Friday, May 29, 2009

Al Walsh with Tips for Finance Pros

Job Tips for Finance People

Patty DeDominic asked me to address some thoughts on how Finance people can stage themselves for job success in this market, so here goes.

As background, I’ve got 30-years business experience in a wide range of roles. Finance & Accounting has been at that core of my experience, including Bank Teller, Loan Officer, Stockbroker, CPA, Department Head, Controller, CFO, and Treasurer.

I won’t bore you with a litany of the usual core expectations. Every employer wants Finance people who are experts in their industry, know their IT systems like the back of their hand, etc. These are basic requisites. In this market, if you don’t have these core points under your belt you’re going to be “swimming against the tide”. Choose your employer prospects carefully to fit your skill-set. If you try to shotgun the market, you’ll just put yourself through an exercise in frustration.

What I really want to focus on is other characteristics that will separate you from the crowd.

The real crux of my message is that you should be able to display an understanding of the prospective employer’s business, and how you as a Finance person can support & nurture that business.

Far too many people in our field are mere technicians who don’t grasp the full role that they should be playing. This is particularly true for Controllers and CFOs. There are those of us who richly deserve the dreaded label of “bean-counter”.

For instance: working capital management is a critical subject for most companies in these challenging times. You need to be up with the times, have a solid understanding of the financial markets, and be able to display comprehension of your prospective employer’s situation & needs and how you as Finance officer might fulfill those needs.

The regulatory environment is crazy, and getting crazier. You need to be on top of it, and have an understanding of how it impacts your potential employer; and how you might mitigate the impact.

Many of us know that employers often call upon their Finance managers to spread their wings over other functions, such as H/R and IT. The ability to display comprehension and expertise outside the Finance function will make you more desirable; and open the door to possible career expansion such as that which I’ve experienced.

Far too many people in our field are mere record-keepers, with insufficient comprehension of what the numbers mean and how they can help manage the company. You need to display the ability to partner, nurture, and support the non-financial leaders with timely, meaningful data and valuable guidance. You need to be able to grasp the strategic & operational plans, become a part of the process, and ensure that the financial resources are there to achieve the established goals. You need to be a nurturer who can help raise the financial awareness of other leaders.

I could go on with other examples, but the gist of my message is that you will stand apart from the crowd if you can display the talents of a true businessperson, as opposed to being a mere “technician”.

Whether you’re going for a CFO position or a more humble role, the ability to telegraph comprehension and support of the overall business will be critical to success.

Do your homework before you walk into the interview. Learn all that you can about the prospective employer. Listen carefully during the interview, probe, and take every opportunity to convey your ability to fulfill their total need. Listen to the interviewer for items of key interest. Very likely, they’re shopping because the predecessor failed to fulfill some expectation. At some point in conversation they’re going to raise the point, and you don’t want to be caught “napping”. Try to keep the conversation focused on the present & future, and what you can do for them. Questions about the past will inevitably arise, in which case you should try to raise examples of repeatable accomplishments that the prospective employer would value.

Smile – a lot.
Try not to tense up (conveys a negative image), but also don’t be too relaxed (conveys sloth and inattentiveness).
Look them in the eye – while they’re speaking, and while you’re speaking.
Dress for success.
Listen, listen, listen.
I always go for an outward demeanor of “humble confidence”. A little humility never hurts, but they don’t want a “Harvey Milk-Toast” either.

Keep in mind that if you get an interview, they’re taking you seriously as a candidate. Now it’s a matter of convincing them that you’re the BEST candidate.

Good Hunting,

Al Walsh, CEO
Walsh Enterprises, Business Advisors
Huntington Beach, Ca

PS – I don’t think Patty will mind my mentioning that I offer free articles on Business and Economics. I author some, and borrow others that are of value. Feel free to peruse them on my website (above). I also have a Resource page on my website where I’ve created links to a wide variety of useful information sources that you might not be aware of. Enjoy.


keep me confidentail said...

I would like to inquire about potential new career opportunities. I have been with a large corporation as an editor and writer for 10 years now and would like to know what may be on the horizon for me next. My search would have to be confidential as I am presently employed as Editor-in-Chief some well known magazines.

My partner and I are willing to move anywhere for the right position and are over-achieving, self-motivated entrepreneurs who would benefit any company.

Looking forward to speaking with you soon.

All the best,


Patty DeDominic said...

Dear Keep Me Confidential:
Most publications are experiencing major change and emphasis on virtual publication due to costs to the environment and check book for ink, printing, distribution and mailing costs.

To find something that will be most satisfying and enable you to be very successful in the future it is important to do some personal goal setting. What would you love to be doing in two years from now? Writing novels? Running a restaurant? Working with kids in education or special edutainment programs?

Here's a short exercise to help you ...... sit back and imagine your perfect work like two years from now.
What kind of place do you work? An Office? a laboratory? A classroom? In the field? In some far away place on a mission?
Now imagine your co workers? do you have any? If so, who are they? Professors? Construction workers? Artists?
What does your work space look like?
Do you travel in your work?
Are animals or kids involved?
Write down what you imagine as a beautiful, successful environment for yourself.
Now sit on that vision for a day or two and take the paper out and look at it twice a day. Two days later do this exercise again....imagine in more detail about your future.
What kind of car (if any?) are you driving?
What is your "work uniform"?
Who are your colleagues?

Firm up that vision. Write it down as an affirmation. For example your picture might have been to be an executive in a large firm, with beautiful offices in a high rise, well educated and hard working colleagues pushing for strong business goals. OR you might like to become a naturalist with no office, no office hours and only the trees and birds as your "co workers".

Now make a list of the things you would have to do to make your vision happen. Write all those things down and put reasonable dates that you could accomplish that things by.

Keep this action list close by. Tape your vision up on your mirror and write it in your pda. for example "I am a naturalist. Each day I work in nature and help people learn about the importance of protecting mother earth"

You will soon see that as you can dream your vision of a perfect career for yourself..... you can begin to take steps to actualize that life. Each day is a step in the right direction. Keep making progress and it will soon be time to congratulate youself on your very successful career progress.