, and the commitment, to guide the organization to reach its next objective before jumping back into a more proactive job search, she decided to ramp up her visibility on Linkedin and let passive positioning work its magic.

Not only did a company who interviewed her last year resurface, but so did 3 other opportunities.

2. Value positioning drives the salary conversation.

The company who interviewed her a year ago ultimately decided to go a different direction. It, however, knew her value and so with increased visibility on Linkedin and now, ready for her talents, she was approached again.

They made her an offer, which she rejected, and within two hours called with a full package that will make her – the CFO – the highest paid executive in the company.

3. Branded visibility brings the next “right” great fit, not just the next job.

Stand out from the crowd!
Stand out from the crowd!

It’s nice to have choices that allow a candidate to select the “right” move rather than just “a” move. When a strong brand precedes you, it attracts those opportunities that are a great fit … for your skill set and for culture fit. Stand strong for “something” so you aren’t falling for just the next “anything.”


I’m thrilled for my client and she … is floating on Cloud 9!