EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

Mastering technology

From our daily member newsletter on December 1, 2020

This is probably just a lucky guess on my part, but I have the very real sense that the high technology tools we have to conduct a job search are here to stay. (To quote Larry King, “High technology, what will they think of next?”) Friends, Al Gore invented the Internet a long time ago. And, even if the Federal Government declares it to be a public utility, chances are good that you would benefit significantly by developing a mastery of its many intricacies. And, to bring you back to the beginning of time itself, I’ve had a computer in my office since the early 1980’s! Should I mention cell phones? It is honestly high time that all of you [ Read more… ]

Picking a restaurant

From our daily member newsletter on November 19, 2020

People who know that my wife and I are into sailing often ask us what we most enjoy making for dinner when we are on the boat. My standard response is reservations. The hard part is, of course, picking the restaurant. Are we in the mood for Mexican food, Pizza, French, Italian, or Chinese? Fortunately for us, although you can’t always tell by the name of the restaurant what they serve, all restaurants have enough common sense to stake out their areas of expertise when being listed in the telephone book, or in the many local brochures available at our favorite harbors. No restaurant would consider keeping their area of expertise a secret. It just wouldn’t be good for business. [ Read more… ]

Reinventing yourself

From our daily member newsletter on November 17, 2020

Much as I hate using cliché phrases as the one above, I don’t really know if there is a better one to describe the process of self-examination that is required when faced with looking for another “work opportunity.” (I call them work opportunities instead of jobs, because they don’t generally last long enough these days to be dignified with that “job” label.) Of course, I should preface my comments with the very obvious fact that changing industries or professions in any job market is very difficult. There are plenty of folks who are “local candidates,” or from the required industry. Competing against them in any sense isn’t an even contest, but competing rarely is as much fun as folks make [ Read more… ]

The competition is fierce

From our daily member newsletter on November 16, 2020

No one ever said it would be easy. And, when it comes to finding a job after the age of 40, it can easily become a demoralizing situation. For those of us who are even older, like in our 50’s or 60’s, it can be extremely difficult. Let me start you out with the idea that you are no longer the least expensive product out on the market. You bring a wealth of experience to the party, and those on the other side of the desk feel obligated to pay more to you than for someone earlier in their career should they decide to hire you. It’s true, of course, that they should pay more, but what is often missed [ Read more… ]

Two anchors or one?

From our daily member newsletter on October 29, 2020

A long time ago I got into a discussion with another captain about the wisdom of setting two anchors. It may sound silly, since I am known on board my sailboat as Captain Safety, but I have never set two anchors. And, even though I have read a lot about it over the years, in most cases I don’t think it is smart to do. There are conditions when it is appropriate, but I try to be tied to a dock or safely at home during those times or I avoid anchoring in the kinds of places where it might be necessary. Anyway, it got me to thinking about a speech a cousin of mine gave at a family gathering [ Read more… ]

This is no time to blend

From our daily member newsletter on October 21, 2020

If you haven’t seen the movie “My Cousin Vinny,” you may not really understand where this line comes from. If this is the case, please accept my apology for this reference out of left field. It is an old movie, and it wasn’t a great one. As opposed to the marketing and sales folks I have met over the years who never miss an opportunity to brag about what they have done, by and large the financial types I have known in great contrast are only brought kicking and screaming into the spotlight for their 90-seconds of fame. Sure, “I was there,” they might say, “but I was only part of a team.” While this may be true, the team [ Read more… ]

The New York minute

From our daily member newsletter on October 14, 2020

I don’t know if all of you are familiar with the concept of a New York minute, but for all intents and purposes it is generally accepted to be a micro second. For your further edification, a Google search turned up the following: New York Minute: A New York minute is an instant. Or as Johnny Carson once said, it’s the interval between a Manhattan traffic light changing to green and the guy behind you honking his car horn. It appears to have originated in Texas around 1967. It is a reference to the frenzied and hectic pace of New Yorkers’ lives. A New Yorker does in an instant what a Texan would take a minute to do. The term [ Read more… ]

Docking your boat

From our daily member newsletter on September 22, 2020

Let’s start with the fact that she weighs about 22,000+ lbs., and instead of being on dry land with wheels in firm contact with asphalt, it is more like driving a car on glare ice, only harder. I have been heard to say that there are only two difficult times when you are sailing – leaving the dock and returning to the dock, with returning to the dock being the harder of the two. When you are out in the middle of Long Island Sound there are certainly times when the boat is hard to handle. Still, the prospect of “crunching a little fiberglass” – yours or someone else’s – like hanging in the morning, tends to focus the mind. [ Read more… ]

You’re not from around here

From our daily member newsletter on September 10, 2020

The number of qualified candidates in major metropolitan areas is always strong. The problem faced by our members in “one horse towns” is dealing with the issue of relocation when they apply for opportunities. Most of the folks I talk to who are not from major metropolitan areas feel they are at risk of being cast aside in the sorting process when they apply for jobs that aren’t close to their current location. Alas, it is probably true. It is a simple fact of life and only logical that companies would be less open to relocating folks if they have ample candidates nearby. To some degree, members living in major metropolitan areas who are open to relocation are faced with [ Read more… ]

Read any good books?

