The 44-year-old has, most recently, worked hard to convince a big, publicly traded company that he would be a good fit as director of cash and treasury management. In the finance hierarchy, such a position is several levels below where he has been, but the job would be his first at a large company, and the pay would nearly match the pay at his past position. “I believe that my experience is what sets me apart, and I believe I can drive that point home well,” says Fulton. “Companies don’t pay that kind of money for a role that isn’t important.”
That’s long been the conventional wisdom — sell yourself based on what makes you unique. But these days it’s hard to know what will work. Fulton, for example, has 17 years of experience in commercial construction, yet a company in a related field — heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning — turned him away. Nor did his three years in a manufacturing environment give him any leverage when he applied for a job at a manufacturing company. At one company he even offered to prove his mettle by consulting for them — at no charge.
“They never even returned my calls,” he says.
Who Are You?
To compete, experts recommend that CFOs follow the hot trend of the moment and “rebrand” themselves. While that might call to mind gimmicks from the world of marketing, don’t worry; you won’t have to tattoo “New & Improved” on your forehead. “A personal brand is all about behavior and consistency,” says branding and management consultant Patty Azzarello. “It’s about giving others a consistent impression of who you are.”
What your next boss wants to hear is how you have driven top-line growth — by, for example, identifying new markets or acquisition targets. What strategic decisions have you made that boosted the bottom line? Starr, whose recent experience cast him as a cost-cutter, now focuses on other experiences during job interviews. “I talk about previous jobs where I was successful at increasing profit margins and gross margins,” he says. “Every company has to have that vision of how they are going to grow.”
Your job is to make it easy for a possible employer to see you as part of that picture. As a useful exercise in market research, Pam Lassiter, author of the recently revised The New Job Security, suggests that job-hunters quiz their contacts regarding the challenges that prospective employers are now struggling with — effective M&A, for instance, or how to penetrate emerging markets. “You’ve got to package your experience in terms of current needs,” advises Lassiter. Otherwise, you may find yourself sitting on the shelf much longer than you’d like.
Josh Hyatt is a contributing editor of CFO.
Social Media for CFOs in Transition
Ben Paramore is no stranger to the digital age. The longtime finance executive has a robust LinkedIn profile, a Facebook page, and his own Website, which includes a series of blog postings and articles. During his recent three-month job search, though, he learned a few additional things about how to market himself using the Internet.