Snakes and Ladders to becoming an FD / FC
This is my summary of career progression trapdoors for accounting and finance professionals to avoid…
The journey to FD, in particular, for any finance professional can be challenging one. This is a simple outline of potential pitfalls to avoid which may hinder your career.
1) Be careful of marooning on a beautiful but niche desert island….
As your career develops in accountancy you may find yourself entering niches – whether it be a specific nuanced sector (e.g. FS or Automotive), a narrow but deep role (e.g. Treasury) or a project step away from core finance (e.g. systems implementations or moving into a truly commercial remit).
All of these experiences are great – they make you valuable, enhance your CV and help you stand out… BUT you can get stuck in them without due care and attention.
Make sure there is always a plane, train or ferry back to your main career plan. If your employer wants to you undertake a niche remit then have the open conversation – will they guarantee a chinook back to mainland when you are ready.
2) Whatever you do don’t’ do what you’ve always done (even if you do it bloody brilliantly with bells on)….
If you aren’t taking time every 6 months to reflect on your CV then you should be. Maybe it’s overkill but people who really take stock of their development and try to take control of their careers in finance have a better chance of getting to their end goal in my experience.
If you sit and give thought to what you have achieved, what changes have you experienced and what challenges have you overcome (whatever they may be) every 6 months then you will create a bedrock for career success.
By doing this you win 3 fold:
– You keep your CV live and relevant and don’t miss anything that could help you secure the perfect role downstream.
– You avoid absent-mindedly stalling in terms of your own development and stretch. If there is nothing to say after 6 months then its time to drive some change agenda proactively (if you want to progress / learn new skills)
– You give yourself the credit you are due – it is easy to trivialize and not acknowledge your own successes and doing so helps reinforce self confidence.
3) If you can just get qualified.
OK, so I talking about qualifications can be a sticky old wicket… great FCs and FDs will (rightly) shout at me and throw rotten fruit – it hasn’t done them any harm and they are proud of their QBE status.
To put that to bed, here’s the thing – I will champion experience over quals as much (if not more) than the next CV swashbuckler…. BUT
If you just get qualified it is a potential snake removed from the board. Never quite getting your quals boxed off might not have impacted your career a jot to date. It might never ever have any bearing on your success whatsoever. However, it might just rear its head one day.
4) To be or not to be (corporate)
OK again, tin hat on. “I moved seamlessly from SME to PLC to PE-backed and back and back”… some people have twists and turns on their CV that are impressive and comfortable straddle PLC and SME markets… BUT!
I guess my blunt point here is simplest – if you have aspirations to be the CFO of a FTSE 250 and you have spent the last 8 years as Management Accountant of a <£5m turnover business you are probably not on the right runway & you need to make change quickly.
Equally if you want to be FD of an SME and you are currently fixed asset accountant in a large shared service environment then you need to map a journey across the turbulent seas, charter a boat and get sailing toward an SME.
5) Don’t outstay your welcome or sit tight
This dovetails into point 2) but often candidates will explain their trepidation around making a career move has let them drift or stagnate. This can lead to extended stays with the same employer that doesn’t benefit either the individual or the business.
Staying with an employer for 5, 10, 20 years makes you have a refreshingly stable CV PROVIDED you are making change (e.g. getting promotions, extending your learning and remit, being involved in projects)… sitting tight is a bad move – realistically the peers against who you would compete for the very best finance roles are getting chance to set a head-start.
If it is time for a move (internally within your group or out to the market) then start to make proactice steps to explore new challenges.
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