I recently read some statistics that suggested an increase in age discrimination against older executives. Do you see that out there for CFOs?
There is obvious age discrimination, and it’s probably the biggest area of discrimination by far. There are some things [older execs] can do. Getting in shape is important; being fit is important, and it can work against you if you’re not. Get out there and sell. Find a mentor; don’t believe you know everything. What happens a lot of times in people’s 50s is they stop learning.
With the recent push for corporate-governance reform, there’s been a lot of emphasis on the need for finance expertise on boards and audit committees. In this environment, do you think this is a good time for CFOs?
I think it is for those who are successful and who have developed great relationships with their CEOs. I would say that CFOs in general that have great business acumen and have had a lot of board experience. However, there may be many who lose their jobs as well, because they didn’t have the skill set that companies are demanding today.
With the increased demand for finance expertise, can good CFOs afford to ask for more when negotiating for pay?
They can to the extent that anyone else can, and money is important. It’s important to be fair and informed. Normally the best tactic is to put [your compensation] in context of the market and your peers. Point out, for example, that you’ve forgone a raise or other benefit, or that your peers earn more.
Any other job-search advice?
Don’t relying on Email; don’t think that’s all you have to do. As soon as you hit the “send” button somebody at the other end is pushing the “delete” button. Use the phone. You’ve got to make the call. You’ve got to do the work. Research. A lot of people don’t do their research. They may do research in their business, but they don’t put research in their career. Also, don’t get bogged down by rejection. It could be the 99th call out of 100 that’s really going to resonate with someone. And don’t oversell.