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Ambition to become CFO? Six steps to take before you turn 30

It is the dream of many young finance professionals: become CFO. The sooner the better. It is therefore important to make the right choices. Of course, there are several roads leading to Rome, or in this case: to the boardroom.

The best route for you depends on your personal situation and preferences. But there are certain steps that will work to your advantage anyway. After all, becoming Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is not something you just do.

1. Get actively involved in your development

The road to the topt will not go without a fight. Make sure that you are actively and consciously engaged in gathering the necessary professional knowledge and experience. It is also important that you profile yourself within your organisation. Clearly list what you want to achieve, how you are going to do that and how you can make the best possible use of your unique talents. Knowing what your added value and areas for improvement are requires self-reflection. Discuss this regularly with your manager or hire a mentor. Discuss your hard skills, your soft skills and where you want to be in five years' time. Set clear goals for yourself. What distinguishes you from others? Ask around about this in your own environment. Dare to step out of your comfort zone. Get to know your weaknesses and how to deal with them. This will speed up your personal and professional development.

2. Distinguish yourself with an advanced training programme

There are many ways to make a good start. After obtaining your Master's degree, it’s a good idea to start in a traineeship. This can be in a Big 4 office or in a multinational. In the first years of your career, it is valuable to follow a postgraduate programme. It distinguishes you from others and provides extra theoretical underpinning for your practical experience.

A post master's programme shows that you are eager to learn and that you are consciously engaged in your personal development. This suits the new generation of CFOs. A nice bonus is that your new title will ensure that your salary will grow considerably.

3. Go the extra mile

In addition to your current tasks and responsibilities, you can profile yourself by proactively taking on projects. But how do you do that? Make sure you are up to date with current developments inside and outside the organisation, both on a local and international level. Show interest in colleagues from other departments. It will amaze you how much relevant information you can gather by doing so. Be critical in the projects you take on; make sure they really add value. Make sure that others also see that you are making those extra miles. Join various committees, talent groups and coach new colleagues. Seize those opportunities.

4. Become the right hand of a CFO

"This probably sounds like a logical step, but strangely enough people often don't think about it. It is an excellent learning experience and a good way to get into the head of a CFO. It will enable you to learn to understand how he thinks and acts and what the impact of decisions is on the organisation. You will also be involved in large projects and gain more knowledge at corporate level in the field of accounting and reporting, enabling you to develop important and valuable skills. You may also be able to experience what kind of CFO you want to be in the future: are you cautious and risk averse or are you looking for innovation? Do you prefer the operational role or a more strategic one? These are valuable insights.

5. Develop a broad palette of finance knowledge

A broad palette of knowledge and experience within finance is crucial. Experience in accounting & reporting, financial and business control, among others, gives you the tools you need to become CFO. Without broad knowledge, it becomes difficult to function as the person ultimately responsible for finance. For example, we regularly come across professionals who have never had accounting experience. That side job as an administrator during your studies is not that crazy!

6. Make sure you have a suitable recruiter in your network

As a young and ambitious financial, you are probably more likely to be approached by recruiters than you would like. But a specialised recruitment consultant with whom you have a real click is an asset to your network. A recruiter knows exactly what is going on in the job market and can give you advice on the best step to take in your situation. It is therefore valuable to occasionally spar with someone like that about your career plans, even if you are not actively looking for a new employer at the time. And the great thing is that with such a personal connection you are immediately top of mind when he or she finds the perfect job for you.

Find out more

Is becoming CFO also your ultimate career goal and would you like to spar about what would be the best route for you to get there? Please contact one of our consultants today. Do you already know what would be a good next step for you? Check out our jobs in finance.

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