Career Opportunities

Finance executives are choosing sides on whether they've been helped or hurt by the economic crisis.


As CFO went to press, the Labor Department released some bleak news about the job market: at the current rate of expansion, U.S. employment won't return to its prerecession level until 2016.

That's right, an 86-month slog back to the old normal, and that doesn't account for a projected increase in the working-age population over that seven-year-plus stretch.

We mention this because it provides some necessary context for our annual assessment of CFO careers. While senior-level finance talent remains in high demand, CFOs aren't wholly unaffected by the current climate.

When we surveyed finance executives across the country in September (see the full results here), we found that nearly one-third see a personal bright spot in the recession, in that they believe the financial crisis has enhanced their employment prospects by highlighting their contributions to the company, and by allowing them to further hone their finance chops.

But a slightly higher percentage believe the recession has hurt them, by creating fewer opportunities for advancement. And nearly 10% believe it has hurt them by forcing them to grind away on cost-cutting and other core finance duties to the detriment of their overall professional development.

It's entirely possible, of course, that a CFO could feel that the recession has both helped and hurt: it has shone a spotlight on finance as never before, yet it provides finance chiefs little chance — in the short term, anyway — to leverage that hard-won glory.

Longer term, however, the outlook seems undeniably positive, particularly for those CFOs who know how to turn crisis into opportunity. As Alix Stuart reports in "Are You 'Strategic'?", the elevation of the CFO to corporate strategist, a goal that always seems a day away, may truly be upon us — boosted in no small part by CEOs, who are increasingly eager to work with CFOs who can function as true partners.

So take heart, CFOs: your stock may be rising even faster than the Dow.


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