As a young professional, entering the workforce is an exciting experience full of opportunity and endless learning potential. However, amid the hubbub of landing your first job, it is important to not only think about the new role, but also the long-term career journey you are about to embark on. Your first role, and every single position that follows, will ultimately shape your professional brand. While considering the bigger picture when making career decisions can be a challenge, it is crucial for long-term success.
Back in March 2018, long-standing Boston Chapter Steering Committee members, Joe Falcao and Sean Bridgeo, gave a virtual fireside chat about the importance of effective CFO career management.
They cover four important considerations, which are:
Tip #1: Build your brand during the early years
The first five years are critical to your career journey. It’s the time where you set the tone for the future and should push outside your comfort zone. Constant self-reflection is important to figure out how you work and what you want your career to look like today, and in the future. Identify what energizes and excites you in order to select the career opportunities that are best suited for your personality. Plug into what makes you tick to create a consistent message and you’ll be well on your way to building a strong professional brand that potential employers will admire.
Insider tip: consider accepting a first job with an anchor company that is well established in the marketplace to create an even more solid foundation for the future
Tip #2: Recognize whether it’s comfort zone and complacency or still the right role
Growing up means more responsibility and with that comes the need for stability. Having a mortgage, life expenses and loved ones to provide for can make you feel resistant to taking a risk, liking accepting a new job. While it’s important to make smart, calculated decisions during this stage of life, don’t let it be an excuse for becoming stagnant. Ask yourself: is my skill set being utilized in my current role, am I growing, do I feel challenged? If the answers are no that means it’s time to make a change. However, it doesn’t give you the green light to make a rash choice. Consider what you need out of your next position. Identify what’s important in your current stage of life (things like commute, working hours, travel, etc. can be deal breakers) and how you will maintain balance. Then seek out a role that aligns with those needs.
Insider tip: the occasional lateral move is acceptable if it’s in the interest of letting go of short-term gain in exchange for long-term growth and higher earning potential.
Tip #3: Do your due diligence before accepting a new job
Consider a job interview like being in the living room of someone’s home. It’s often the best place to be because it’s clean and welcoming, but sometimes appearances can be deceiving. That’s why it’s so important to do your research. Get curious and ask a lot of questions. Inquire about the management team as a whole, not just the CEO. Take note of the office atmosphere, the dress code, the interactions between employees, the friendliness of the staff, and anything else that might provide insight into the company culture. Does the vibe match your professional brand or does it feel off? Also, don’t be afraid to ask some tough questions. Get curious about why they are looking for a new CFO, what is happening with the incumbent and how the management team works with another. Last but not least, lean on your network to dig into the company even more. Connecting with trusted mentors and confidants may provide you with even more honest insight. After being diligent, trust your gut. If you receive an offer and let it sit unanswered for days that might be a sign that this particular opportunity isn’t the right one for you.
Insider tip: do the bathroom test. You heard that right—an office’s restroom can be a good indicator of its values. Is the space well kept, are the fine details paid attention to, is the staff friendly or are they aloof? All of these things might help discern whether a company is thriving or treading water.
Tip #4: Recognize whether it’s a dream or a nightmare… and either way, push ahead
So you’ve worked hard to build your brand, always stay challenged and due the research. Yet, you’re still new to a role and red flags are already flying. While you may have made a mistake, stay calm. A bad career jump is not the end of the world. What’s important is to identify your trigger points (bad management, employee-relation frustrations, unmet promises, etc.) and decide whether your expectations will ever be met. If you’re convinced things won’t get better, start working your network to identify new opportunities, but do not quit. Unless there is an ethical issue at play, stay engaged while silently on the hunt for a better fit.
Insider tip: Identifying the specifics of what didn’t work at a nightmare job is crucial to not making the same mistake twice. While one short-term stay with a company won’t hurt your professional brand, being a chronic job jumper will.
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