What Does Your Positioning Say About You?

One of my recruiter friends, Samuel Dergel of CFO2Grow in Canada, added an important comment to my blog post yesterday about business cards. It reminded me that this blog post has been sitting on the back burner for months and perhaps now was the time to get it finished and posted.

Samuel addressed the importance of having your business cards “professionally” developed. He’s right. If you’re at a networking event, your business card is the last impression people take with them. Is the Finance Executive they just shook hands with the same professional reflected on the business card they have in their hand? If it’s cheap or if there is advertising on the back (that means they were free) … what message is that sending? And, is it the message you intend to send?

The same can be said should you decide to create a blog or upload your resume to the Web. If you choose a free site, it means you are also choosing a page that is overrun with advertising … ads over which you have no control either! But my point is about the image that landing page (whether blog or resume) sends. Does it exude executive branding (this guy is worth every cent if we can get him) or is it a poster for commodity (average, just one of many)?

I do believe that a credible online and offline presence is key for Chief Financial Officers and other Senior Finance Executives. If you choose to have business cards and a web presence, then choose to create them in a way that furthers your brand rather than detracting from it.

The CFO Market is Moving

I had a long conversation with one of my favorite finance executive recruiters yesterday. Among other things, we compared notes on what’s happening in the CFO market. We agree … after 12-18 months of hunkering down, senior finance executives are now confidently looking around and beginning to move. 

My poll at SmartBrief for CFOs last week confirmed this observation with a whopping 20% of respondents saying they were heading out the door. 

Two possible reasons CFOs are stretching and beginning to flex their muscles …

— CFOs are making the command decision that it’s once again safe to test the waters. And they need to be proactive. Hunkering down is merely survival mode and ensures nothing.

— PEs, VCs, and Boards are looking at their companies and saying,  … thanks Mr. CFO, but now that you have restructured debt and streamlined processes, we need a CFO who will guide our growth strategy and it’s time to change leadership.

Survival mode is giving up control of your career to someone else. Someone who doesn’t have “your” best interests in mind, but rather, has their company’s (investment) best interests at heart. What is good for the company in the short term is not always what is good for the sitting Chief Financial Officer.

If you haven’t clarified your unique value proposition (what do you have that a company is willing to pay to get), created compelling marketing documents, Googled your name to see what others are finding about you, and begun a proactive campaign to raise your visibility and credibility … you might just find yourself left in the dust.

Lessons Learned from my Skechers Shape-Ups

While working out is not among my favorite things to do, I really enjoy walking. A few tunes in the iPod and a brisk 40-minute walk 5 times a week energizes me and sets the tone for my days. 

However, traveling and being busy can really knock me off my game. I’ve been blessed with great health and I know exercise will contribute to my continued good health. So, to get back on top, I …

–Made an Investment 

At twice the cost of normal walking shoes, Skechers Shape-Ups are not inexpensive. However, I decided I’m worth it. As long as I continued doing the same things, I was guaranteed to continued getting the same results. I wanted better results and enough pain in the cost to ensure I was energized and committed to the program.

From a job search perspective, it’s easy to think you can do it by yourself. And certainly, there are quite a few people who can and have. If, however, you are not getting the kinds of results you want, perhaps it is time to make an investment in yourself. For every week a CFO or  senior finance executive is out of a job, it costs him somewhere in the $2,000 to $7,500 range. Getting to work even one week earlier could make an investment in yourself one of the best deals in today’s economy.

I’m not so sure “free” advice is that valuable … but that’s a post for another day.

–Got a New Perspective

The design of the sneakers forced me to walk with better posture. If I looked down, rather than out, I risked doing a face plant as I wobbled and zigzagged trying to regain my balance. I can only imagine what people driving by thought … well, yes I can. Looking forward gave me a different perspective, balance, and allowed me to see obstacles well in advance of them and plan how to avoid them before tripping over them.

From a career management perspective, what would a wider view afford you … being able to see obstacles way down the pike rather than jumping immediately in front of you? Being short-sighted … looking no further than where you are today … can cause a life balance crisis if you are completely unprepared to lose your job. And yes, it does happen.

It is always better to look at your current employment as merely being between searches rather than resting on your laurels, feeling lucky or safe. Failing to plan IS planning to fail.

