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?

I Can Do All Things!

Unless you are Superman, those words will probably work against you rather than for you … particularly when searching for that next finance executive position. From my perspective, here are the top three reasons why …

Jack-of-all-Trades, Master-of-None … When you’re good at a lot of things, rarely are you an expert at SOMEthing. That “something” is usually what companies are hiring. Katie Konrath said this in her post, “Stop Saying You Can Do Anything!”

… acting like a jack-of-all-trades ends up causing others to think (that if you’ve spent the time learning how to do everything) you haven’t had the time to become really good at what they actually need you to do.

Commodity Status … Knowing a lot about a little rather than being a Subject Matter Expert, by its very nature, relegates candidates to commodity status. Wikipedia’s definition of commodity is this … paraphrased … “there is demand, but no differentiation … and price [salary] is determined as a function of its market as a whole.” 

Being a Master of SOMEthing is usually more valued than being a Master of ALL things … both in perception and salary.

Weak Positioning … When you are all things to all people, you are no longer true to yourself. You aren’t playing from your passions, values, or in many cases, your strengths you are making and re-making yourself into what someone needs or wants. The result is compromising a strong and compelling position. Raymond Hull said it this way … “He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away.”  When you understand your area of expertise and the target market who needs it, your positioning is much stronger. 

The reality is … the tighter your niche or area of expertise, the bigger your presence. Think about it.

Whose Responsibility Is It?

I was contacted last week by a CFO expressing great frustration in his job search. Why, he asked, was he the only one who could see how easily he could make the transition back into a private industry leadership role after being out of private industry for the last 10+ years. He was confident those last 10 years only ADDED to his ability to lead a finance department. Looking at his marketing documents, I understood why.

My question to him – and to you – is this …

Whose responsibility is it to connect the dots so your value is obvious? Yours? Or, the prospective company?

There is no question that the job search today is challenging. However, it is made all the more exasperating by, in my opinion, these two things … 

Not understanding your positioning 

It is not what you did (responsibilities) that a company is buying. It is your ability to solve problems, and particularly their problems, that they will pay good money to get. If you aren’t positioned as a problem solver, your positioning is weak, vulnerable, and suspect and relegates you to commodity status.

Maybe you do understand your value proposition, and you can even clearly articulate it. Do your marketing documents convey the same message? Resume writing is about strategy, which is why templates often fail to make the grade. A one-size-fits-all approach isn’t a good marketing document strategy, nor is it a good candidate strategy.

–Being all things to all people

Being niched … and branded … I am a bit biased in this regard. Still, my belief is that being a subject matter expert trumps being a generalist; knowing a lot about a little is more valued than knowing a little about a lot; and everyone has one or two things at which they excel and would differentiate them from the competition. Most people just haven’t taken the time to figure it out. Rather, they rush into a job search trying to be all things to all people in order to get that next position. 

If you can’t clearly convey why you are the best of the best at solving a company’s financial/operational problems, the prospective company probably won’t take time to figure it out either. That responsibility is yours as the seller of Product You.

Win Visibility and Positioning in 2010

One of my readers asked for some tips on winning visibility and positioning in anticipation of a recovering 2010. Josie, this post was written with you in mind.

If you read my post from last week, The Competition is Heating Up, you know that competition for every job is going to be even more fierce in 2010. The competition for opportunities though, can be far less. Amazingly, companies are still complaining about finding top talent. That means, it’s time to move out of the war zone (posted position game) and into a smaller battle field (online and offline networking) in order to out-maneuver the competition!

Visibility … With today’s Web 2.0 technology, there is just no excuse for any CFO to not have a strong digital footprint. Create an integrated strategy with all of your social networking sites, using hash tags to push a post or tweet to your other sites. For example, use a Twitter account to gain visibility among recruiters AND build credibility around your digital footprint. Push selected tweets to your Facebook account and Linked In status update bar merely by using hash tags. 

You are who Google says you are … particularly to people you want to know about you. Set up Google alerts on your name so you can see what’s being said about you and by whom. Google your name, in quotes (i.e., “cindy kraft”), at least weekly to monitor your digital footprint. It’s not enough to have “stuff” in Google, a credible online reputation delivers clarity and consistency around your value proposition.  

Positioning … Boring, dull, commodity — being like everyone else — is out. Well, lost in the masses for sure. In high school we all wanted to be “like” the cool kids. As senior-level finance executives, the goal is to stand alone so you can be noticed. Identify what you have that a company is willing to pay (big bucks) to get, and then shout it to your target market … clearly, consistently, and constantly.

I was asked in Monday’s Netshare Ask-a-Coach call about the marketability of a subject matter expert vs. a generalist. My belief is that knowing a lot about a little trumps knowing a little about a lot … and, that everyone is an expert about something, they just might not realize it or know how to unearth it. 

Win solid positioning by understanding what it is that you do well and love doing and who needs it, and then build your communication strategy around that message. 

It’s a Little Hard to be Taken Seriously When …

I was reading the link from a tweet this morning regarding SEO for your blog. The author had some interesting information, but, he is a web designer apparently using  a free blog service that was plastered with ads. It’s a little difficult for me to take the guy, or his expertise, seriously. So much so, I can’t even bring myself to provide the link.

Along with those who profess to be experts, yet use free web and blog services allowing advertising, here are some other situations that make it difficult for me to take others seriously.

Tweeps who have no tweets, no bio, and no name recognition.

It’s great to jump into social media with both feet, however, zeal without knowledge can be a brand killer. I also haven’t figured out why anyone who is using Twitter externally would protect their tweets. Maybe someone who’s reading this could explain it to me. And, seriously, I don’t understand.

An incomplete Linked In Profile

Those who choose to have only the most basic of information on Linked In send a couple of messages (at least to me). They don’t really “get” networking, especially social networking; they don’t care about their career; and they aren’t subject matter experts. 

At the other extreme is the poorly-crafted profile filled with sentences that all begin with “I”. Seriously, that is a little too self-promoting. And unbelievable.

Boring resumes and cover letters that shriek C-O-M-M-O-D-I-T-Y

A company isn’t hiring a CFO because they have a corner office with a nice view, currently unoccupied, and they are looking for a body to fill it. Nor are they hiring a person who brings chronology of responsibilities. Rather, a company who is in pain IS hiring the candidate who can take away that pain … and it better show up in your marketing documents if you want to be taken seriously. 

And read your cover letter for the “I” factor. If every sentence begins with “I,” you might have a serious credibility problem.

Do CFOs Need a Digital Footprint?

The CFO Strategist makes a compelling case for CFOs to have a visible online presence in his article, "Are Resumes Still Relevant." It’s what I tell my clients, too, and why I’m so passionate about my clients proactively positioning themselves for that next opportunity … while they are still employed.

One of the very best ways to position yourself as a subject matter expert (that 3-dimensional problem solver he mentions) is by blogging. First, not many CFOs have their own blogs, so that already differentiates you from your peers. Second, by understanding what is unique and marketable about you and then putting that message out to the world, not as a salesman but as an industry leader, you are authentically expanding your credibility and visibility. 

At minimum, a compelling and complete profile on Linked In is today’s executive portfolio. The social media trend isn’t going anywhere but up. You can either embrace this web technology, or be left in the dust. Does it matter how great you are, if no one outside of your company knows about you? It probably won’t when it comes to attracting that next great opportunity before you find yourself in active job search mode.

While I disagree with his comment that resumes are going the way of the 8-track tape, I do believe they are morphing into marketing/positioning documents that look less and less like traditional resumes. Today, it’s all about what you bring to the table that a company is willing to pay (big bucks) to get.

Are you on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter? If so, I’d love to connect with you.