EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

If there is one thing that is certain about us financial types it is that we always know the answer.

Ask us a question and it isn’t long before we are well into the “primarily due to’s and partially offset by’s.” Yet, this major strength of ours and important skill set is an impediment to success at job search.

Our perception of the world, much like other human beings, is colored by our experiences, and in our world job change typically hasn’t happened as frequently as it has for many other categories of workers. When I was in my mid-40’s, an art director friend of mine told me that he had already worked at 25 different advertising agencies, some of them twice.

Anything you do a lot of, you get better at. And, although he had to develop a quick sense of jobs that were right and wrong for him so that he was always working, we would probably argue that he lacked a certain amount of judgment. We, however, would be wrong. What he was telling me was the REALITY of his career choice.

For those of us in the financial officer mold, the way we go about our screening process for opportunities out in the world typically needs a major adjustment. Many of the sources of job opportunities simply don’t work well, even in good times, for those of us later in our careers.

A few examples may help. First, back in the old days, introducing yourself to recruiters used to be a somewhat valid approach. Recruiters were busy, and although they aren’t interested in you unless they are working on something close to your background, they just might have something during the time period of your search. At this point in your career, don’t expect a significant return from a mailing to these folks.

Large firms, as incredible as it might appear on first examination, don’t hire senior executives of any stripe. Large firms, especially with the flattened organizational structures more common today, grow their own and promote from within. To do otherwise would cause the best of the dozen candidates at the next level down to leave.

Another misnomer, but for different reasons, are lawyers and accountants. Urban legend would have them as great sources of job hunting opportunities. The truth is sadly different. They will, of course, APPEAR to be helpful, but with client relationships at stake they are more often than not reluctant to help you with introductions to THEIR clients. You can’t blame them really. The best they can hope is that you won’t mess things up.

But, back to the major issue, which is keeping an open mind to those things that may represent what I will call “work opportunities.” The exact meaning of a job these days and its duration is harder to define than in years past. And, if large firms don’t hire senior level people, that only leaves small firms where the job responsibilities and structures so common from our large company experience can make them seem alien and unacceptable.

While they may appear unstructured and not to our liking, that is exactly why they need us.

You will find that most of the world actually operates quite well without rules and organization. Hard to believe, but few places actually exist like those we have come from. As I used to say to those I was introducing to the advertising business (where I was a Chief Financial Officer for 9 years), this is going to be a test of your tolerance for ambiguity.

So, before you reject that next item that comes onto your radar screen searching for you, take a deep breath and think again before you say no. It just might be the opportunity of a lifetime, and you will never know unless you check it out.

Regards, Matt

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