When and why an Accountant should consider a role outside of Finance
You’re a qualified accountant, and you’ve worked hard to get to where you are now. You’ve demonstrated good linear progression, strong leadership potential and are slowly, but surely, building up a portfolio of skills across the finance spectrum. “I’d like you to consider something a little out of the ordinary.”
There’s a maternity leave coming up on the Business Development team, and your CFO has suggested that you might take a secondment into this area for 6 months, or so. It’s likely your first thoughts are somewhere between feeling flattered and intrigued, and wondering, with a little fear, what on earth you know about real-life business development. “Sales, right?”
At a high-level, it’s not such a weird connection. If you work in a commercial business, you’ll interact with your colleagues in sales regularly. You might even support them directly, as an integrated business partner. But, taking all that to one side, you’re not a business developer, or sales professional, you’re an accountant, surely.
This example above is purely hypothetical, but we all recognise the conversation. At any point, you could be approached with an opportunity to become involved in something out of the ordinary: to lead a strategic project, build a new team or provide outside expertise to a struggling division.
However, one critical consideration you will have to make quickly is what the effects of that decision would be on your career. What would a move outside of finance say about you as a finance professional? If you’re looking for a new job, how will you explain a 6-month, or longer, move on your CV to a non-finance appointment? Will it go against you? Will it set you back a few rungs on the career ladder you’ve been so carefully, and strategically, climbing?
No. And here’s why it won’t.
Learning anything new keeps you sharp, motivated and on top of your game.
Especially if it’s a totally new skill set. Leverage those opportunities to work on the front-line of the company, even if it seems initially daunting. Being launched into the deep end with high expectations will spur you on like never before. It’ll also earn you recognition by people that previously may have never even heard your name.
Working “in” the business you partner with will help you build stronger relationships
Understanding the priorities and challenges first hand, and as part of a unified team, will not only strengthen your commercial acumen, it’ll earn you solid friendships too. Not to mention sharpen your appreciation of key business drivers.
It’ll challenge your own view of the world
You may think you’re open minded, but working with non-finance stakeholders will provide you with a more balanced view and alternative methodologies to achieving similar strategic objectives.
You’ll be closer to the customer, which will enable you to feed back more meaningful insight to the leadership team
Whether its sales, product development, strategy, innovation or supply chain, the likelihood is you’ll have direct customer interaction, outside of the finance context. Not only is this a super relationship building opportunity, it’s a chance to identify business pain points for correction.
Critically, most CFOs have spent a number of years outside of finance, to build examples of where they have added value by leading wider business strategies. Just how international experience is a pre-requisite for a CFO, so is a track record of driving change outside of finance and a solid knowledge of business operations.
Consider all those projects, secondments and moves that would take you away from your “day” job, as opportunities to grasp in order to build your career portfolio. What will make you stand out 6-months, 3 years or even 10 years down the line is the ability to connect the dots between various points of interest in your career. And these dots need to scatter and intersect different professions – throughout the organisational value chain – in order for you to be considered a well-rounded and capable leader.
It’s not all about linear progression.
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