5 Keys to Attract New Career Opportunities in a Crowded Job Market

Last week I shared with you 5 Alarming Trends in Job Search Market where I highlighted some growing trends in the job market that are making the career progress of an average professional a lot more difficult and challenging.

Let’s accept the brutal reality; in an over-supplied talent market everybody cannot win. It’s the survival of the fittest or the ones most adaptable to change. There are ways and means you can learn and develop a competitive advantage that can make you distinct from the crowd.

Multi-ethnic Casual People Holding Digital Tablets

The good news is that, by law of averages, not everybody can develop a competitive advantage or make them distinct. That is your opportunity. If you can elevate yourself to be among the top 10 percent within your profession, your chances of accelerating on the corporate ladder will significantly enhance.

How do you become part of the top 10 percent? Do things differently than what 90 percent do and keep doing and remaining ahead of them.

Here are 5 key approaches you can adopt to attract new career opportunities in the short term, whether you are looking for internal growth or an external move:

1. Create visibility through a strong online presence:

Your online profile is your new identity. Forget the CV. Before a recruiter or employer can become interested in your CV, they want to search your profile on LinkedIn, FB, Twitter, Google+ etc. If they are impressed with your online profile, then they may ask a copy of your CV. You must ensure that your online profile portrays a professional image and a distinct brand.

Pay special attention to your LinkedIn profile. More and more recruiters are starting their searches on LinkedIn. Get some expert help to look your LI profile more professional and stand out. Don’t be shy to load up your page with your career achievements. Ask your connections for recommendations and endorsement. That enhances the credibility of your profile.

According to top executive recruiters, the best candidates are the ones who are not actively looking for a job. The beauty of creating a strong online presence is that without labeling yourself a job seeker, you make yourself visible and noticeable to recruiters and potential employers.

2. Allocate time for structured networking:

More and more searches are taking place in close networks. Recruiters and hiring managers are avoiding posting jobs publicly. They are a lot more comfortable to start their searches with the people they already know.

Most jobs are being filled through professional and social networks. Connect to your professional body or industry association and actively participate in their activities. Your goal should be to create visibility and let important people notice you. They may connect you with attractive career opportunities.

3. Create a personal brand that look distinct:

Don’t try to be an all-rounder generalist; try to be a specialist. Find out your talents and specialties that make you distinct and unique from others. What are the things that you are good at and can do better than others.

If you are an M&A expert or a tech-savvy, let the world know about it. Write blogs, speak at the conference or sit at the panel to share your views. Build your brand around these specialties to develop your competitive advantage. This is the only way to be noticed among the crowd.

4. Highlight your achievement; not qualifications:

Todays’ businesses are smarter with a brutal focus on making money. They need the talent that can help them create value or grow their business. Make sure that major part of your CV or online profile highlights your career achievements; not qualifications and responsibilities.

Whatever is your current job, focus on creating massive value for your employer beyond the call of your duty. Do more than what you are paid for. You will do yourself a favor by developing habits of star performers. You cannot add more degrees or certifications beyond a limit but you can keep adding your results and achievements. And by the way, who cares about degrees or certificates if you are already delivering results.

5. Develop your business acumen:

During the last two decades, technology has taken over bulk of the traditional accounting activities. New accounting software and ERP systems are designed to be run by non-accountants. Today’s modern businesses, therefore, demand finance professionals to be more involved in the business.

Unfortunately, most of the finance professionals lack in their business acumen. This is your opportunity. Take advantage of this general weakness and build your strength around it to make yourself distinct and more valuable.

You don’t need to do an MBA for this. Take a few short courses on business and strategy and try to understand the business model and value creation cycle of the business you work for. Share your ideas with your superiors and demonstrate your knowledge of business, not accounting. It will pay you off much better.

Peter Drucker once said, “Businesses have only two functions: marketing and innovation”. In the current environment, this is equally applicable to senior level professionals. In a highly competitive talent market, you must continually innovate and market your talent to grow your career.

Knowledge is power but without its application it is useless. As a professional you are a knowledge worker who is in the business of selling your knowledge. Selling requires marketing. Unfortunately, most of us are not good marketer or consider personal marketing as a bad thing.

Personal marketing is a talent. We must understand that the game has changed. In an oversupplied talent market, we must ensure that the world knows our talent and appreciates what we are good at. Creating visibility, active networking, developing our personal brand and projecting our achievements and business knowledge are all forms of effective personal marketing.

Marketing connects a need with the solution. Without marketing remarkable ideas would die and innovative products may not reach to consumers. Personal marketing work the same way.