From our daily member newsletter on August 26, 2020

One of the little recognized facts about interviewing is that the most important part of what you are trying to accomplish in an interview is to make a personal connection with the interviewer. With all of the executive talent floating around these days, starting with the 37,000+ members of The FENG, your ability to distinguish yourself in those precious minutes you have with a decision maker is what is key. I would suggest to you that we tend to be nose to the grindstone, shoulder to the wheel types of people. When we have work, we work. Sometimes for years. We tend not to network during those times, or even to read a few good books. We are just too [ Read more… ]

That strange device with the numbers

From our daily member newsletter on August 19, 2020

Although I must admit that I no longer use #2 pencils, I am still greatly addicted to using that ancient device called a phone. If you’re not sure what that is, it has a keyboard that looks a lot like a 10 key pad, but the number 1 is in the upper left hand corner of the 12 key array instead of the lower left hand corner (where it should be), like on an adding machine. (If anyone knows why it’s reversed, please write to me. I’m dying to know.) Some of you may be so old (like me) to also know phones that had rotary dials. (This is where the phrase “dial him up” comes from.) In today’s world [ Read more… ]

Are you serious in applying?

From our daily member newsletter on August 13, 2020

Let’s be honest. There aren’t a lot of job postings in our evening newsletter that really are a fit for your particular background, salary and location preferences. This being the case, you would think that if you saw an opportunity in our newsletter that strongly fit your background, you would take the time to do it right. Let me first suggest to you that there simply is no excuse to having a resume that isn’t well done. With all the books that have been written on the topic of resumes, yours needs to be as close to perfect as it can be. There are several popular approaches that I think are wrong. One is to leave off your home address. [ Read more… ]

Always take the high road

From our daily member newsletter on August 12, 2020

America is a great place, isn’t it? Everything is always someone else’s fault. I guess this is why Americans are so quick to sue. After all, we can’t take the blame for that which has happened to us. There were significant mitigating factors. Primarily due to, partially offset by. I’m sure you are familiar with the approach. All right, perhaps I shouldn’t have made those disparaging remarks about the way the boss dressed and how he always came in late, but I only mentioned it to most of his staff. And, I was only kidding. Actually, I am only kidding here. But, I thought I would make the point that it is human nature to come up with some explanation [ Read more… ]

A 1,000 words (plus or minus)

From our daily member newsletter on August 10, 2020

I assume that almost all of you have a LinkedIn account. I don’t know how each of you use it, but in addition to looking up your fellow members using our Member Directory Search feature, I strongly recommend that you check LinkedIn prior to connecting with just about everyone. If nothing else, LinkedIn is the world’s largest annotated phone book. As Yogi Berra might have said, you can see a lot just by looking. You’ve got nothing to lose and a lot to gain checking out what people say about themselves. I will leave it to others to lecture you on how to create a proper LinkedIn profile. We have all heard the expression that a picture is worth a [ Read more… ]

Computers are here to stay

From our daily member newsletter on August 9, 2020

I sometimes get the feeling from the format of emails I get and the strange formatting of resumes I see that there are those who believe computers are just a passing phase in our society. I don’t know how to break this to those of you who have been reluctant to “get with the program,” one of the measures of you on the part of those receiving your many missives is your computer knowledge. Perhaps “back on the block” (i.e. when you were working for the big corporation), you had someone to run your email and underlings to develop spreadsheets to execute your many ideas. Well, to a large degree, those days are over for most of us. Even when [ Read more… ]

Don’t curb your enthusiasm

From our daily member newsletter on August 6, 2020

Perhaps it is because I have been a Chief Financial Officer that I find financial folks of all types to be interesting people. The rest of the world may disagree, but who cares? As a “breed” we tend to be individuals of high integrity, and generally personable and well spoken. By well spoken, I mean the ideas we present are typically well thought out and concisely stated. Frankly, I have little patience for those given to rattling on and on about next to nothing. (And, yes, they do walk among us, but, they are from other professions.) While the world may view our profession as populated by something other than a group of social butterflies, I like US. However when [ Read more… ]

Call me a compulsive

From our daily member newsletter on August 3, 2020

Over the course of any given week I have the great honor of reviewing well over 100 resumes. Honestly, no one should be allowed to have this much fun. As I page through the many approaches to presenting one’s credentials, I am frequently dismayed by the way that some of the most important information is presented. Let me start by saying that I hate most abbreviations. The reason is quite simple. I usually have to stop and puzzle through what the abbreviation means in this context. I am sure the author was quite clear, but I am often left scratching my head. I would rank educational credentials of great importance and I hope you do too. I don’t know if [ Read more… ]

Don’t be lazy

From our daily member newsletter on July 29, 2020

During June I am usually preparing our sailboat for our annual two week trip. Sadly, not this year, at least so far. I take pretty good care of my boats, but still, there is always a maintenance list. This year, as is my practice, I go through each and every locker, remove everything and go through it item by item to see if I really need it. It is a big job, but I am always amazed and astounded with the stuff I find. (Why did I buy that?) It is easy to be lazy about things in your life. Since The FENG is about job search, I’ll focus for a minute on your resume. I figure most people practice [ Read more… ]

All things to all people

From our daily member newsletter on July 28, 2020

It is a truth in this world that we get paid the most for doing something that is at the high end of our skill set. For example, you would be willing to pay big bucks to a skilled surgeon to take out your appendix, but you would probably not be willing to let me take out your appendix at any price. Hence, the price you would be willing to pay me would probably be less than zero. Actually, I couldn’t even get the job. If this is all true, then why is it that in the writing of our resumes we try to present ourselves as the ultimate solution to all problems? We may narrow the niche to finance, [ Read more… ]

