Careers, Finance Executives, and Digital Footprints

Recently I had coaching sessions with two CFO clients who were considering offers. Both indicated the opportunities came to them through their digital footprint. 

Last week, my interview on using social media to accelerate your finance career with Mary Ellen Slater of SmartBlog on Social Media hit the web. 

This morning I came across Meg Guiseppi’s great post on the effectiveness of Linked In as an executive job search tactic. 

Connect the dots and … you get another blog post, on a topic I consider critically important for senior finance executives. Creating a digital footprint and then proactive managing your reputation is a necessary career management strategy today. Remember my high school girlfriend post last week?

No matter how many job boards pop up or how many jobs they claim to have or even how easy it seems to just send off your resume to a posting that is a perfect fit for you … it is an ineffective strategy at best. Should the posted position game be a search strategy? Maybe. But it should not be your only strategy or even your primary strategy. 

Networking on the other hand, IS effective. And the new definition of networking is, “who knows about me.” It doesn’t matter who you know, if you aren’t on their radar screen. Getting, and staying, on their radar screen involves creating visibility in places where they are … whether physically or online. 

Now this may or may not be coincidence, but those first two clients I mentioned (one with multiple offers), both blog, have branded profiles on Linked In, tweet, and network offline. They’re visible to their target audience and they got noticed … and they aren’t just offers, they are great offers that fit well with who they are and the goals they’ve set.

What does your target audience know about you?

What Are You Contributing to the Conversation?

Nothing? Noise? Value? 

There’s a global conversation happening and you can either choose to be a part of it or refuse to engage. If the choice is to not participate, you do so at your own peril … because the conversation will go on without you.

If you do engage, what are you contributing? Is it something of value that benefits your target audience? Or, is it self-indulgent noise that detracts from your executive brand? What you say, how you say, and how often you participate … does matter.

Blank slate … In the evolving Web 2.0 world, this finance executive might show up but he contributes nothing to the conversation. Either he is too busy, is networking-challenged, or perhaps sees no value in engaging. If he shows up, his Linked In profile is bereft of any details that would position him as a high-value candidate. At best, this executive is a place holder. At worst, he may be spiraling towards extinction.

Branding nightmare … It’s all about me. It’s the other guy’s fault. That company discriminates. That recruiter isn’t listening. Noise … and it sends the wrong message. Since authenticity is key in creating a branded, visible presence … you ARE sending a message with every post whether you realize it or not.

Differentiation … What are you reading? What conferences or seminars are you attending? Are you presenting or serving on a panel discussion? What resources have you found? Are you in a leadership position with an organization such as FEI? What are you curious about from a professional perspective? Social media is about sharing, not selling. Finance executives who embrace this mentality create visible distinction for themselves as subject matter experts and high-value targets.

Do you show up and if so, what are you contributing to the conversation?

Growth Strategies … Business & Career

Sometimes the whole “managing a career” process just seems confusing, baffling, and maybe even unnecessary to CFOs. Today, more than ever, it is definitely necessary, and it does not need to be confusing or baffling. 

Run your career like you run your business. I’ve said that for years, but thanks to “Ready, Set, Grow” in CFO Magazine, let’s frame it in business terms to turn the fog into a crystal-clear 35,000-foot view. Quotes from the article are in italics, followed by my commentary. 

… How can you help them make money or save money?

This is key to your value proposition. Finance skills aside, the bottom line is really … how can make or save a company more than it will cost them to bring you on board? It’s not about responsibilities, credentials, or even education. 

… Focus on “developing products tailored to the specific needs of individual developing markets… Don't provide an American or a German solution to India; they need an Indian solution.”

The latter sentence is, in career terms, what I call the “spaghetti strategy.” Throwing your resume into any black hole and hoping and wishing for a response. Niched positioning to a targeted audience is a much more effective career management and job search strategy. 

You don’t have to be all things to all people … you have to be the right person for the right company.

"Good growth companies," says the Darden School's Hess, "tend to make acquisitions that are small and very strategic …

In proactively managing your career, you aren’t forced to do everything as soon as possible … as opposed to an active job seeker. It’s much easier and much more effective to execute a plan that is strategic and consistent.