–and Succumbed to the Old Adage …

No Pain, No Gain, for my own good. The design of the shoe allows for a cushioned, fluid movement which, once mastered, has allowed me to speed up my stride and keep the old ticker pumping. Alternatively, if I slow down and exaggerate the heel-to-toe movement, I get the attention of muscles I forgot I had.

Where do you need to slow down in order to get the attention of people who need to know about you? Perhaps it means transforming from a chameleon to a purple cow!

Or, what strategies do you need to implement to keep your career movement smooth and fluid rather than stop and go? Even today, with the amazing glut of unemployed talent available, the “passive candidate” is still the most valued.

… in order to Reap the Rewards.

It’s early in my program as I write this, but I will say I feel great and my energy level is much higher, even on gloomy days when my solar battery runs low. I have every incentive to stay motivated and stick to my walking regiment.

Again, looking at your career … the one thing that allows you to fund every other thing in your life … are you well-positioned to continue reaping the rewards?

Passive Candidates vs. Unemployed Candidates

An op ed piece on ERE.net by Jeremy Eskenazi entitled “Where the Truth Lies: The Need for Balance Between Active and Passive Recruiting” … naturally … caught my attention. I say “naturally” because I am always interested in the hiring trends that will affect my senior finance clients.

On one hand, the article mentions the story about a CEO of a major executive search firm who would only present passive candidates because the unemployed folks were, by definition, inferior. (I’m loosely quoting the story now, not giving my opinion).

The other extreme is the school of thought that says recruiting passive candidates (luring someone who is currently employed into another position) is shameful. 

Every recruiter has their preference and, sadly, even in this market the prevailing perception IS that an executive who is employed has a higher value than one who is unemployed. Mr. Eskenazi tackles the balance question. I’d like to talk about the idea of proactively managing your career to exponentially increase your chances of positioning as a passive candidate. 

Jason Alba, of Jibber Jobber renown, wrote a blog post two years ago and re-posted it today. It looks at a career management mindset versus a job search candidate. It is the essence of how one proactively positions himself as a passive candidate versus reactively, and unintentionally,  achieves positioning as an unemployed candidate. 

When you manage your career like you manage your company, department, or division, you have a plan and you are constantly and consistently executing that plan. It’s a fluid process, not stop and go which only puts you on the endless merry-go-round of look for a job, find a job, work a job, lose a job … and … repeat. 

All the cool Web 2.0 technology available today has made building and maintaining a strong visible presence and social network easier than ever. Seriously, what title would you prefer … passive (and able to be found) or unemployed (and all over the job boards)? When you proactively manage your career, you have a much better chance of choosing your title!

CFO Asked to Resign

So says the headline. Which begs the question, “does this CFO have a potential branding and/or credibility challenge”? If you Google his name, the only post that is conclusively “this” CFO is the one that leads with the headline: “Broward’s CFO asked to resign.” There is nothing positive to counter the very big negative.

There is a saying that goes something like this, “you are who Google says you are.” Which begs this question … “who does Google say you are?”

If you are a senior finance executive / CFO who has resisted jumping into the Web 2.0 arena, today is not too soon to begin. Visibility and credibility are key elements to effective career management. 

If, indeed, Google now defines us … and to strangers we want to meet, it does … then it is time for you to begin scripting that definition. 

Coffee Heath Bar Crunch

Coinciding with my post yesterday on mistakes people make when filling out their Linked In profiles was an article for the recruiter community by Irina Shamaeva, recruiter and expert sourcer. Her article begins,

Do you use LinkedIn for sourcing? Everybody does these days, right?

Whether you are employed and happy as a clam, employed and satisfied, employed and feeling restless, employed and looking, you need a profile on Linked In. Recruiters are hanging in Linked In looking for qualified candidates … will they find you?

If you are interested in how recruiters use Linked In to find folks like you, read her article.

Remember first impressions count. If you are a Senior Finance Executive with a boring vanilla profile, give me a call. Recruiters don’t want boring vanilla candidates; they want coffee heath bar crunch candidates.

Private Equity CFOs

There is good news and bad news for CFOs in CFO.com’s Today in Finance article, “Private Equity Paints ‘Help Wanted’ Sign.”

