The Right Role

Looking for a new job? Here's what to expect.

What will woo the candidates who are in such short supply? It’s certainly not just the pay. As CFO Europe learned after shadowing job-hunting finance professionals over the past few months, job satisfaction is just as, if not more, important than money. Industry research chimes with our finding. In a recent survey of finance executives by Deloitte, respondents cited poor career-development opportunities as the number-one reason why their staff are resigning.

Whether a CFO or a senior accountant, finance professionals who do hand in their resignations now have a golden opportunity not to take just any old job, but to go after their ideal. More than ever, job-seekers are interviewing their prospective employers as much as they are being interviewed, and holding out until they find the next job that ticks not just a few but all the boxes.

Q&A Session

Well before resigning, job-hunters should start thinking about what they like and dislike about their current jobs. Stockmann, for example, discovered that the traditional, top-down culture at Novartis didn’t fit well with how she liked to manage and be managed. At other companies, she gave her staff the freedom to use their initiative and encouraged teamwork, getting consensus on important decisions when possible. Another concern was that a promise at the interview stage that she would focus on the operational side of the role while her boss would focus on strategy didn’t happen, resulting in a lot of treading on toes.

In Van der Smissen’s case, after spending three years as FD of Unilever in Belgium, he couldn’t see a way of progressing up the finance ladder without moving to another country, probably the UK or the Netherlands. Van der Smissen had already moved around enough with Unilever every three to four years to know that “any future role with the company would be an expatriation role without a possible return to Belgium,” he says. Packing his bags yet again just wasn’t appealing, especially having experienced the challenges of a “split family life,” when he worked abroad while his wife, Marijke, and two daughters, now 19 and 20, stayed behind in Belgium. He also wanted to live closer to his father, a 79-year-old widower.

Similarly, Singh had difficulty seeing how she could achieve her aim — to learn about new products — without leaving BP. “Because BP is an oil business, everything is driven by the fact that we get this stuff from the ground and sell it,” she says. “The oil industry is mature and I wanted to get exposure to other products, and BP can’t really do that for me.” While her personality suited the culture at BP, she says, her ambitions did not.

As for Laine-Toner — who sailed through Sainsbury’s three-year graduate scheme, leading to jobs in operational audit, commercial finance, credit management and management accounts — the only option for him, he believes, is to look for a job that offers the experience he needs but is closer to home. He’s no stranger to doing the unexpected though. He reached his current role via an unconventional route — skipping university in favour of a finance and business diploma and then starting his first job, as an accounts clerk with a UK health-club company, at just 18. He’s proud of the fact that he eventually became the only non-graduate ever to get on to Sainsbury’s graduate scheme. The next challenge is to leave Sainsbury for the right role. “It feels like an uncomfortable situation to be in, but if I don’t get that experience I would have a hole and then it would be an issue for me to get that director role,” he says.

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