D’Anne Hurd has built her career on setting precedents. At every company where she’s been the chief financial officer, she’s been the first person to hold that title, yet Hurd has never used job postings or a recruiter to land those positions. Instead, she identified companies she wanted to work for — young, pre-public businesses without a finance chief — and approached them directly, telling them what she had to offer and why they needed a CFO. That’s how Hurd became the first finance chief at companies including Vividon, NaviPath, and Archetype (all in the Boston area) and how she landed her next job (which she declines to disclose).
When Kim Kovacs was just starting out with her degree in finance, she knew she didn’t want to take the typical path through accountant and controller to CFO. By doing her own research, she learned of a San Diego restaurant owned by the widow of the singer Jim Croce; the business had a controller who kept the books but no real finance organization. Kovacs met with Ingrid Croce and “sold her on why she needed a CFO: to help grow the business.” During the next six years, the restaurant added a jazz bar and a rhythm-and-blues club, and Croce’s Restaurant and Bars became well-known (and profitable) Southern California destinations. After creating the position of chief financial officer at Croce’s, Kovacs is now the CFO of Irvine, California energy startup Oryxe Energy International Inc.
These career paths may not work for everyone. But if you find yourself stuck in a job-hunting rut, it may be time to start digging somewhere else. In other words, stop merely looking for a job and start actively prospecting for one.
Hurd maintains that “finding a job is selling a product: yourself.” Eugenie Brown couldn’t agree more. A sales and sales-management coach and trainer, Brown preaches a seven-step sales process that includes ways to implement better prospecting programs. Lately she’s been conducting Web seminars for Execunet, a career-transition resource for senior executives, on applying sales-prospecting techniques to the job search. On the day Brown spoke with CFO.com, she had just completed her presentation for a group of finance executives who “really understood what I was talking about” — presumably, she observed, because they’re keenly aware of the connection between sales and financial profit.
How to Start Digging
“Job creation is an important component of finding the work you love,” says Pam Lassiter, an executive career coach and the author of The New Job Security, and it’s “much more effective than looking through help-wanted ads.” says Lassiter. But creating a CFO job takes some savvy, as well as a taste for a certain kind of employer. According to Lassiter, job prospectors should look for “smaller companies that are reaching critical mass in financial transactions, where you can identify the decision makerÂÂÂ before he has the CFO need clearly defined in his brain.” Related possibilities include companies in need of a turnaround or about to go through a major financial change, such as a public offering.