There can be a few things, but here are two to consider if you are gunning for the top job:

First ☝️

👩‍🦳 Experience – you can’t always rush it, but something must be said about good old-fashioned experience. While we all strive to make data-driven decisions and to have people and processes and tech to support us, there’s still always a place for gut and instant. And the more years you’ve got and the more you’ve seen, the stronger your gut.

What does this mean?

🌏 It means you may have a more rewarding career if you slow down and start focusing on learning. Find jobs that give you the exposure you need. Prioritize the mentorship you’ll have in a role. And then seek chances to stretch.

How is this different?

🏡 Today, the trends we see are a focus on money, where the job is done (hybrid, home, office, downtown, south, north etc.) and work-life balance. The candidates that worry less about compensation in their early days, less about their commute and are willing to put in some overtime can easily stand out. And they may accelerate how quickly they gain experience too.

Second 2️⃣

🌳 Strategy – an executive needs to be a Business Leader first.

Accounting might get you knocking on the top job, but it’s not the primary skill required for the next role.

A CFO has to be focused on the strategy and goals of the organization. This means they want to see the big picture, they want to grow revenue along with profit, they want to be a great place to work and buy from, and they are open-minded to see the expansion, mergers, acquisitions, and new products or services that get them there.

They bring the financial strategy to the executive table.

What does this mean?

Your role will change. You may have brought value as a Finance Leader with stereotypical approaches of a CPA:

👿 Devil’s advocate – the rationale Leader that raises the challenges

💰 Cost focus – the conservative Leader that saves the organization money

📆 Historical – the providing Leader that has the historical data and can leverage it for decision making

🧑‍💼 Accounting & Finance – the Leader of a productive, efficient and trusted department

🎢 Risk – the Leader in risk & governance who sees the downside before others and has the expertise that people rely on

💴 Money – the Leader who knows the numbers and makes their points with financial data

But, now you need to be more and think differently.

How is this different?

🎈 It can be tough to be self-aware that what got you here won’t get you there.

Find roles that let you be part of a strategy team—volunteer for organizations that allow you to expand your expertise and stretch.

Training in strategy, formal courses, books, podcasts and other resources can open your mind and help you see what a Business Leader is.

Again, this may mean short-term sacrifices on where you work (home, office, area of town); compensation or hours could make all the difference compared to your peers.

These two areas are common gaps in candidates with ambition and readiness for CFO.

We hope you can see where you can lean in so you can get the opportunity that you strive for.

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