Accountants, it is said, are never happier than when they are sat in front of a set of ledgers or with an Excel spreadsheet on their laptops. I was one of them up until a year ago, however learning to create macros and manipulate pivot tables always brought me out in a cold sweat. I was happy to leave this to the analysts.
Assuming I haven’t already lost my non-accounting readership from this blog, spreadsheets are the tool of choice for finance people because they reflect our personalities, just like dogs are often thought to resemble their owners. Spreadsheets add and multiply, calculate and re-calculate. They are mechanical, predictable (usually) and can provide very useful but often unintelligible information. As John Cleese might say, spreadsheets are a bit boring.
Accountants do not make good salespersons, at least that’s what most accountants will tell you. I humbly disagree, there are plenty of good marketers in the accountancy and financial worlds. What they really mean is that they are not very good at selling themselves.
As a coach, I meet many finance executives from professional, commercial and not-for-profit backgrounds. Often, they are searching for a new role or planning a career change of some kind or another. Some are approaching the stage now being referred to as “pretirement” – not yet ready to retire but wanting to settle into something worthwhile, perhaps different from what they have done for the whole of their career. I was an accountant for more than thirty years before I took up coaching; I understand this particular itch or urge to pay oneself back for years of selfless devotion to corporations and the suit-and-tie professional world.
Whether you as a finance executive are looking for a new role, same or bigger than before, or want to break off altogether, the answer in both cases is the same. In today’s brand-aware world, the most important brand is you!
Recently I challenged a group of job-seeking CFOs to demonstrate how well they were using LinkedIn to attract the attention of employers and recruiters. The theory goes that in today’s virtual world, the jobs (or at least the people recruiting to them) go out to find you, not the other way round.
Using key word searches revealed some surprising results. Of 12 CFOs who agreed to be tested:
- 6 were identified by a job title search for Finance Director
- Only 1 was identified by a title search for CFO and none at all for Chief Financial Officer
- Just 1 was identified as an Executive in a title search, although all of them have served at executive level
- Out of 8 who market themselves as Interim CFOs, only 2 were identified as Interim in a title search
- Just 3 were identified by a title search for the word Commercial, 1 for Strategic and none at all for Transformation(al)
For key word searches in the general search line, the hit rate was much higher in most cases, but here’s the thing; when employers or recruiters are looking for potentially suitable candidates they are far more likely to use the job title search line than the general search line. The job title search is an indicator of a candidate’s current status, and those who construct their LI profiles with the search market in mind are far more likely to be picked up and contacted than those who don’t.
Agents or recruiting analysts are less likely to use the general search line as this is likely to turn up thousands of candidates, so they will only sift through the first 50 or 100 at most. And guess what? The first batch of candidates will be the same people who have branded themselves well by making sure their latest job titles correctly identify them.
That is how LinkedIn works; you just have to go by the rules. Rocket science, it isn’t.
In an age when so many industries are being disrupted and, we are being told, many professional as well as clerical tasks will be handled by robots within ten years, can any finance executive or career advancing accountant afford to dismiss her or his own brand and indicate that they are not for sale. Now is the time to look critically at your LinkedIn profile and test that it is really working for you. The future belongs to those who attract people towards them, by writing, recording and sharing interesting and potentially valuable information.
LinkedIn is now an indispensable tool for CFOs and accountants, in fact anyone who has a personal brand to promote. And you don’t have to attend an Advanced Excel course to learn how to use it either.
© David Levenson, June 2017
David Levenson is the founder of Coaching Futures. For further information, please contact David: