Moshe Kravitz, Director of Financial Planning and Analysis for IDT Corporation, and Argyle’s Frannie Coggeshall discussed necessary skills for today’s job market and the unique demands of the finance space.
[Frannie Coggeshall] You have a passion for helping others hone their job skills. What would you say are the three most important things for a finance executive to do when preparing for a career move?
[Moshe Kravitz] First, you must know what you have to offer. Take inventory to know what skills and what passions you have that will be of value to a potential employer. This has always been true, but it’s even more true today with the amount of competition out there. Then look over those skills and passions and focus on those that differentiate you from myriad other candidates who are also offering value.
Second is to properly identify employers that need the value proposition that you have to offer. I recently saw a response from a potential employer who said, “That’s great, we need you.” This is what you’re aiming for; this is your goal. Target positions at companies that will say about you and your skills, “That’s great, we need you.”
Third is to view the big picture. How would this move position you for pursuing your career goals and life goals? The skills that you’ll gain in this endeavor could help to build a broader, stronger foundation which will help you to achieve your goals.
"You pick out an area which is pervasive, where training could enhance the skills of many employees, and you build momentum with that."
You said to make sure that wherever you are going is along your career path, and even if a job isn’t totally on your path, it will give you the skills you’ll need in the future. How far outside of the spectrum do you think people could go?
Farther than you’d think. Nowadays, people will have not only numerous jobs but numerous careers, so a broad base of skills is likely to be helpful. Be strategic in broadening your skill base. I’ll give you an example. I hired someone for a finance position. This fellow was working on his masters in education, but he was interested in getting some business experience. The skills he gained working in finance he would have never acquired had he stayed strictly on the education track, and they will serve him very well in administrative roles in education. So that sidetrack was a major benefit.
Once an executive is ready to start getting out there and start interviewing, what do you think are the best ways for them to ensure that they target the right company and role to move to?
Let’s start with realizing what does the employer want to know: Can you do the job? Are you eager and enthusiastic about doing it? Are you a good fit for their culture and will they enjoy working with you?
What you want to know is do you have the skills to do what they need done? Will they provide you with the resources and staff to achieve those things that they need done. Will you have the support to enable you to do it? And then, of course, assess the fit and determine how your success will be measured, and if possible, document that. What will be the criteria for measuring success within the first six months, first year or couple of years? What would they like to see accomplished in this role and how will that accomplishment be measured? Are you able and motivated to accomplish those goals?
"You must know what you have to offer. Take inventory to know what skills and what passions you have that will be of value to a potential employer. This has always been true, but it’s even more true today with the amount of competition out there. Then look over those skills and passions and focus on those that differentiate you from a myriad of other candidates who are also offering value."
What do you think is different in the search from finding a great job in the finance space to finding one in another function?
In finance, we’re talking about professionals who need to have a high level of qualifications, which could include: certification requirements, complex technical skills and professional judgment. Sometimes, we’re talking about fiduciaries where the well being of the company is dependent on this person’s skills and judgment. So that puts a big responsibility on the shoulders of this job seeker. The rewards and remuneration can be very high, which drives a lot of competition. And when there’s more competition, it becomes even more important to differentiate yourself and show how you’re going to provide more value and be a better fit, and show greater understanding of the needs of this potential employer than any of the other candidates. Leverage your quantified accomplishments to do this in a compelling manner.
You recently spoke at a CFO forum about talent development. How do you think a talent development program can effectively build into a company’s corporate culture, and who can you call upon to lead these types of initiatives?
Talent development does occur sometimes from the top down, among organizations with very extensive training programs. But I’ll speak about most other companies, which don’t have extensive training, so it is necessary to build talent development into the culture from the ground up. That’s definitely feasible; I’ve seen it done and I’ve done it. When I came in to my present company, we talked about how Excel training would benefit many people because in the finance area because Excel is so pervasive; everybody works in Excel to some degree. We felt that doing some training would enhance the skill level and productivity of our colleagues, so we started small just for the finance units. Then it grew and grew until it went company-wide and we ended up with a whole curriculum for basic Excel, and then developed an advanced curriculum with another round of classes after the first set. Then we did Access training, building on the momentum, and this illustrates the point that I want to make. You pick out an area which is pervasive, where training could enhance the skills of many employees, and you build momentum with that.
Nobody was forced to go to this program, it was totally voluntary. People want to improve their skills and excel in their work and they value the opportunities which help them to do so. To this day, years later, people come to me and say how they benefited from the program. They are able to do stuff that they could have never done without that training. You start like that; you build from the ground up and build momentum.
When it comes to leading this initiative, you need an evangelist, a driver, somebody who has the time and the patience and the passion for improving systems and improving people’s skills, somebody who is savvy and knows how to organize training in a practical and an effective way. Once a different set of courses was offered here, we saw that not all teachers are created equal. For a training program to be successful, the teacher has to be dynamite. The participants sense if they’re getting value and if they’re benefitting from the program or not.
When developing talent, companies try to determine certain skills that they should focus on, but how do you determine what skills and what employees you should focus on to develop?
The skills vary quite a bit depending on what functional area you’re in. Again, with Excel, probably most of the company could benefit and derive a lot of value.
One strategy that is used in deploying predictive analytics is to focus on a process where there are a zillion transactions. Even though the incremental improvement per transaction is very small, that small impact a zillion times adds up to an improvement of sizable magnitude. The same strategy can be used to choose corporate training topics. Seek to improve a skill set or process which is pervasive among many employees.
You can also look within specific functional areas: accounting, audit, and treasury, etc. and look at specific software skills, analytic skills or other business skills and see what would be the impact of an improvement in that area? Look initially for a quick hit, something that would have an impact, and build momentum.
If you have employees performing a certain critical function and you know that improvement there will have a big impact, build on the momentum that’s been generated and provide training in that critical area.
Moshe Kravitz brings 12 years of experience as an educator and 13 years of analytic/finance experience to his coaching practice. His career includes actuarial positions at CNA and Buck Consultants and his current position as Director of Finance at a major telecommunications-energy company. Everywhere he works, Moshe demonstrates a passion for helping others to improve their skills and efficiency. With this passion he helps job seekers to hone their job search skills, enabling them to land offers more quickly and at higher salaries. Connect with Moshe Kravitz: CareerCoach@GoToWorkSoon.com