Attention to detail

From our daily member newsletter on July 22, 2020

I am at all times amazed and astounded at the lack of attention to detail by the many members who write to me. There are so many things that are easy to do, that no one seems to do. Let me start with my primary concern (and one I write about constantly), the lack of outgoing signatures. Incredibly, some emails I get aren’t even signed. A proper outgoing signature contains your name, address, phone numbers and email address. Adding one is so simple that it doesn’t bear explaining. If you aren’t using one, just click “Help” and search for outgoing signature. If you are wondering why no one is writing back, that’s why. Is your name Pat, or Leslie? You [ Read more… ]

Your hidden assets

From our daily member newsletter on July 21, 2020

Almost all of the resumes I see are from members or new member applicants. In any given week, I go through a batch of 40-50 resumes. What is surprising is how much trouble some folks go to disguising their seniority and great skills. It is my belief and I hope to make it yours as well, that the most important thing you have to sell is your wealth of experience. There are so many things in this world that only happen once or twice a year, and most of our members have seen them anywhere from 20-40 times. Like a song you keep hearing on the radio, even if you don’t sing well, you are bound to know the words [ Read more… ]

What do companies want?

From our daily member newsletter on July 13, 2020

I have written on many occasions about how to structure your resume. I have also written about bringing your resume through stages of development. Like any selling document it is essential that you keep it growing and fresh. Going through the birth pangs of building your resume can often feel like you are taking out your own appendix without the benefit of anesthetic. (Actually, it is a little more painful.) Still, without this important document looking its best you are going to be hard pressed to be selected out of a batch of 200+ resumes. After you have the framework easy to read (there are model resumes out on our website), and you have polished the prose, the next stage [ Read more… ]

Selling from an empty wagon

From our daily member newsletter on July 8, 2020

I often get the feeling listening to members of The FENG that they feel like they are selling from an empty wagon. Friends, it just isn’t true. What triggered tonight’s editorial was a few comments I got from one of our members about the issue of dates for your college degrees. The “product” you need to always be selling is your wealth of experience. Everyone doesn’t want the product, but those that do are willing to pay for it. In classic marketing terms, if you try to sell a product based on attributes it doesn’t have, it is considered an over promise. You are a lot better off presenting a realistic picture. We have all seen ads for the airlines [ Read more… ]

Practice makes perfect

From our daily member newsletter on July 7, 2020

Although we are all familiar with the above expression, I am not sure if everyone understands the importance of this idea to his or her search and how to get to where you need to be. The “big show” is of course an interview. When you finally get yourself in front of a hiring manager all aspects of your performance need to be polished. This is not the time to be “practicing” your elevator speech when he/she says “So, tell me about yourself.” We are fortunate within The FENG to have lots of opportunities to practice our pitch. Let’s start with our many chapter meetings, now on Zoom. What better place is there to work on that 90-second announcement? You [ Read more… ]

Can you hear me now?

From our daily member newsletter on July 6, 2020

I still remember with fondness the cell phone commercial where the technician is in the middle of a swamp somewhere and he is testing his cell coverage. I don’t know where he might be, but he wasn’t here in Weston, Connecticut where we have limited cell coverage. (Thank goodness, Sprint, in their wisdom, has provided me with a repeater.) Despite the convenience of being able to make and receive calls anywhere (including when I am crossing Long Island Sound in my sailboat), the use of cell phones is to be approached with a great deal of caution. The fact that it really isn’t your fault that you can’t be heard will be long forgotten. All that will be remembered is [ Read more… ]

Help, I’m trapped in a nut shell!

From our daily member newsletter on June 8, 2020

There is no greater challenge in this world than summing yourself up in 90 seconds or writing a proper summary for your resume. As many of you know, I was CFO of an advertising agency in the 1980’s. Initially, I used to wonder why the creative folks got paid so well. As I got more and more into who we were and what we did, it became a little more obvious how difficult it was to create the essence of a product or service in a 30 second commercial or in a print ad. Here you are a product and/or service with 20+ years of work experience. There are so many delightful aspects to who you are and what you [ Read more… ]

Are you good for nothing?

From our daily member newsletter on May 27, 2020

One of the many things I am always surprised about is the degree to which most members of The FENG generalize their very specific talents. I assume that this approach is their attempt to broaden their background and make it appear more appealing to a larger audience. While it is always required to explain your work experiences in layman’s terms, it is not really desirable to cause them to lose their importance. As I have been heard to say: “If you are all things to all people, you are nothing to anyone.” The reason we get paid the “big bucks” as senior financial executives is for being extremely knowledgeable about accounting and finance. Those who seek out our services do [ Read more… ]

Selling from your own wagon

From our daily member newsletter on May 26, 2020

Although we are frequently willing to accept lower salaries and/or lesser responsibilities, the greater challenge is convincing the world at large of our willingness and overcoming their resistance. What we see as age discrimination, they see as just plain common sense in screening candidates. You may be willing, but they see their clients as being unwilling to consider over paid and over qualified candidates. The trick is to convince them that it is common sense. However, one way that doesn’t work is the frontal assault. The frontal assault is telling them that they are engaging in age discrimination. In dealing with the search community or human resources executives I have never been really successful in overcoming their inherent prejudices. I [ Read more… ]

