If you have been in your current CFO seat for more than four years, you will most likely be making a job change this year (or early next).
Regardless of your tenure, you want to be the one calling the shots in this transition — not your new CEO or the board — and you don’t want to be held hostage solely to the opportunities presented to you by executive search firms. But, more importantly, you need to ask yourself some fundamental questions regarding how much satisfaction you are getting out of your current job.
For whatever reason, the two functions where I most often find mid-career executives in the midst of an existential career crisis are finance and legal. This is partly due to the nature of how these two functions are educated. You rarely find a CFO with a degree in English or history, but you can point to a number of CEOs who have liberal arts degrees.
Finance and accounting majors generally pursue careers within the function. And, while it eliminates some of the frustration that liberal arts majors encounter after graduating from college, it also eliminates much of the self-exploration that such graduates undergo as they find their place in the business world. As a consequence, it’s not unusual for me to hear 15- to 20-year finance professionals say they aren’t thrilled with how their career has gone thus far.
If your career path doesn’t naturally lead you to this type of self exploration, you may find yourself needing to create the crisis yourself to avoid this trap. So, how can you then take control of your career?
First and foremost, have an understanding of what you want. Ask yourself “What am I not getting in my current job?” and “What am I getting too much of?” These are questions we don’t ask ourselves nearly enough. We are overworked, overstressed with too much tied to the day-to-day needs to take a step back and look at our careers over a longer time horizon.
Frankly, just the thought of starting this type of self- investigation can be daunting to most. However, if you’re not deriving an appropriate amount of career satisfaction, it’s essential. A good career coach usually is a wise investment in this process, if for no other reason than to provide you with the discipline to actually do it. If not a professional coach, then certainly enlist a mentor or professional colleague as a confidante. The key is to find a way to connect your career experience and the skill set you’ve built to a related but more satisfying opportunity.
Here are five questions to keep in mind throughout your self-investigation:
As managers, we should be asking these questions of our staff members and teams, but are we also asking them of ourselves? How do we continue to expand our knowledge, add to our network and enhance our skill sets?
We often say that we are too busy and lack the time needed to devote to anything new. However, we also know the answer to that dilemma. We don’t have the time, but we need to make the time. It pays off in the long run.
John Touey is a principal at executive search firm Salveson Stetson Group with 20 years of experience providing executive search, human resources and management consulting services to organizations in the healthcare, financial services, utilities, manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries. Follow him @JohnTouey.