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Corporate Finance:
Skills and Talents

Different jobs and companies call on different skills from the corporate finance professional. A typical job in corporate finance would call for the following skills:

Puzzle-lovers Wanted
Most corporate finance jobs involve solving problems using a combination of intuition and analytics. If you are good at problem-solving, this may well be the job area for you.

Are You a Forrest Gump Type?
Many of us imagine working in a corporation as a boring, routine experience designed for dim-witted, persnickety pencil-pushers in short-sleeved pastel plaid shirts. Not so pal. Rather, you need to be comfortable with ambiguity and a rapidly shifting environment where tasks change from day to day, maybe hour to hour.

Geek of the Week? Not Really, But...
Lets not avoid the obvious. In corporate finance you have to be computer literate with spreadsheets, word processors, presentation packages and large-scale data management tools. This is especially true for entry level positions where you will need to crunch numbers as you get involved in the details of corporate financial planning, accounting and capital-raising.
Execs love to talk about strategy, quality and vision. Funny, but when they interview you, expect to be asked "Have you ever written a VBA macro in Excel?" or "Have you used a Reuters or Bloomberg station before?"

Are You An Impatient, Entrepreneurial Type?
One of the most common complaints among new entrants in corporate finance jobs is that they are surprised by the low level of the work. "I didn't go to school to do this..." is a common refrain. Keep in mind that corporate environments reward longevity and loyalty. Be patient, learn from mentors and invest in yourself along the way. If you complain early on you may never get the break you want that comes from doing a minor task particularly well.

Why Do Nice People Get the Good Jobs?
The movies portray "killer" operators in corporate environments, getting ahead by manipulation and chicanery. This isn't exactly how it works. People who like people, can communicate their ideas, build deep networks and are passionate about their work get ahead.

Leader or Follower?
The number one attribute most corporate employers are looking for is initiative. If you can give examples in interviews of situations where you did something plain useful even though no one asked you to, you will be a hot commodity. Have you ever started a business? Or put together a social event that brought people together? Or started a new organization?

Speak a Foreign Language?
Large corporations in the U.S., Europe and Asia are more globalized than ever and jobs will often take you across borders. You will obviously be more desirable to a company if you have a command of at least one foreign language and knowledge of international corporate finance. Would you be comfortable managing a bank relationship for your company in Argentina? Or costing new plants in China?

Risky Business
The last decade has seen a dramatic increase in the sophistication of corporate risk management strategies. How are we going to hedge against fluctuations in the cost of our inputs? And what should we do to protect against foreign currency fluctuations? If you are familiar with models, techniques and derivatives which can be used to manage risk, you will be in high demand.

Did You Ever Build Something?
Manufacturing firms often hire corporate finance types with a background in engineering. Ford, for example, wants people in the factory who can understand complex manufacturing processes, communicate well with engineers and enjoy complex costing work. Jerome York, the former Chrysler CFO, did a stint running Dodge, and once worked designing engine parts for GM.

How Are You With People?
The best financial professionals are good with people. According to Fortune, (11/18/95): "Their biggest weakness is a lack of people skills," says John Dasburg, CEO of Northwest Airlines. "Finance types are often curt and colorless. By contrast, the best CFOs are master persuaders with a streak of the sales person. They read people as surely as balance sheets."

"A holding company is a thing where you hand an accomplice the goods while the policeman searches you."

Will Rogers

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