Too smart for our own good

From our daily member newsletter on April 27, 2020

One of the problems with being a senior financial executive is that we have all the answers. We have, for good or bad, “been there and done that.” Frankly, it is hard to conceal that knowledge and experience in an interview. Call it “overqualified” or whatever name you like, but it is difficult to imagine ANY job that at this stage in your career represents a huge challenge. Most likely, it will only occupy a portion of the many skills you have acquired over the years. There are so many things that only happen once or twice a year, and if you have 20+ years of experience, you have likely seen them 30 times or more. So, what’s a person [ Read more… ]

The ability to communicate

From our daily member newsletter on April 21, 2020

The changes that have taken place in the past 20 years in our ability to communicate are truly remarkable. What with personal computers, email, cell phones, voice mail, iPads and iPhones you can use just about from anywhere and now Zoom, you would think that those of us engaged in business pursuits would make the effort to master all of these many technologies, or in true managerial fashion, find someone who could set them up for us. But, you would be wrong. Hard to know where to start, but let me begin with email, my own personal favorite communication tool. Do you think it is possible that there are people out there who don’t know that there is a shift [ Read more… ]

Miles of bad advice

From our daily member newsletter on April 9, 2020

If there is any one thing that is consistent among senior executives who are in the job market for the first time in many years, it is their inability to distinguish between good and bad advice. The simple story is that if you hear it from me, Marty Latman or Bruce Lynn it is good advice. If you hear it from someone else, please exercise a little common sense. (Just kidding. I would ask you to apply common sense to the things we suggest as well. They may not be right for you.) Stop me if I am wrong, but none of you were born yesterday. To become a member of our little circle of friends you generally have to [ Read more… ]

Doing useful things

From our daily member newsletter on April 6, 2020

I hope tonight’s newsletter finds all of you in good health and good spirits. It is vitally important during this national crisis to not be “deer in the headlights.” There are things that all of us can do. Some for ourselves and some for others. As you all know, I spend several hours every day serving all of you. I don’t consider it work. Earlier today I had the great pleasure of Skyping with John Yates who Co-Chairs our London chapter and speaking at length with Kim Davis who Co-Chairs our Indianapolis chapter. All of your area chairs are struggling a bit not being able to have in person meetings. It is all very well to create programming that generates [ Read more… ]

Surviving storms at sea

From our daily member newsletter on March 31, 2020

For my birthday, my daughter bought me a book: “A Voyage for Madmen” by Peter Nichols. The book is about the first Golden Globe race from Falmouth, England which began on April 22, 1969. Nine men set off on a race around the world. Ten months later, only one of them made it back. Keep in mind, this was before GPS. (And, the Internet.) And if all this wasn’t bad enough, they weren’t even in fiberglass boats. They were wood. The most interesting (and appropriate) sections of the book for tonight were the storms these brave (or stupid) men encountered in the southern ocean. If you take a look at a globe you will see that in the southern ocean [ Read more… ]

Reach out and touch someone

From our daily member newsletter on March 26, 2020

It’s very easy in these difficult and unusual times to feel that there is nothing you can do. With the constant barrage of the 24/7 news cycle, it is also very easy to believe that what is going on is never going to end. Well, it may never end. Be that as it may, while we are waiting for it to end there is something very FENG that I want all of you to do beginning tomorrow, and every day until sanity reigns again. Please commit to spending at least an hour a day on this assigned project. Your day tomorrow will begin with my publishing our weekly list of new members. There are only 27 new members this week, [ Read more… ]

Saying thanks

From our daily member newsletter on February 26, 2020

One of the gag gifts that my wife got once was a “Stress Busters” calendar. Since she couldn’t find a place for it on her desk at work, she gave it to me. (I suppose it was one step away from the garbage pail.) Since I got it after the start of the year, I was able to fast forward through some of the dumbest suggestions for relieving stress known to mankind. That is until I got to one that read: “Make a list of everyone who has made a positive contribution to your life, and send each one of them a greeting card to let them know how they have made an impact. You’ll feel good as you write [ Read more… ]

If you are going to bother

From our daily member newsletter on February 24, 2020

I have often been heard to say that job leads have no value. That’s why we share them. It’s not that they have NO value, it is just that their value is limited to you as an individual (you have to be a perfect fit) and that their shelf life is extraordinarily short. I would also argue that to a very great degree, your resume stands alone. By this I mean that it provides the primary tool by which you are going to be evaluated. Others may disagree, but I read resumes first and cover letters second. If you are going to win the day, the key elements in the requirements shown in any job posting should be on your [ Read more… ]

The competition is fierce

From our daily member newsletter on January 22, 2020

What everyone should be clear about is that although I believe that “been there and done that” is more respected now than in most previous time periods in our great nation, you still have to “prove the null hypothesis” that you can do the job better than anyone else. The reduced lack of age discrimination only means you will have a chance at being considered. It doesn’t mean you will have a leg up on the competition. The primary prejudice against “old” people is that they aren’t up to date on the latest technology and that if they are hired for a job that is “beneath their dignity” that they will leave the moment the market picks up. To tackle [ Read more… ]

