The point, of course, is that you have to start from where you are at the
time. That doesn’t mean you should forget your destination. When you’re thinking
about your career and your next job, the same is true. Focus on the end goal. It
doesn’t have to include specifics, but it does have to answer certain questions.
Is it a Plc FD role? Is it private equity? Is it to be CEO? Or a NED? The
list goes on.
In fact, it’s as long as the number of roles that finance people can do. The
point, however, is very simple. Once you have worked out the sort of job from
which you would ultimately like to retire, you can work out what skills you need
to accrue in order to get it.
Then you have to think about sector. It can be harder to move across sectors
than it ought to be. So assuming you have worked out you want to be the FD of an
FMCG business, you know you need to work towards that now.
Let me give you an example. You are a reasonably recently qualified
accountant, and you’ve read this article and decided that you want to be a Plc
FD in a media business. This allows you to look at the skillset required and
assess that against your current experience. In no particular order, you would
want to try to combine operational experience with group, and technical
knowledge with commercial acumen. You would want to have some exposure to the
workings of the City, ideally through gaining experience in investor relations,
or potentially through some time spent in the Treasury. You would want to
appreciate the workings of the tax department if you could.
Now, as a reasonably recently qualified accountant, you are unlikely to have
all of that experience. However, once you know what’s needed, you have
effectively created your own career development tick-list. You can then sit down
with your HR or finance sponsors and work through the sort of experience you are
keen to get. If they can offer it, fantastic. If they can’t, then you may have
to become a little more proactive to make it happen.
In broad terms, you spend the first half of your career building, and the
second half consolidating. If you don’t know what you are aiming for, then the
building part can be a little hit and miss. It’s the exact opposite of the joke
I mentioned: you may be starting from the right place, but you’re not even sure
the post office is where you want to be. A little focus. That’s what’s needed.
Mark Freebairn is a partner at Odgers Ray & Berndtson
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