CFO Studio Magazine, 4th Quarter 2012
By Cindy Kraft, the CFO Coach

Very few CFO positions are ever posted online, and when they are, they are usually the bottom-of-the-barrel opportunities. So how can you win the packaging and positioning game and score that next great opportunity? Just as your marketing team strategizes on marketing your company, product, and/or service, you need to begin thinking about “product you.” 

Be Branded

How will you fit within a company’s culture? It’s the 64-million-dollar hiring question. And sadly, poor culture fit happens more often than you would think.

A Psychology Today blog post reported: “According to the Harvard Business Review, 2 out of 5 new CEOs fail in their first 18 months on the job.”

Are these failures all due to poor culture fit? Absolutely not. But the article goes on to say, “It appears that the major reason for the failure has nothing to do with competence, or knowledge, or experience, but rather with hubris and ego and a leadership style out of touch with modern times.”

Those are issues that can speak directly to culture fit.

So how do you showcase that you’re a good fit with your target audience? By being branded. A strong and compelling, authentic brand sends a crystal-clear message to your audience of who you are and how you have been effective. Branding makes it easier for a company to view you through the lens of its culture and assess — upfront — whether you’re a potential fit, a good fit, or a great fit.

And here’s the real secret: When you’re a top-three candidate, your ability to do the job has already been confirmed. The only two remaining questions on the table are “culture fit” and “likability.” With a strong brand, you have already answered the first of those two questions.

Be Different

If you look like the competition, you blend in with the competition. Instead, be a purple cow and stand out — and away from — your peers.

Often in creating marketing documents, CFOs will list responsibilities held. Things they’ve done. Their career progression, often beginning in public accounting. Ho hum. Your competition can probably all say those same, or very similar, things.

It’s football season, so let me use a foot­ball analogy to make my point. If you put both teams in the same uniform and stuff them all in one of the 10-yard end zones, they will all look alike. You can’t discern defensive players from offensive players. So chances are at least 50/50 that you will pick the wrong player from the wrong team for your defense or offense.

However, when you put them in their re­spective colors and put names and numbers on their jerseys, individuals begin to stand out from the other team and even from their teammates.

Put your unique name and your unique number (strong brand) on your marketing documents and stand apart from the crowd.

And remember, it’s not what you did, it’s how you delivered. It’s not what responsi­bilities you held, it’s about positive impacts that made the company more profitable, more efficient, and facilitated growth. It’s not about your career climb, it’s about how you solve problems.

Problem-solver = value = in demand!

Be Visible

Even if you don’t have an intentional brand, you have a default brand. Appear­ing on job boards paints you as a desperate job-seeker who probably is or will soon be unemployed.

Where should you be visible? First and foremost on LinkedIn, with a complete, compelling, and branded profile. Why?

  • LinkedIn is the web 2.0 version of the old corporate bio.
  • It’s the very best place to be noticed by recruiters (one of my clients had three great-fitting opportunities come his way in his first four days of having his profile updated).
  • To not be on LinkedIn is to send the message: Do not bother and do not disturb.

Show up where people from your target audience are also showing up. What are they reading? What are their hobbies? Do they have a cause they support? Have a visible presence wherever they are.

Today’s strategies for winning new oppor­tunities aren’t rocket science, but they are different. To win the new game, you must know the new rules.

A “pull strategy” (attracting recruiters and opportunities) will work infinitely better than a “push strategy” (sending your résumé out to every posted position) when you clearly market your ability to solve problems. And when you are gainfully employed and therefore highly valued as a passive-and-worthy-of-being-poached candidate.

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