The consummate professional

From our daily member newsletter on December 19, 2019

Although there is no truth to the rumor that I have a pair of wing tip boat shoes, I do try to dress well for our meetings here in Connecticut as well as to any other networking event I attend. I suppose since the meeting of the Westport Chapter is near where I live, at the end of day, and since I work out of the house, I’m sure no one would think it odd if I was wearing old ratty jeans and a sweatshirt. I could always tell them I was fixing something around the house or make up some other lame excuse. The truth is that I don’t get many opportunities to wear my “grown up” clothes. Just [ Read more… ]

The original 2 for 1 sale

From our daily member newsletter on November 17, 2019

Every once in a while The Wall Street Journal publishes a cartoon worthy of discussion. Several years ago, the “Pepper … And Salt” cartoon showed a job seeker, obviously older, explaining his credentials to the interviewer with the following words: “Don’t think of me as a 54-year-old job applicant. Think of it as getting two 27-year-olds for the price of one.” This is not quite as good as the Jos. A. Bank buy one, get two free sales, but close enough. I’ve been sent several articles recently about age discrimination. Great topic and one that I think we should spend a lot of time beating a dead horse about. I’m thinking in terms of a belief system where we can [ Read more… ]

The importance of hobbies

From our daily member newsletter on September 26, 2019

I once worked for a division president who wouldn’t hire anyone who didn’t have a hobby. His theory was that your brain couldn’t be active and productive if you didn’t have something to think about other than work. While he admired those with “fire in their belly,” he was a man with hobbies. The two I remember best were road rallies and running. The road rally hobby was an interesting one. As I recall, he participated in the macho class where all you were allowed was a stop watch and a clipboard. The theory as I understood it was that you had to arrive at your destination and at several check points at a very specific time. Being able to [ Read more… ]

Adapting in Darwinian fashion

From our daily member newsletter on September 12, 2019

I’m not sure if any of us really want to adapt to changing world conditions in true Darwinian fashion. That would require that only those of us with appropriate features survive to create the next generation. As human beings, we have the unique ability to adapt who we are and what we are to appear to be more suitable to current market needs. The problem is that most of us don’t take advantage of this characteristic. To begin with, your resume should have a traditional structure in order to be most easily absorbed. Our work history from most recent to least recent is how we must begin in presenting our credentials. And, rightly so. The details under each “work opportunity” [ Read more… ]

Do you know who I am?

From our daily member newsletter on September 8, 2019

There is an extended joke I heard quite some time ago about a “gentleman” who was standing in line at an airline ticket counter trying to get on an over booked flight. In a demanding voice he uttered the above words at which point the ticket agent got on the PA system and announced that there was an individual at her counter who didn’t know who he was. If anyone recognized him, she would appreciate it if they would come forward. At times, this job search thing can be really discouraging if for no other reason than those we are communicating with don’t know who we are. By that I mean they don’t know how important we are. (Or is [ Read more… ]

Communicating your special value

From our daily member newsletter on September 5, 2019

One of the most challenging aspects of looking for a new “work opportunity” is having enough introspection to know what your special value is to a potential employer. I’m afraid that in most cases, we’re the last ones to know. When we do our 90-second announcements at our chapter meeting in Westport, I usually have the appropriate resume in front of me. I am always checking to see if the 90-second announcement matches the resume. Interestingly, sometimes there is more on the resume than in the 90-second announcement, and sometimes the reverse is true. More meat and delightful factoids are in the 90-second announcement, but nowhere to be found on the resume. Although it has been said that many of [ Read more… ]

Defining who you are

From our daily member newsletter on August 27, 2019

Probably one of the hardest things to do in life is to define who you are. Are you really your resume? Because we tend to be at companies longer than the members of other discipline areas, the reality of what it is we REALLY do best is not always obvious to us. A very long time ago when one of my friends by the name of Bob Graham, came to speak at our meeting in Connecticut, he shared with us a great interview question: What’s the biggest misperception about you? Believing that others have a misperception about you actually implies that there is something about yourself that you don’t accept. Unfortunately, most of us are often the last to know [ Read more… ]

How do you create value?

From our daily member newsletter on August 11, 2019

When asked what I do, my gut reaction is just to say “I do the Matt Bud thing.” In a sense, I don’t know what I do anymore, I just do. You see, I have been at it a while and I don’t tend to spend a lot of time thinking about it. (Frankly, I don’t have a lot of time TO think about it.) To a degree, those of us in the financial professions tend NOT to spend a lot of time thinking about the value we bring to the organizations we serve. We are for the most part long service employees. If the company didn’t value our services, I assume that we wouldn’t be able to hang around [ Read more… ]

A sharp focus

From our daily member newsletter on July 16, 2019

A jack of all trades, a master of none. In the world of CFO’s, Controllers and Treasurers, the primary skill sets of members of The FENG, it is certainly true that we can probably do anything. Still, at this stage of our careers the likelihood of anyone considering us to do “anything” is remote at best. The world seeks experts. And, in your own way each of you is an expert at something. The statement “I am just like everyone else” is rarely true. As I talk to members about their careers, with careful questioning I can get them to tell me their industry and skill set. Sad to say, it is usually more like pulling teeth than an easy [ Read more… ]

Your many hidden talents

From our daily member newsletter on July 9, 2019

The subject of tonight’s editorial is “Your many hidden talents and the ones you are developing.” I talked to one of our active members recently and the thought occurred to me that all of you are probably developing skills and not even aware of it! Life does have a way of sneaking up on you. The subject was nominally being able to sell. Most of us went into finance never expecting to engage in the honored profession of personal selling, but all of us who have gone through a job search, perhaps unbeknownst to even ourselves, have become reasonably good at personal selling. If you think about it, everything about searching for a job develops the skills required in personal [ Read more… ]