No doubt, it’s much more difficult and challenging environment to grow your career. But not everyone will rise to that challenge. That’s your opportunity. Make a commitment to become part of the top 10 percent within your profession by aggressively innovating and marketing your talent and, let me assure you, opportunities will always wait for you.**

Questions? Thoughts? Please post your comments below and I will try to reply.
Also, be sure to hit the “Like” button below so that you get notified via Facebook when I post my next blog.
— Saleem Sufi

If you are a senior Finance professional, and want to accelerate your career, please visit What it Takes to Become a CFO.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Saleem Sufi is a CFO Leadership Coach and Strategy Expert with more than 20 years CFO level experience working for top world class Fortune 500 and Private Equity owned companies in Asia Pacific, Middle East, Europe and United States. He is the Founder and President of MECA CFO Alliance where he leads the CFO Academy with an entire focus on leadership development and career growth among the senior Finance community.

5 Alarming Trends in Job Search

Recently I was involved in a high profile executive search for two senior finance roles that gave me the opportunity to first-hand experience the rapidly changing dynamics of the executive job search market.

Whether you are actively seeking new career opportunities or happily enjoying your current role, the changing trends in the talent market are so significant that sooner or later everyone would be somehow impacted. Unfortunately, not many executives and professionals are taking notice of the change and particularly those who are active in the job market are getting deeply frustrated by repeating the approaches that are fast becoming obsolete.

Businessman using binoculars

Before I can highlight what is working in executive job search and what is not working, it is important to understand the root causes that are driving such rapid changes. Since the turn of the century, the following trends in the talent market have emerged quite strongly:

1. Businesses have become more efficient and productive:

Since beginning of the century with dot.com crash, 9/11 crises and more recently the global economic recession, businesses have learned to do more with less. Despite most businesses have recovered their volumes, the jobs eliminated during the economic crises are not coming back. Businesses have learned to work with few resources. This is the new equation to which businesses have reset. And, of course, shareholders are happy.

2. Talent demand & supply ratio is getting worse:

With globalization, increasing awareness and mushroom growth of educational institutions, there is an exponential growth in the supply of talent. This has seriously impacted the demand and supply ratio in the talent market. There is an over-supply of talent which is not expected to change in the foreseeable future. As a result over-qualified professionals are doing junior level jobs at lower rate of compensation.

3. Employers are becoming less loyal to their employees:

With the over-supply, talent is fast becoming a commodity tempting employers to be less loyal to their employees and replace or eliminate them more often. No wonder, average job tenures are reducing fast.

4. Recruiters are getting overwhelmed with the high volume response from candidates:

Technology has made it extremely easier for job seekers to apply for any job available anywhere in the world as long as it can be found on the internet. Until late last century, the recruiters or employers were considered lucky if they could attract 20-30 qualified candidates against a job posting. Today, for an attractive job posted publicly, it is a norm to receive 500+ CVs within 24 hours.

5. Fewer jobs are being posted publicly:

With the high level of expected responses, recruiters and employers are reluctant to post jobs publicly, particularly for senior level positions. As a result most available job openings have become hidden and beyond the reach of average job seekers.

In the new scenario, sending volumes of your CV to multiple job postings is not going to help much. The average time a recruiter spends scanning through a CV has now reduced from 15-20 seconds to 5-6 seconds. Chasing a few jobs with hundreds of other qualified candidates is becoming more like trying to win a lottery. It must be better than that. You need a different game plan; a different strategy.

No doubt, it’s a tough environment but that’s the new reality that we must accept and gear up to the challenge. I have witnessed several professionals and senior executives recently who have been able to successfully land attractive and lucrative jobs. There are some common trends and innovative ideas that helped them achieve their target roles in a tough and highly competitive environment.

As a professional your career is your most important business and you must proactively manage it. Rather than chasing jobs, you need to attract new career opportunities. This requires continuous development of your professional skills and knowledge as well as marketing your talent. In the new environment, personal marketing is inevitable. Marketing helps people know what you are good at so they can benefit from you.

In my next article, I will share with you the several personal marketing strategies and tactics that can help you to be visible and look distinct in a crowded talent market so that recruiters and employers can notice you rather than you chase them.

Leave me a comment below…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Saleem Sufi is a CFO Leadership Coach and Strategy Expert with more than 20 years CFO level experience working for top world class Fortune 500 and Private Equity owned companies in Asia Pacific, Middle East, Europe and United States. He is the Founder and President of MECA CFO Alliance where he leads the CFO Academy with an entire focus on leadership development and career growth among the senior Finance community.

