Specialization in any field has long been seen as a good thing because employees can develop their skills to a high degree and find innovative solutions to their employer’s needs. The problem with specialization when it comes to career advancement is that it can lock you in a position. Being a valuable member of a financial team is important, but you also need to be valuable as a manager. In order to move up from accounting clerk or financial analyst to CFO, you need to develop more than just your financial analysis skills.
Of course financial analysis skills are important. Good financial analysts are in demand, and companies are asking for professionals who can work analytics, create models and uncover hidden costs or opportunities for profitability. If you have a high degree of analytics skills, you can develop new solutions for your company’s needs and make yourself valuable to your employer. Many financial analysts have become stars in their company for uncovering hidden profitability and developing innovative models. However, when it comes time to move up from financial analyst to financial manager, you could be passed over for a promotion because you haven’t proven that you have other skills.
In order to be an effective financial manager, you need proven business skills like leadership and communication. You need to be able to effectively communicate about more than just financial matters with people in marketing, research, IT and other departments. Financial management isn’t just about accounting or internal audits. As a financial manager, you will have to work with business professionals of many different disciplines to find solutions to their needs and provide them with the best tools to do their jobs well.
Financial managers also need to be able to see past the models and metrics and understand what drives business. It’s not enough to create a model for the marketing department that helps them negotiate prices and payment terms with clients. You need to be able to understand how your company as a whole works in order to become a successful financial manager and possibly CFO.
In order to develop your business skills, you should look for opportunities in professional development outside financial skills. Your company may offer leadership training or management seminars, or you can find outside training in these skills from business organizations or even colleges. When searching for financial professional development such as seminars or conferences, see if there are special programs for financial professionals that focus on business skills like leadership or management.