I’m smiling on the inside

From our daily member newsletter on June 12, 2019

I’m sure all of you have been to weddings and other kinds of gatherings where the host for the event has the need to say a few words. Not being great public speakers, these opportunities can be very painful or at times very funny, even when the host doesn’t intend for them to be. One of my friends was giving his obligatory welcome to his guests and something he said struck me, not as painful or funny, but as very revealing to his personality. What he said was that those of you who know me know that I am smiling on the inside. Not unlike many of the accountants and other financial folks I have known over the years, his [ Read more… ]

Creating a competitive advantage

From our daily member newsletter on June 2, 2019

With the number of folks competing for every available job these days, it is easy to fall into the trap of trying to “cheat” in some way to create a competitive advantage for yourself. The sad truth is that most of the approaches I see on a daily basis do exactly the opposite. The traditional resume format has your name, address, phone numbers and email address at the top. The end of the resume has your education. A summary is always nice to have at the top, just don’t use any trite phrases like “bottom line oriented,” “team player,” etc. The firms that have enjoyed the pleasure of your services should be listed in reverse chronological order with year ranges. [ Read more… ]

Changing industries

From our daily member newsletter on May 29, 2019

More often than not, members of our networking group prefer to change industries when they change jobs. I have to agree that changing industries isn’t such a bad idea. In fact, the opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills we have learned to a totally new situation is an attractive concept. The truth unfortunately is often a little harsher. Our maximum value to any new employer is our knowledge and skills, and often times our perceived value is higher if we aren’t making any significant change. As counter intuitive as it may sound, the best approach to changing industries is talking to folks from your industry, especially those who are no longer there. The question to be answered is how [ Read more… ]

This is no time to blend

From our daily member newsletter on April 18, 2019

In the movie “My Cousin Vinny” starring Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei there is a very funny scene at the beginning of the movie when they arrive in a small Alabama town from New York City, the dialogue for which goes like this: Vinny Gambini: What are you wearing? Mona Lisa Vito: What? Vinny Gambini: You look like a tourist. Mona Lisa Vito: What about you? Vinny Gambini: I fit in better than you. At least I’m wearing cowboy boots. Mona Lisa Vito: Oh yeah, you blend. The need to feel part of a group and the search for common ground when meeting others is a normal human survival behavior. In every initial conversation with a stranger, you search for [ Read more… ]

Selling from a full wagon

From our daily member newsletter on April 17, 2019

One of the great mysteries of this world is why consultants are expected to be over qualified for any job, but when it comes to hiring on a full time basis, companies don’t want anyone who is over qualified. Go figure. The frequent comment from clients for consulting work is “I hope I am not going to have to pay for training time.” Yet, when faced with the wonderful prospect of hiring someone who has been there and done that, most companies shy away. They are just so concerned about your being bored that the very idea that you may not be learning anything really new is a major obsession with them. Have any of them ever been unemployed? Now [ Read more… ]

Bad first impressions

From our daily member newsletter on February 26, 2019

It is an old saw that “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” Although I write about email from time to time, it hasn’t really improved what I am getting from all of you, but I know change comes slowly to us financial types. In an effort to bring the point home a little clearer and perhaps build on the real issues involved in email, I will add a few more thoughts tonight. When I first started The FECG with Bruce Lynn and Doug Fine in 1999, I knew I just had to have a cell phone because I would be out of the office a lot. Well, not really true anymore. I am amazed [ Read more… ]

Selling what’s in the wagon

From our daily member newsletter on January 29, 2019

As the length of time grows since your last “assignment,” the battle cry that is heard more frequently is the need to reinvent yourself. I’m not exactly sure how one can REALLY do that. As my Grandmother used to say: “I am who I am.” The question I would pose to you is, are you sure you have looked at everything in the wagon to be sure you are selling everything that’s there? Clearly, the economic principle of highest and best use applies to your career just as it does to those things that we call consumer products. If you are a Manufacturing CFO, a job in a manufacturing environment theoretically is going to produce the best results for you [ Read more… ]

Don’t pretend to be what you’re not

From our daily member newsletter on November 28, 2018

I have over the years had endless discussions with our many members on the topic of disguising your age or generalizing your background and despite my best arguments, I find people still doing it. Hopefully it is not the same people. (Why don’t they listen to me?) Actually, I am not whining. Everyone in our membership is an adult many times over. Still, in times of stress and with advice coming from all directions, much of which is in significant disagreement, it is hard to choose. Others provide compelling opinions as to why this or that is correct. It’s just that they usually don’t past the “smell test.” All advice needs to be benchmarked by your own logic. Put yourself [ Read more… ]

Picking a restaurant

From our daily member newsletter on November 11, 2018

People who know that my wife and I are into sailing often ask us what we most enjoy making for dinner when we are on the boat. My standard response is reservations. The hard part is, of course, picking the restaurant. Are we in the mood for Mexican food, Pizza, French, Italian, or Chinese? Fortunately for us, although you can’t always tell by the name of the restaurant what they serve, all restaurants have enough common sense to stake out their areas of expertise when being listed in the telephone book, or in the many local brochures available at our favorite harbors. No restaurant would consider keeping their area of expertise a secret. It just wouldn’t be good for business. [ Read more… ]

