Everyday I’m involved in deep conversations with our candidates about their career decisions. It’s difficult to know which path to choose. Which one will take you to where you want to be?
The advice I share differs greatly depending on the unique situation, capability of the candidate and the current position they hold. But something that I tell them all is to focus your career goals to a smaller field so that you’re a specialist in something rather than trying to be a generalist who does everything.
Know Your Specialisation
To make a clear decision on the career path you want to take you should first identify what you’re best at…
- Is it commercial finance?
- Is it group finance?
- It is statutory finance?
By focusing your energy and your talents on one chosen area, you’re more likely to stand out from the pack and be successful at what you do. When your efforts are broad and you try to be good at everything, you miss out on being really good at anything.
When I hear my candidates describe themselves with job titles like Corporate & Operational Finance Manager, I suggest that they look at the two parts of their title as separate roles, and choose one or the other to pursue. The two roles are quite different and should be treated that way. The key is to have true focus, understand who you are, what you do and what you’re good at. Then confidently communicate that in your resume and your next interview.
Are you a Specialist or a Generalist? The top tier companies we work with want specialists – not generalists. By identifying yourself as a specialist in a key function of accounting, you appeal to the best companies, who know exactly what they’re looking for.
In the case of candidates that have chosen a specialisation, such as commercial finance, and are finding it tough to get into a role, don’t give up! Put together a plan of action. Start by discovering what’s needed to get you into your dream role. It might be a gap in skills, experience or capability. Identify this barrier and overcome it through training or finding a job that will bridge the gap.
The Sweet Spot
Once you find a role in your specialised area of finance, you need to make sure you don’t get too comfortable and lose momentum. There’s a tipping point in successful careers and the best people know how to find the sweet spot. To get the best out of yourself and contribute in a powerful and meaningful way, it’s important that you recognise the point when you’ve been in a position too long. We’ve all felt this way at some stage.
It’s widely accepted that in your first year you’re learning and in your second year you’re making a solid contribution. Between 2-3 years in a role you’re still adding value but it’s possible you’re no longer challenged. If this is the case, find a new challenge! This might be a role elsewhere, a promotion, or a lateral shift.
If you’re promoted – fantastic! It tells any potential employers that you fit into a culture, follow direction, have shown leadership—and are good at what you do.
Your Career, Your Choice
Angela Lockwood, author of The Power of Conscious Choice points out that we often try to make our decisions in perfect balance with each other, when what we need to do is shift our thinking to make our decisions in perfect focus.
When looking at the many different finance career options available, be clear on where your talents lie and align them with a particular financial field. Then go for it!
When you’re in the midst of career decision making, reflect on what makes you a prized commodity. What is your accounting specialisation? What is your unfair advantage, or “secret sauce”?
Remember to specialise, not generalise, and continually challenge yourself. This will ensure your career stays on the right path.
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