… investing in areas that make sense for us, particularly in innovation.

Innovation! Web 2.0 technology. Online visibility. Reputation management. How can you leverage all the great new technology to stand out from other Chief Financial Officers rather than blending in with them?

Having your name on Linked In isn’t the same as having a branded, completed profile. Having a presence on Linked In isn’t the same as “networking” with people who need to know about you. 

Innovation means you already have an online reputation. The question is, will you control the message or be forced to respond to the message?

"The world has got more opportunities than issues right now. We need to make sure our organization looks at the opportunities and doesn't complain about the issues …"

Issues, from a career perspective, involve relying on posted positions. Too few postings for far too many candidates. It’s a frustrating and unfair screen out process. It’s also easy.

Opportunities abound through your online and offline networks and all the great technology available today. However, it’s not easy. So the earlier you get started, the easier a future career transition will be.

And, finally, this from one of my favorite authors/bloggers, Seth Godin

If you only pay attention to the world when you need a new job (your channel is stamps and your message is your resume) you'll spend your day differently than if you are leading a tribe, participating in organizations or giving local speeches all the time.

It’s time to give serious consideration to running your career like you run your business … today, finishing last isn’t a viable option.

CFOs, Social Media, and Email

Remember when …

–The Post Office was actually relevant because all correspondence came through your mailbox?

–IBM Selectric typewriters and “White Out” transformed office environments?

–30-second jingles heard on TV were “the” advertising medium?

And then …

–Mail was first replaced by fax transmissions, and now email.

–Memory typewriters and gargantuan computers replaced electric typewriters. Does the product “White Out” even exist today?

–Thankfully, intrusive push advertising became easily handled with a push of the mute button.

And today …

–There’s a computer in almost every home; and

–According to an Internet trends report by Morgan Stanley, email usage is flattening out as social media usage is increasing. 

What does the SM trend mean for you as a Chief Financial Officer? Maybe nothing if you are one of the few CFOs embracing the power of Web 2.0 technology. If you’re not onboard, you might get run over because this train is coming … and coming at full speed.

Beyond the typical career strategies social media facilitates (Tweeting, Social Media Boat, Sequel), here are some ways you can begin easing into the new technology …

–Use a private or internal Twitter account to rapidly and transparently communicate with your entire finance or executive team and/or track high priority projects;

–Encourage your executive leadership team to get on Linked In with complete profiles to raise the visibility and credibility of your company;

–Make your loyal clients or customers feel exclusive and inclusive with a private group on Linked In or a Facebook fan page. (If you’re a CFO and would like to join my CFO Careers group on Linked In, please send me an email and I’ll send you an invitation to join … or follow my Facebook Business page.)

I’d love to hear how you, as the chief finance leader, are leveraging the power of social media either corporately or individually.

Are You … Tainted?

One of my CFO clients called me yesterday to get my thoughts on a conversation he had with a recruiter in New York earlier this week. The recruiter told him, “if you don’t find a position by June (which would be 6 months after he worked himself out of a job), you’re basically tainted and no recruiter will work with you after that.”

Ouch! It is a cold, cruel world out there … particularly in the shark infested waters of job searching.

First, there are some recruiters who feel that way. Not all. However, the reality is … as I’ve said numerous times … companies don’t, as a rule, pay recruiters to find unemployed candidates.

Second, “why” you’re unemployed is important. There is a difference between losing a job and working yourself out of a job, so your story is important. Third party recommendations on Linked In from your most recent employer and letters of recommendation can certainly help your cause. So can a strong visible and credible digital footprint … do the people who need to know about you actually know about you?

Third, there is no question that once you walk out the door for the final time, even with a big severance package and everything else being exactly the same (talents, contributions, skills, etc.), your marketability takes a huge hit. If you’re unemployed, your challenge to win those competitive opportunities is infinitely more difficult. High-value targets are passive, socially well-connected, and credible. 

If you’re unemployed and looking … and not getting the results you want … get some help. Chances are extremely good that if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting. And, at least according to this recruiter, a long and protracted job search will only further hurt your chances.

If you are currently employed, now is the time to begin planning for your next move. You are, after all, only and always, between searches. You can do it the hard way or the easier way. It’s your choice. 