5 Mindset Shifts to Become a CFO

In the Finance profession for a long time, having a professional accountancy qualification was considered reasonably adequate to take you through your entire career. If you were a qualified chartered accountant, for example, a bright finance career was assured. Today, these credentials are only an entry ticket into the profession.

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The career journey for most finance professionals is split into two distinct parts. The first half, comprising of early to mid-career is usually easier and smoother with faster learning and growth. The technical knowledge gained during the accountancy qualification period and some managerial talent matters a lot.

The second half comprised of mid to late career, however, is complicated and narrow. Growth opportunities are few with tough competition. Learning path for further development is unclear and not structured.

Technical knowledge remains important but what really matters for further growth is leadership talent and strategic mindset. Unfortunately, no formal training is usually provided in these areas. As a result, no wonder, most finance professionals struggle and get stuck in their mid-careers.

The accounting mind that we develop during the early part of the career does help to grow our accounting career to a certain level. But the same quality that helps us grow initially becomes a handicap to grow beyond mid-career if we do not integrate it with the necessary leadership talent and strategic mindset.

Transitioning from an accountant to a business leader requires some heavy lifting. First of all, realize that it does not happen on an auto pilot. You must plan and make conscious efforts to learn and practice leadership skills and develop strategic thinking.

The most important thing to start with is creating right mindsets. Here are 5 leadership mindset shifts that mid-career finance professionals must make for a faster progress during the second half of their careers:

1. From Managing Financials to Managing Value:

You must develop a big picture mindset and deeply understand the value creation model of your business. It’s not about shareholders value only. In today’s high performance businesses most value is created by customers, employees, technology, leadership and culture. These value creating assets are even not recorded in financial system. Demonstrate your understanding and recognition by creating KPIs and scorecards to measure the financial and non-financial value created in your business.

2. From Controlling to Supporting:

Why do we have brakes in the car? Most people would say to stop the car. That’s a wrong mindset. We have brakes in the car so we can drive the car faster. It’s a supporting device, not a controlling device.

Similarly, in businesses we have controls to support the business performance and avoid or minimize damage. The role of finance is to maintain the brakes (controls) in superb condition and apply when required. Develop a supportive mindset and become a business partner.

3. From Teaching to Learning:

Steven Covey in his remarkable book ‘7 Habit of Highly Effective People’ said, “First seek to understand, then to be understood”. Learn the habit of understanding the business situation first before applying prohibiting rules and policies. Develop the necessary business acumen and put yourself into the shoes of your non-finance business partners to understand their perspective. Try to learn more than teach.

4. From Working Hard to Creating Value:

Working hard at your job does not count. What really counts is the value you create for your business. Develop an entrepreneurial thinking and focus to create massive value for your business. Rather than working alone in silos, identify and create projects to work together with your non-finance business partners. Become a go-to person for creating solutions across the organization.

5. From Living in Your Job to Focusing on Your Career:

Nobody cares if you are living your life in your job. You need to create a balance with other life priorities. Career is permanent, job is temporary. Create a life-long vision of your career. Set a 10 year goal and work it backward into 5, 3 and 1 year goals. Learn and practice necessary leadership competencies required to achieve your career goals. Average work tenures are shortening. Manage strong ties with your external professional network. Keep ready for your next role that can be internal or external.

Confident Senior Businessman

Developing the right mindset is just the beginning of your leadership development journey for a CFO role. The overall CFO Leadership Competency Model involves 10 leadership competencies that require formal training and vigorous practicing.

It’s easier to transform from an ‘Accountant’ to becoming a ‘Business Finance Leader’ within a short period if you follow structured guidance. The 12-week ‘Becoming CFO’ Coaching Program at MECA CFO Academy is developed with practical tips, tools, strategies and tactics that you can easily follow and implement immediately to transform yourself into a CFO leadership profile. You can find out more details here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Saleem Sufi is a CFO Leadership Expert and Coach with more than 18 years CFO level experience working for top world class Fortune 500 and Private Equity owned companies in Asia Pacific, Middle East, Europe and United States. He is also the Founder of MECA CFO Alliance where he leads the CFO Academy with an entire focus on leadership development and career growth among the senior Finance community.

What Did I Learn at Harvard…

I thought I knew everything about Strategy until I returned to Harvard Business School recently for an advanced strategy program. Wow… What a great insight.

Here are my 7 takeaways…

Harvard class

My 1st Takeaway – People:

It’s not about technology, it’s not about brand, and it’s not about products; it’s all about people. Companies are learning it fast. If you are an average performer, your days are counted. Get ready for a talent war ahead of you.

