Of course, each sector has its own foibles, and it is essential that anyone
working within the retail sector, for example, appreciates the issues relating
to stock management. There are similar issues with every other sector. However,
one of the many reasons why people stay in finance is because, as a function, it
has relevance to every business. The metrics and KPIs may change, but the way
the numbers are analysed is unlikely to.
But, over the last few years, finance people have started to notice that it’s
becoming harder to move sector at the same time as moving role. Why is this?
Broadly speaking, the past few years (ignoring the past 12 months) have been
poorer than normal in recruitment terms. The number of good candidates has
increased, but the number of roles that people can move into has decreased. As
you all know, when supply outweighs demand, those on the demand side start
asking for more. In this instance, the area of sector fit is in demand, as well
as role suitability.
This is unsurprising. External recruitment is always a risk. No matter how
thorough the process, there is never a guarantee the person selected will be the
right one. One obvious area of risk is cultural or business fit, and
identification with the business model. The easiest way round this is to recruit
someone from a similar business model, and therefore ideally, sector. As a
result, finance people are finding it harder to move sector at the same time as
So, what can you do? Well, there are a number of options. On the basis that
people like recruiting from similar business models, then it is important that
you focus on business sectors that operate in similar ways, or suffer from
similar issues – capital intensive, multi-site, product-led, customer orientated
etc. It is also worth exploring businesses that could learn from the one you are
currently working in: retail banking has recruited a number of people from
retailers, for example.
Thirdly – don’t be too greedy. Of course you want a promotion, an increased
salary, a corner office and a change of sector. But at the moment, this may be a
bit too much to ask for. If the desire to move sector is what is driving you,
then you may need to move sideways in terms of role to achieve it. Don’t lose
sight of the fact that careers are a marathon, not a sprint, and sometimes the
same role in a different sector can be more rewarding than a promotion within an
Mark Freebairn is a partner at Odgers Ray & Berndtson
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