Five Key Steps for Building a Linked In Profile

As social media tools continue to be a critical piece of an overall corporate recruiting strategy, CFOs and senior finance executives will want to leverage powerful positioning on Linked In. How your profile is perceived by recruiters is paramount to getting a second look or, even better, a call on a first look. 

Five key areas to pay attention to include …

— A Powerful Branded Summary 

 

This is not your daddy’s boring bio either. This summary, limited by 2,000 characters, is your opportunity to showcase how you do what you do (your brand) that is different and unique from others who do the same or similar things.  

 

This limited summary section forces you to concentrate on the value you offer and deliver it succinctly. The process of unearthing and condensing down your marketable value proposition into a clear and compelling accomplishment statement is one of “the” most valuable things you can do for yourself.  

 

Ignoring the summary section relegates you, by omission, to commodity status. Do what others are NOT doing and get noticed! 

 

— Complete Experience Section

 

It is great to have your employers and job titles, past and present, listed as part of your profile. But that is not enough. In the world of key searches, more is better.  The amount of information online acts as a pre–qualifier and gives both you and a prospect a framework to begin establishing a relationship. 

 

— Vanity URL 

Grab your vanity URL to increase your Google rankings and add branded consistency to your online presence.   

 

— Join Groups 

 

Within the 60 million Linked In ocean of users, you are a mere bait fish. By joining groups, the size of the pond shrinks and your presence grows exponentially. Joining groups allows you to mingle with like–minded folks, gain access to their contact information … even if the person is not a 1st degree contact in your network, and become even more visible to recruiters.

— Get Recommended 

Third party recommendations are extremely important on Linked In. These are very powerful endorsements that add credibility to the statements in your profile and employment history, and are critical to your positioning.

What does your Linked In profile say about you? Do you stand out from the other Chief Financial Officers who have done the same or similar things as you … or are have you relegated yourself to commodity status? 

If you're a Chief Financial Officer and you're on Linked In, please consider connecting with me and joining our CFO Careers group. 

Lies, Resumes, & Linked In

Fistful of Talent had a blog post last week entitled “LinkedIn Profiles – More Accurate than Resumes … Sad but True.” This quote came from Reid Hoffman, founder of Linked In, in a presentation made at the first Social Recruiting Summit in 2009 …

… people won't lie in public via LinkedIn.  With that in mind, the core elements at play in most LinkedIn profiles – the titles, the dates, etc. – are always going to be more accurate than the resume.

I’m hopeful that in this age of transparency, candidates have learned those hard lessons!

Telling is Jessica Lee’s statement that “if you're truly looking for ‘what's up’ with a candidate, you need to rely on the LinkedIn profile.” 

Web 2.0 as a recruiting strategy …

–is trending north. If you aren’t where recruiters are looking, you won’t be found. And no visibility can negatively impact credibility.

–forces transparency. Unless you are, perhaps, a well-entrenched politician, you cannot lie and get away with it. It is too easy today to dispel any misstatements, exaggerations, or untruths.

–allows even stronger positioning as a coveted high-value target. You can be “in the game” long before you “need” to be playing the game.

–fosters the candidate’s ability to position himself from his strengths, values, passions, and interests rather than forcing him to be all things to all people .

When CFOs choose to work with me, they have no choice but to create profiles on Linked In … it’s part of their success factor. And what is showing up on Linked In is exactly the same branded message a company, CEO, or Board member will find in his other marketing collateral. 

Transparency + Integrity is Critical!

CFOs: Extroverts or Introverts?

There is a wild conversation going on in the Chief Financial Officer Network group on Linked In around whether CFOs are extroverts or introverts … and who is better! WOW!!

There are certainly some interesting observations and a few, like these, that defy logic and belief:  

–In the end a successful CFO of a medium or large organization has to be extrovert. 

–From my point of view, and with my experience (of course), an extrovert CFO is trustworthier than an introverted CFO.

–We are all here, so we must be all extroverted to some extent. Its the ones that are not here may be less so. 