Multi-ethnic Casual People Holding Digital Tablets

My 2nd Takeaway – Customers:

In today’s world you do not sell products or services to your customers; you sell relationship. Infosys recently implemented a ‘Relationship Balanced Scorecard’ for their worldwide operations. Relationship is driven by your right brain; forget all the logic and serve your customers from your heart.

Hidden Relationship

My 3rd Takeaway – Goals:

If you are accomplishing all of your goals easily, you have set the bar too low. To reach your full potential, you must set the goals stretched enough to miss about 15-20%.

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My 4th Takeaway – Culture:

Culture is a real competitive advantage. Great cultures are created by great leaders and nurtured over a long period of time. Think of Apple, Google, Amazon and GE; is it possible to copy their cultures? In a strong culture you tend to lose your individuality and the culture becomes your identity. What culture you are in?

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My 5th Takeaway – Strategy:

Strategy is not a choice anymore; the game is only going to get tougher. The businesses who think they do not need a formal strategy are living in fools’ paradise. A perfect storm of change (how we run businesses) is coming up and many companies that are not prepared will be completely wiped out. How prepared you are?

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My 6th Takeaway – Employees:

Employee engagement is not enough; employee enablement is the key. If you hire the best talent but do not enable them to perform, you set them for failure. Remember the four keys to enablement; (1) Simplified work processes, (2) Skills alignment with work demands, (3) Reward system, and (4) Work-life integration.

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My 7th Takeaway – Work-life balance

It’s not about work-life balance; it’s about work-life integration. The new reality for business leaders is 24/7 working hours. Adjust your pace and rhythm. Life is not a sprint race; it’s a marathon. Stop living in compartments; you have only one life and it’s short.

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What do you think? Leave me a comment or question. – Saleem Sufi

What To Do When You Are Stuck in Mid-Career Crises

If you are one of those workaholics who live in their jobs day-in and day-out and never find time to develop themselves or broaden their perspectives, you probably know what mid-career crises are. Your tight hold on your job and long crazy hours might have paid off well in the early part of your career but now right in the middle of your career you feel stuck and somewhat paralyzed.

Marshall Goldsmith, a well known career and leadership expert wrote a book titled as ‘What Got You Here Won’t Get You There’. In this bestseller publication Goldsmith explains why many of our ‘good’ habits that help us get through the early part of our career may prohibit us moving into the C-Level suite.

The career journey from mid to the top is quite different and requires a different path and strategy. It’s not about the depth of your technical knowledge or putting in extra long hours. It’s all about your leadership style and how you create your image and influence across your entire organization.

Leadership development is a difficult process. Despite decades of research and tons of literature available there is no single model that can guarantee creating good leaders. The best learning models are probably those based on personal coaching, mentoring and following a role model in addition to a personal commitment and dedication of time, energy and focus.

If you feel stuck in the middle of your career, try the following five approaches:


What Amazed me About my Harvard Experience…

Thinking-vector

 

Many people think they can learn by reading or watching. They have no idea how much they miss by not being part of an interactive learning experience. The advanced strategy program I attended recently at Harvard made me realize something amazing.

By interacting for 6 days with an intelligent group of 60+ senior business executives with diverse background and having no day-to-day or any fire-fighting issues on my mind, I noticed my brain started functioning at a different level.

Harvard is famous for case study method. During six days we discussed and analyzed many amazing success stories from the top world class companies. The discussion and debates were guided and facilitated by the two legendary strategy professors, Dr. Kaplan and Dr. Simons.

What did I learn at Harvard….

I thought I knew everything about Strategy until I returned to Harvard Business School recently for an advanced strategy program. Wow… What a great insight.
Here are my 7 takeaways…

What did I learn at Harvard ………………………. My 1st takeaway

People:
It’s not about technology, it’s not about brand, and it’s not about products; it’s all about people. Companies are learning it fast. If you are an average performer, your days are counted. Get ready for a talent war ahead of you.

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What did I learn at Harvard ………………………. My 2nd takeaway

Customers:
In today’s world you do not sell products or services to your customers; you sell relationship. Infosys recently implemented a ‘Relationship Balanced Scorecard’ for their worldwide operations. Relationship is driven by your right brain; forget all the logic and serve your customers from your heart.

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What did I learn at Harvard ………………………. My 3rd takeaway

Goals:
If you are accomplishing all of your goals easily, you have set the bar too low. To reach your full potential, you must set the goals stretched enough to miss about 15-20%.

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