View from the board: how to stand out

Most things we want aren’t easy. I want to be the best headhunter of finance
talent in the UK, and I can guarantee that will be hard work to get there.
Gordon Ramsay wants to be (or to stay) the best chef in the UK, and Roger
Federer aims to keep on top not just of his game, but of the game. Very few
people find success easy. They work at it.

The same applies to you. Whatever job you are in, the need to succeed forces
choices upon you. Do you want to work on a series of projects that will move the
business forward, but will also eat into your weekends? Do you want to move into
the ‘disaster’ business unit as part of the turnaround team and give up the next
six months of your life sorting it out?

No one is saying you have to try to give yourself the hardest life possible,
or that it’s impossible to juggle a career and a personal life. However, it is
fair to say that the more ambitious you are, the more of those choices you will
need to make. There will be times when you don’t want to make that commitment,
and so you will look for a slightly less time-consuming role, and there will be
periods where you can really focus on taking on tough projects and making a
success of them as well. The important thing is to make as objective a decision
as you can, to stand by it, and to make the best of it.

You have to remember how businesses and hierarchy work. If you lead the
finance function in a business, you need a number of people around you who can
pick up any project you give them and make it happen. This could have been SOX,
or the SSC, or an integration role. Whatever it is, it’s going to be
time-consuming and hard.

If you are one of those people – the people making it happen – then your
experience, your CV and most importantly, the achievements you are going to
discuss at interview are going to be greater than those of other people. And
that will position you well when it comes to developing your career – both
inside the business you work for and outside.

As I said, my sister ran the marathon. She is not a natural runner. It took
her four solid months of training. There were 34,999 other people like her. They
all gave up a lot to achieve something great. It’s the same with your career at

Mark Freebairn is a partner at Odgers Ray &

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