First, while the labels of introvert and extrovert are often interchanged with shy and gregarious, these two terms really speak to where a person gets his energy. One can be a social introvert, but in small doses. In fact, while enjoying socializing, it can be exhausting. That person will need quiet time to rejuvenate. Conversely, an extrovert gets energy from a large group of people, noise, and activity. Left alone too long, an extrovert can quickly get depressed. This person feeds off the energy of other people, and the more people, the better.  

An outgoing CFO is indicative of a different communication and behavioral style than a CFO who is more reserved. Possessing strong people skills doesn't preclude one from being a great finance leader either. In fact, that difference in communication and behavioral style may actually make having a seat at the executive table a much more comfortable one.

One thing that I've observed is that my CFOs who have a strong operational background are typically much more people-oriented people than those who have come up through the public accounting/controller ranks and who are true bean counters. Accounting types tend to be numbers people and that person is probably always going to be more comfortable with numbers … if that is how he is wired.

In my opinion, it does not make any difference whether a CFO falls on the I or the E side on the Myers Briggs assessment … there is a place for both of them.

There is a Difference!

Most Connected vs. Well Connected

Have you noticed these types of monikers attached to members on Linked In, Facebook, and Twitter? The “most connected” statement always makes me think Rolodex. Is it really possible to have a relationship with 16,000+ people on Linked In? Perhaps I’m a little old-fashioned but it seems to me that building relationships is about quality not quantity. Unless you are building a cold call contact list (like a recruiter), being well-connected to, and engaged with, a few will serve you better than merely collecting a lot of names.

Networking vs. Showing Up

These are very different. Many of my finance executives struggle with the networking concept. And I understand. For many CFOs, their jobs are demanding. Who needs one more thing to take time away from family and other priorities. 

However, networking today is defined as raising your visibility among those who need to know about you. That means engaging people. Just having a place holder on the various social networking sites with no picture, no interesting bio, and no conversation is merely showing up. Being a wallflower doesn’t raise visibility, it merely takes up oxygen.

Job Searching vs. Searching Posted Positions

A well-balanced job search strategy includes a variety of activities with searching posted positions as one of the “least” effective. And, the posted position game becomes even more ineffective the more senior your position. 

The best of all worlds is to do the things you need to do before you need to do them (managing your career) rather than being forced to give up power and do them because you have to do them (searching for a job). But, if you do fall into the latter category, move away from the job boards and diversify your search strategy.

And while we are speaking of job boards, the CFO recruiter who joined me on the Proformative Insight and Strategies for Seasoned Executives in Transition webinar told me he rarely, if ever, posts positions on public job boards. He’s not alone.

Branding vs. Marketing

This came up on the Proformative discussion boards following the Insights and Strategies webinar. There is an important distinction between authentic branding and marketing. Marketing is the pitch, persona, and perhaps even spin used in selling yourself. Branding, on the other hand, is leveraging the combination of your unique strengths, passions, and values that others … regardless of how they know you … all see in you and which attract “likeness”. This naturally pulls the kinds of opportunities that are a good fit with who you are. 

Branding occurs at the intersection of how others see you as it aligns with how you see yourself.  It requires honest feedback from people who know you and is why a person just can’t say I’m going to have this brand and then put it out for the world. If it isn’t who you really are, the world won’t buy it, at least not for long. 

Think of it this way. If you believe yourself to be a strategic finance leader but when asked, your team and the CEO and Board members all say they view you as a micro-managing bean counter … who are you really?

Make it Personal, PLEASE!

I don’t often rant, but I’m about to. I’ve blogged previously about the importance of personalized invitations on Linked In … and yet … I still get invites that are canned. At least I can look at the profile to determine who the person is. I’d like to suggest, strongly, that personalizing Facebook friend requests is also highly recommended. 

This morning I received a friend request on Facebook with no personal message and no way to determine who this person was because all of his settings were at the highest level of privacy. I didn’t know who he was nor could I glean any information from his info page. He was a nameless person who, for all intents and purposes, could have been unsavory. How would I know?

I sent him a very nice message stating that I was careful about who I friended and asking how he found me and why he decided to reach out to me. His response …

Delete the friend request. Too complicated.

Seriously? This from a professional? Too complicated to personalize an invitation to someone with whom you would like to connect? Where I come from, that is actually professional and courteous. If you're going to invite people to join you, give them a reason to say yes.