An advertising over promise

From our daily member newsletter on November 4, 2018

For almost a decade I was Chief Financial Officer of an Advertising Agency. In addition to learning how to deal with a wild and crazy bunch of folks, I learned a lot not only about the advertising business, but also about advertising in general. One of the facts that I learned was that a good advertising campaign could get customers to try the product. (We were a very creative shop!) In some cases, we were so good at what we did that we almost put some of our clients out of business. Sounds odd, but oh so true. Promising 10 and delivering 5 is about one of the worst things you can do. In the context of job search, I [ Read more… ]

Your many product benefits

From our daily member newsletter on October 1, 2018

One of the biggest problems you face as a senior financial executive is that you have too many product benefits. In a very real sense, you are too good to be true. For those of you who have been hearing you are “over qualified,” let me suggest to you that you are. After over 20 years of work experience, how could you not be over qualified in some sense? That said, being “over qualified” is a good thing. You just have to learn how to sell it. Let me first deal with the words “over qualified” and explain why they are used. The purpose of using these words after an interview, whether by phone or in person, is to create [ Read more… ]

Who is your customer, what is your product?

From our daily member newsletter on August 5, 2018

If I had to put my finger on the one issue that confuses senior financial professionals it is the subject above. Who is the customer for your services, and what is your product? When I have chatted with or had email exchanges with members who were going through outplacement, the bad advice they have gotten has included only showing their most recent 10-15 years on their resume, to dumbing down their titles, and, of course, leaving off their graduation dates. Please know I am very much opposed to any of these approaches. The assumption with only showing your most recent 10-15 years is that you can somehow fool a resume reviewer into interviewing you. May I suggest that just as [ Read more… ]

What is your theme song?

From our daily member newsletter on July 16, 2018

Over the years, I have found that I keep certain CD’s in my car and I play them over and over again. I supposed I shouldn’t admit this to a wide audience, but one of my favorite music categories is sea shanties. (It goes along with my hobby of sailing). When I had cassette tapes, I actually wore out 2 or 3 copies of some of them because I played them so much. Thank goodness CD’s don’t wear out. That which rings true about our lives is in a career sense our theme song. As I look back over my career, one of the themes is my concern for others in the organization wasting their time on things I could [ Read more… ]

Defining who you are

From our daily member newsletter on April 9, 2018

Probably one of the hardest things to do in life is to define who you are. Are you really your resume? Because we tend to be at companies longer than the members of other discipline areas, the reality of what it is we REALLY do best is not always obvious to us. Some time ago when one of my friends, Bob Graham, came to speak at our meeting in Connecticut, he shared with us a great interview question: What’s the biggest misperception about you? Believing that others have a misperception about you actually implies that there is something about yourself that you don’t accept. Unfortunately, most of us are often the last to know or at least the last to [ Read more… ]

First impressions

From our daily member newsletter on April 2, 2018

We have all heard the old saw: “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” There is also this amendment: “Don’t make your first impression your last.” I only wish everyone would be so kind as to repeat these sayings to themselves in all the things they do with regard to their job search and networking. For example, you are certainly welcome to come to meetings of our networking group in business casual. But, keep in mind that some of those attending will be coming from interviews and will be “dressed to the 9’s.” And, you need to consider what you are going to be asking for at those meetings. Typically it is nothing short of [ Read more… ]

Reinventing yourself

From our daily member newsletter on November 8, 2017

Much as I hate using cliché phrases as the one above, I don’t really know if there is a better one to describe the process of self-examination that is required when faced with looking for another “work opportunity.” (I call them work opportunities instead of jobs, because they don’t generally last long enough these days to be dignified with that “job” label.) Of course, I should preface my comments with the very obvious fact that changing industries or professions in any job market is very difficult. There are plenty of folks who are “local candidates,” or from the required industry. Competing against them in any sense isn’t an even contest, but competing rarely is as much fun as folks make [ Read more… ]

Working the room

From our daily member newsletter on September 14, 2017

Bashfulness has never been my strong suit. Nevertheless, when confronted with a room of strangers, it is never easy to figure out a logical way of connecting with appropriate folks. However, having the courage to do so is actually easier. Let’s start with preparation. You need to have business cards. The truth is that they don’t have to be all that fancy, just your name, rank and serial number is sufficient, but you do have to have them. One of the grand gestures of business life is handing someone your business card and asking them for one of theirs. It is hard to come up with a good excuse not to hand you back a business card when you have [ Read more… ]

Yeah, what do you want?

From our daily member newsletter on September 13, 2017

Sometimes the phone here are world headquarters gets a little quiet. Several minutes can go by and no one calls. It is enough to get you a little out of practice in answering the phone. So, from time to time I just pick up the phone (even though it isn’t ringing) and say hello to see if my energized greeting is still inside my head. As you know, practice makes perfect. Being a professional phone person I can tell a lot about the person on the other end of the phone within the first few seconds of the call. I have found that these are the critical nanoseconds when you can easily influence the tone of the conversation to follow. [ Read more… ]

Give yourself a break

From our daily member newsletter on August 13, 2017

Back in 1991-1992 I was unemployed. Yes, two full years. Honestly, cash was starting to get a little tight. But more importantly, although I had a lot of free time, it was hard to enjoy it. Money, and the prospect of more, tends to focus the “let’s have some fun” part of our brains, whereas the “I don’t know if I will survive this” mindset prevents us from really enjoying our “time off” to any great degree. However, as one of my friends once said, “No one is out of work forever, it just seems that way.” Chances are those last few months in that Heck Hole you refer to as your most recent job were more than a little [ Read more… ]

