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?

Branded Differentiation & Value

Whenever I come across the same theme multiple times within a short amount of time, I feel the need to write a blog post. That happened yesterday.

First, the Fractional CFO blogged about “differentiation.” Now his post was focused on differentiation within retailers … Bed, Bath, and Beyond and Linens n’ Things; Best Buy and Circuit City; Home Depot and Hechinger’s … but there's a definite pattern. Only one lives on.

“Without a strong differentiation from competitors, a business is much more vulnerable and therefore more likely to suffer from pricing pressures, loss of market share, and eventual failure.”

The word “candidate” could just as easily be inserted in place of “business” in the above quote. 

Then, my good friend and C-Suite Colleague Deb Dib summed up branded value in this tweet …

How good hires happen: 

Brand+value = interview 

Brand+value+ROI = short list 

Brand+value+ROI+chemistry = fit = hired! 

A visible, branded, and differentiated ROI is the key to standing out from the competition while offering something of value that a company is more than happy to pay to get. Whether you live on as a high-value CFO target, get bested by the competition, or disappear in the masses … is a choice.

Are CFOs Missing the Social Networking Boat?

There are lists of CEOs who tweet and CIOs who tweet … but where are the lists of CFOs who are active in any kind of social media? Yes, I do have a CFO list on my Twitter stream, many courtesy of CFOWise. Are there any others?

I was talking with the owner of earlier this week, catching up after the holidays, and inquiring whether his membership was engaging with each other within the various communities. He said not really. In fact, what he was hearing was that they wanted more content. 

Wait. More content? Are CFOs missing the social media boat? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, ah … yes

Whether you tweet or don’t tweet isn’t the issue. The real issue is that not embracing social media is a huge career mistake.

Twitter, Linked In, Facebook, and even MyCFONetwork are merely tools that facilitate the ability to  … talk with people – and – get on the radar screen of people who need to know about you. In case you didn’t know, or you forgot, it is not who you know that matters today, but rather “who knows about you.” 

I read a great article in which this quote appeared …

The only thing avoiding social media does for you is it takes your voice entirely out of the conversation. It doesn’t make you invisible, it makes you mute.

And, it makes you vulnerable.

I spoke with a CFO yesterday who was happily employed one day and shown the door the next. He was caught completely unaware, and was completely unprepared for a job loss and a job search. His digital footprint is non-existent. That means, 

–he has two huge obstacles to overcome … age bias and unemployment; and

–his search must ramp up from ground zero. 

He is in his mid-50’s and, understandably, very worried. He doesn’t have the luxury of a strong online and offline network, visibility among his target market, and the credibility of a dense digital footprint. What he does have is an uphill battle.

Look for Part 2 … Getting IN the Boat … coming up next. 

To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

I was just re-reading’sHeard on the Tweet” in preparation for this blog post. The question really is, should CFOs tweet … or not?

And then, as often happens, this tweet jumped out at me before I typed a single word. It pointed me to a great blog post by Gary Boomer, “Social Media, Influence or Control.” While it is directed to accounting firms, I believe it contains excellent points for CFOs as well.

Here’s an important excerpt:

Clients and potential clients are talking about you and your firm online. Do you know what they are saying? According to Nielsen Research, 78 percent of people trust their peers' opinions. This is not a new phenomenon, but social networks make it much easier to disseminate information. In particular, micro-blogging tools like Twitter and Facebook's status update feature enable users (including businesses) to spread information instantly.

Boomer is right. And I also agree with his statement that “firms should make every effort to influence social media and forget about trying to control how employees use them.” However, that is a corporate decision that only you and the executive leadership team can make.

The impact of a decision to not influence social media, though, for you and your career is far-reaching. Consider these … very true … statements.

— “You are who Google says you are.”  

Much like your brand, who you are is held in the hearts and minds of others. Are you who Google says you are? 

— “If you don’t show up in Google, do you exist?”

Being digitally dead is akin to being extinct.

You can certainly choose to ignore the social media trend, but it’s not going away. And as I said yesterday, the choice to not be proactive is a decision, by default, to be reactive. The question is, if you react too slowly or too late will you be able to cover the gap quickly enough to compete with your social media savvy peers (ahem, competition)?

Two More Linked In Mistakes

One of my very brilliant colleagues, Louise Fletcher (@louise_fletcher), just tweeted about a great article she penned on seven common mistakes made in creating a Linked In profile. I’ll add two more.

–Not having recommendations

Some recruiters will pass you by, not matter how great you are, simply because you do not have any third party endorsements attached to your Linked In profile. Not only “having” recommendations, but “how many” recommendations.

Another equally brilliant colleague, @CareerPro, tweeted this a few days ago …

A client just told me that for a VP of Finance interview the interviewer wanted xx amount of Linked In endorsements just to get past the screen. [emphasis mine]

A sub-mistake of not having recommendations is to, upon reading this post, send an email out to everyone in your Linked In network asking for a recommendation. Please don’t. If I don’t know about your work, your attitude, your contributions – I sure can’t write a recommendation about it.

–Not being branded

If you aren’t unique and different, you are just … a commodity. I’m sure you know that commodities don’t hold much value these days. They are not only cheaper, but we will often hold out for a coupon or discount before making a commodity purchase, further devaluing it.

Branding touts what’s distinctive about the way you contribute. Rare – now that’s valuable!