Good news because the projection is that things are looking up in this tight market. Top–performing CFOs will be in great demand in the private equity market … translating to the right opportunities for those executives with a clear, compelling, and visible marketable value proposition (MVP).

The potential bad news will be for those CFOs who are under–performing and not positioned to make a move on their timeline … find themselves on the curb may come as a complete surprise and rude awakening. Remember, your MVP is highest when you are perceived as a passive candidate.

It could also be bad news for a top–performing senior finance executive who is invisible to the recruiters seeking such candidates. If you can’t be found, those great opportunities will pass by and go to the “maybe not as qualified” candidate who can be found. A visible, branded online presence is critical to proactively managing a career.

Are you on Linked In? Please join my network. Are you on Facebook? I would love to connect there, too. Be sure to have a public profile that sells your unique and compelling MVP!

CFO Turnover

Why is CFO turnover so high? David McCann’s article in CFO.com addresses the fact that one–quarter of Fortune 1,000 lost (for one reason or another) its senior finance leader in 2007.

These two excerpts point to the facts, but the article in its entirety is a must–read.

“For large-company finance chiefs considering job switches, the good news is that a lot of CFO positions are opening up. The bad news is that those who land one of them might not have it for long.”

“Being a CFO at a very large company is a precarious position indeed. ‘The average tenure of a [Fortune 1,000] CFO right now is less than three years,’ Michele Heid, co-managing partner of the finance practice at Heidrick & Struggles, told CFO.com. ‘Five years ago, it was closer to five years’.”

Knowledge is power. With a “here today, gone tomorrow” culture surrounding senior–level finance executives, the questions is … how are you going to use that knowledge?

You can do nothing of course. But when (and it is more likely when, not if) you find yourself on the curb, your marketability will have taken a big hit.

Or, you can begin to proactively manage your career much like you proactively run your company. Where do you want to be in three years? In five years? What do you need to do and who needs to know about you in order to get there?

Isn’t there an old adage that goes something like … failing to plan is planning to fail?

Great read in Today in Finance at CFO.com

Two things stuck out to me in reading the article, “What You Don’t Know about Headhunters: 10 Tips" in Today in Finance at CFO.com.

First, recruiters are too busy to return every prospect’s phone call, but they expect prospects they call to return theirs. And sadly, that is just the way it is. If working with recruiters is one of your search strategies, and it should be, then you have to play by the rules the recruiters have written. Failing to do so could kill a crucial relationship.

Second is the comment made by Chuck Eldridge, Managing Director of the financial-officers practice at Korn/Ferry International

And, yes, do not wait until you are in trouble or transition to start calling recruiters. "It is extremely unfortunate that so many people don’t network or do it too late," says Eldridge.

Networking – with all of your contacts – is a long–term career management strategy and is most effective when you help others before you need help.

“Understanding what makes recruiters tick is a vital but often overlooked component of the job hunt.” It is also important to remember that recruiters work for a company, not for a candidate. The subtle difference is that they do not find candidates jobs; rather, they fill open positions.

Which brings me to a question. If there really is a recession looming, are you prepared for a possible job loss? Just like networking is most effective when you don’t need it, having a strategic career plan and working your plan is most effective before you lose a job. 

Headhunter Secrets to Social Networking

Recruiter Bill Vick was shining in the CFO–Career–Forum this week. He offered a fast–paced and compelling argument for why you, Mr. Finance Executive, should leverage social networking as a key part of an overall branding strategy.

My favorite statement from Bill was this … “You are who Google says you are,” followed by “You are your brand.” And he’s right. And that trend is going to become even more important in the future.

According to Execunet’s "Dealing With Your Digital Dirt" report, the number of recruiters who use search engines to uncover information about candidate is up almost 10% over 2005 figures. Additionally, the number of recruiters who said they have eliminated a candidate because of information they found on the Internet is up 17% over that same time period.

Leveraging the power of Linked In was a big part of Bill’s social networking insight, and his tip at the end was worth the price of admission. I hope you caught it!

My long–time readers will recognize Bill’s philosphy as being one I have been preaching for quite awhile … having a visible online brand positions you as the clear and compelling choice and is a vital long–term career management strategy.