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Your First Big Career Move – Advice from a CFO about moving from practice to commerce.  

By Brad Eisenhuth | Career Management, Mentor, Eisenhuth, FL:MAI |

It used to be that striving to stay with one employer your whole working life was your guarantee of regular promotions, financial security, social respect and a comfortable retirement. This is no longer the case – in fact, the opposite is almost true. Employers are now often wary of hiring someone who’s stayed in the same job for many years.

In the world of accounting, for example, the profession is a great place to start your finance career, but it’s only becomes a long-term prospect for the very few, especially in top-tier firms. Statistically in these firms, the majority of all accounting graduates leave after they qualify, and only a very small percentage of those go on to make partner.

But how do you know when the time is right for that first big career move away from the profession? And what should you be considering to ensure you give yourself the best chance of success during this transition? 

The Outperformer recently had the privilege of interviewing to Angela Wagland, CFO of FoodCo, a leading franchise business with more than 420 retail outlets operating in seven countries. When she was still in the profession, FoodCo was one of Angela’s clients, but a bold move made at the right time saw her turn her client into her employer, and she was made CFO within a very short time of her move.

Since joining the group, Angela’s achievements within the group are impressive, and she has transformed the Finance department from a reporting function into a genuine business partner. In the same way, her own career transformed from one dominated by time sheets to being a valued strategic leader at FoodCo.

In this webinar, Angela talks about:

  • Backing your potential and taking on calculated risk in your first move from the Profession.
  • The importance of reverse engineering company operations into the finance function.
  • The role of finance in contributing to and owning the company strategic plan.
  • The importance of balancing career ambition and company responsibility with personal goals.

 

Angela left many valuable takeaways, including:

 

Mitigating The Risk Of Making The Move

As finance leaders, risk is front of mind, and so the right career move becomes an assessment of risk. Angela shared thoughts around increasing the probability of a successful career move. 

Understand the Leadership

Thoroughly research the company you’re thinking of moving to. Take a good look at who your boss would be, and ask yourself what you can learn from them. Understanding their management style makes a potential transition much easier. Ask yourself what you need to do to secure the position you want in the company. What can you give to the business? Then work hard to answer these questions.

Do the challenges equate to development?

Taking on a new role in a new company is all about partnering and building trust. Ask questions of people you respect. Find out what challenges your prospective new company is facing, and what keeps the directors awake at night.

What is going on in this business and market?

Try to position yourself well for the transition by gaining a good understanding of what’s happening in the industry you want to move into. Accounting is not only about the numbers. Find out what the company’s competitors are doing, and have an understanding of their financials so you can ask intelligent questions.

 

Closing The Knowledge Gap

Your responsibilities don’t end once you’ve taken that leap and got the job you wanted. It’s up to you to examine your own mindset and the way you approach every project. It may sound like a cliché, but people say it a lot because it’s valid – you have to think outside the square.

Ask yourself:

  • “How can you use the experience you’ve come into this job with to add value and relevance to your position?”
  • “How your role can help others in the company solve their problems?”

Put yourself in their shoes and work on understanding their challenges.

 

Playing Nicely With Others

When you were in the profession, your work colleagues were all finance people. Now that you’ve made the move away, you have different colleagues with different personality types in the different departments within your company. Marketing people, for example, are big picture people and understanding this allows you to develop a communication style that works.

In Angela’s opinion, it’s so important to get out there and mix with others. Find out what frustrations other departments have with the Finance team. Sitting at your desk all day gives you a very limited view of what’s actually going on in your company. Chat to others, then work out how to put that communication into words that help other departments. Strive to make yourself the go-to person in Finance.

 

Not An Accountant, But A Leader

As accountants, everything we do is very technical (especially in the eyes of the buinsess). As your career develops, it’s obviously very important to maintain that technical foundation, but it’s also equally important to open your mind to other aspects and possibilities. Don’t think just because you’re an accountant, you only have to think and act in one way. In fact, this can be career limiting. 

Examine what the vision, mission and values of the company mean to your department, and truly think about what the role of finance is in your company. Take a pivotal role in determining strategy, and formulate the accountability for that strategic plan, and create reasons for your role to influence and not simply report.

What are the cross-departmental drivers and are they aligned to the vision and success? It’s all about drilling down into these more detailed areas that change your levels of engagement within the company.

 

Achieving Your Personal Goals

When you’re really busy at work, especially when you’re new in a position, it’s easy to forget to think about what’s important to you personally, outside of work. It’s so important to remind yourself what success in your personal life really looks like. We need to apply the same importance to our personal needs as we do to our company’s needs.

Remember that we’re not physically built – nor are we paid – to work 24/7. Yes, there will be times when a really big project means you’re extra busy at work, so you have to compromise. Tell your friends that you can’t meet them this week, but you will definitely make time to see them next week when the worst of the crazy time at work is over. We need to have balance and recharge to create success on and off the field.

Angela’s entire interview on our webinar page for members. If you’re not a member, simply sign up to our standard membership to learn from leaders like Angela.

Looking for more, be mentored and turn your career plan into a reality. We provide a Mentor Concierge service to meet mentors just like Angela.

 

 

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