Stale cigar smoke

From our daily member newsletter on July 30, 2017

In the movie Patton, George C. Scott explained why America was going to win the war. In brief, Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. As we do our best to achieve success in the job market, looking and acting like a winner can be difficult. It is just too easy to fall into the “misery loves company” mode. I hope you won’t allow yourself the luxury of falling into that trap. Although I live only a few miles from where we hold our meetings here in Connecticut, I always wear a suit or sport coat. The reason is that often times this is the first and only time that members meet me. As they say, you [ Read more… ]

A 1,000 words (plus or minus)

From our daily member newsletter on July 26, 2017

I assume that almost all of you have a LinkedIn account. I don’t know how each of you use it, but in addition to looking up your fellow members using our Member Directory Search feature, I strongly recommend that you check LinkedIn prior to connecting with just about everyone. If nothing else, LinkedIn is the world’s largest annotated phone book. As Yogi Berra might have said, you can see a lot just by looking. You’ve got nothing to lose and a lot to gain checking out what people say about themselves. I will leave it to others to lecture you on how to create a proper LinkedIn profile. We have several resident experts you can call on such as Matt [ Read more… ]

Are you over qualified?

From our daily member newsletter on May 3, 2017

I’m sure tonight’s topic will generate a lot of comments. Those of you who would like to join in on this discussion are invited to send your comments to Leads@TheFENG.org. The short answer to the question of the moment is: I hope so! If you weren’t, I’m not really sure how you were added to our membership. Our entire organization is filled with well qualified individuals who can do just about any job they would like to take. That said the primary focus of tonight’s editorial is for our members who are much older. Let’s say 55-60 plus. When you are interviewed for a possible work opportunity, please understand that the comments made by the interviewer are often a sincere [ Read more… ]

Maintaining your focus

From our daily member newsletter on April 27, 2017

Life is made up of a lot of endless details. And, as financial people, the endless details are where we shine. I have said from time to time that eating an elephant is best done one bite at a time. (Mustard would probably also be a good idea.) Most tasks, no matter how enormous they may seem at the time, are actually finite in nature. By finite, I mean to say that if we work on them in our usual diligent manner, at some point they are finished. The approach I take to planning is based on the recognition that there are 1 day plans, 1 week plans, 1 month plans, 3 month plans and 1 year plans. There are [ Read more… ]

Your real audience

From our daily member newsletter on April 13, 2017

One of my favorite “sayings from the Chairman” is: I try to make things so easy that anyone can do it. That way if I try hard, I can too! KISS or “keep it simple stupid” is one of the most often violated principles of job search and part of the reason that we fail to communicate our true value. Yes, I know that many of us have arcane skills. But you need to keep in mind that the burden of communication is on you. How often have I heard “but it was all right there in my resume.” Oh, if that simple statement were REALLY true. Sure, it was there all right, but it was buried in a less [ Read more… ]

The grass is not always greener

From our daily member newsletter on March 23, 2017

Out of the frying pan, into the fire. We sure have a lot of expressions relating to the very simple problem of thinking that life would be better if we were only somewhere else. I’ll add another: You can’t go home again. I can assure you that the dream job you once had contained blemishes that you have now forgotten. It would always appear to me to be worth a shot not making the same mistake again (whatever it might have been) in the selection of your next job. When jobs are scarce, and they may be in your segment, I strongly recommend taking whatever you can find. It is always better to be working. And, as any good sailor [ Read more… ]

The race to the finish line

From our daily member newsletter on March 8, 2017

Stop me if I am wrong, but I guess many folks find job search a painful process. Perhaps it is the lack of a steady paycheck, or the uncertainty, or the rejection. Just like beating your head against a wall, it sure feels good when you can stop. (Is this why we are having so much fun or what?) Perhaps that is why a few times a week I get a message from one of our members to stop their evening newsletter because next week they are going to be starting a new job. Next week? (Sure you don’t want to overlap a few days?) Is the newsletter an unpleasant reminder of the pain of job search? Or, is it [ Read more… ]

How I Changed My Career

From our daily member newsletter on November 8, 2007

Some of us dream the dream, others have actually done it. When I was in St. Louis last month I had the pleasure of spending time with Don Ficken, our St. Louis Chapter Chair. The story he told me about what he was doing I thought you would find of interest as well, so I asked him to write it up. I hope you will send him your thanks for sharing this exciting tale with all of us.   Regards, Matt   From Don Ficken, St. Louis Chapter, Don writes:   It was September 2001. For the first time in my career, I didn’t have a job. Naturally, being unexpectedly unemployed, my thoughts turned to the next phase of my [ Read more… ]

Dream a little dream

From our daily member newsletter on November 7, 2007

Up until the age of 46 I didn’t spend a single day unemployed. From the time I got out of the Army in 1971 until 1991 I only changed jobs twice. It doesn’t give you a lot of time to think about your career or to consider that you might be doing other things.   During the two years I was out of work I did a lot of thinking and I tried a lot of different things.   I suppose if I had found a job immediately my life would not be what it is today. I would venture to say it is better than it might have otherwise been despite the “years from heck”. As you know, all [ Read more… ]

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