How to Reach the CFO Level

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.

The CFO role is changing and so too is the path one must stride to reach the hallowed halls of the executive team. Financial knowledge is a must and a firm grasp of accounting is expected, however, the pool of possible appointees is flooded with smart, accounting and finance savvy individuals. In today’s market, the CFO hopeful must set his or herself apart with something else that sounds counterintuitive: experiences outside of finance.

Companies are beginning to realize there is potential value to be added in the CFO position. Where companies used to value a CFO that was comfortable controlling finances and working with banks, they now want an officer that acts more like a CEO; taking responsibility for communicating with a plethora of stakeholders, participating in the creation of company strategy and making business decisions based on a knowledge of operations.

For the young analyst looking to move up in a company, this means a few things. First, don’t be afraid to try on several roles during your career; second, find a company you believe in and stick with it; and finally, understand the value you add and work to improve it constantly.

Working in different roles will expose you to elements of the business that can positively impact your ability to make accurate financial evaluations and predictions later in your career. If you know the ins and outs of the factory floor because you spent time managing there you can make more informed decisions about what elements can be made more efficient when you are in a position with more power. If a company is faced with a decision between two candidates, both with equal knowledge and skill in financial and accounting practices, will they choose, the one with experiences in operations and in the field or the one who only has knowledge of the financial life of the company?

In a similar vein, having intimate knowledge of many elements of a business requires time. A crash course or a single tour through production facilities will not give anyone a real sense of the minutia of the production process. And that kind of knowledge can mean the difference between profit and loss in a tight year. So, companies are interested in hiring individuals who have long term experience with their company.

In the fast-paced world we live in, having a team member who has multiple skills and areas of expertise is pivotal. Don’t sell yourself short! If you know you can be an asset to the team, speak up. Catalogue your experiences and present them in terms of the value each adds to your total worth. Executive teams want confident, skilled individuals who are willing and able to tackle tough problems, sometimes even on their own. That ability to execute is predicated on a confidence built through experience. Start building that confidence today and you may be sitting in the CFO seat soon enough.

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