Skills & Talents
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Facts & Trends
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
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
- 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
- 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."