CFO Career Trends
There are some very interesting trends in a recent academic study among Fortune 100 companies. These trends could impact your career trajectory and therefore, might be worth understanding.
The percentage of executive women is growing, which means, among other things, more competition for executive-level positions.
That said, competition for those coveted senior positions will remain about your value. It is not about what you’ve done (responsibilities). Rather, it is about how you solve problems and deliver impacts. Value has become the great mitigator of all things negative while greatly leveling the playing field for future senior-level finance candidates, male and female.
We are seeing an upward trend in leaders who have been educated outside the U.S. That tends to fit with the trend of international experience—not just supervising from the U.S., but also living in other countries—as adding to a candidate’s marketability.
The most marketable CFOs of the future will bring both international and technology expertise to the role, and those two skill sets are already evident in today’s finance chief.
Not surprisingly, financial companies who were forced to restructure because of the continuing economic instability are choosing to hire executives from outside their organizations rather than grooming and promoting internally. This is good news for those who are conducting stealth search campaigns.
What is interesting to me is a somewhat similar trend of not only hiring from the outside the corporation, but going outside the industry as well. A few years ago, it was difficult to change industries. Today, with the right value messaging, a well-positioned and visible problem-solving finance leader can move much more easily into a new industry.
As the economic uncertainty continues, it’s not surprising that executive tenure has also lengthened. I believe executives are choosing to stay in their jobs longer than they otherwise would for two reasons.
- Regardless of how stressful, painful, and/or exhausting their current position is, they believe it is better than the unknown.
- Fewer opportunities translates to stiffer competition among the most-qualified candidates.
This trend is particularly true of CFOs since there are a limited number of open positions.
Executives aren’t getting any younger. If you bring something of value that a company wants and will pay to get, you are still marketable despite your age. The average CFO is still in the 45 to 60-plus age range and with problem-solving value positioning, you remain very marketable!
Education is important and the MBA is still king. Even the coveted CPA is often listed with an MBA in corporate job descriptions. That said, all graduate schools are not all created equal. If you are thinking about a Master of Business Administration degree, consider that elite MBA candidates are higher among outside hires than those groomed from within, with emphasis on “elite” MBA.
As you execute your personal career management plan, remember—dinosaurs are now extinct. Trends are very important and a candidate who is willing to embrace change to stay aligned with career trends will be the most effective in his or her efforts to win those coveted new, and well-fitting, opportunities.