Considering the transition to finance consulting?
Find out if the interim lifestyle is right for you and how Clarity Recruitment can help you make your career switch.
We get a lot of questions from finance and accounting professionals who are considering leaving full-time roles in order to become finance consultants or fractional CFOs. Often they’re not sure if it’s the right career move and don’t know where to start. To provide some insight, our Senior Engagement Manager, Sindhu Suppiah, recently sat down with Jacqueline Foley, an Executive Brand Coach, to talk about the transition and what to expect. In this video, we discuss everything from what to consider before making the switch, to preparing for consulting interviews, and how to create long-lasting relationships to propel your finance consulting career forward.
Prefer to read than watch? Here’s the transcript:
Sindhu: We get a lot of questions from people interested in becoming a full-time consultant, but aren’t sure if it’s the right next step. As a career consultant, what advice do you give to people as they think through their journey?
Jacqueline: When clients are considering a career change, the first thing I help them do is to take a step back so they can connect with what they “really” want for themselves. Most of us spend a good part of our career reacting to opportunities instead of planning out where we will be most successful and fulfilled. Yet we know that people are happiest in roles where they can align their purpose and the unique value they bring to the work they’re doing. So, you need to get clear about these things first and then ask yourself if being an interim consultant will be a good fit with what you want.
“People are happiest in roles where they can align their purpose and the unique value they bring to the work they’re doing. So, you need to get clear about these things first and then ask yourself if being an interim consultant will be a good fit with what you want“
Sindhu: What should people be asking themselves when considering a career shift like this, and how do you figure out the right timing?
Jacqueline: If you have always worked in a company, the transition to financial consulting can be a significant shift. You are essentially viewed as an “outsider” who is expected to provide sage counsel and get great results relatively quickly. In my experience there are three key things you need to do this well –
- One is being a self-starter. Once you are clear about the parameters of the work you will be doing, you will be expected to come up with a plan and execute on it successfully. The buck stops with you.
- The second one is being really good with people. You will need to build trust quickly and successfully manage up and down to ensure you achieve your goals.
- Finally, you need to be confident in your abilities. You will be tasked with making the strategic recommendations and difficult decisions necessary to get the desired result. You are the expert that the company is looking to to solve their problems.
Sindhu: Yes! If you’ve always worked in a company, making the move to financial consulting can be a significant shift. And so can working within a large organization and shifting to a startup environment. Often, they don’t have the systems in place like larger companies do, and that’s why they need interim help.
We see finance and accounting consultants coming into their careers from several points of entry. There are those coming out of a practice firm looking for interim work. Then, there are people who have enjoyed specific types of projects that they want to focus on. Then, of course, we see more senior professionals looking for an interim lifestyle. We also work with a lot of people who look to consultancy to fulfill a need in their personal lives and the desire to find balance. Often, finance consultants we work with have made certain achievements and are looking to build on that set of accomplishments.
So let’s talk about interviewing… When clients come to us, they’re usually looking for people who know how to solve a problem, but not necessarily be a leader in the organization. It’s very different from a typical interview. It’s important that consultants can articulate what they do. As an executive brand coach, how do you suggest starting this journey? What are mistakes that you see people making?
Jacqueline: The biggest mistake I see candidates making is not being able to provide a compelling story that answers the question: “Why choose you?” This is true for any role you apply to, but particularly for consulting roles. You need to be able to show that you really understand the problems the organization is looking to solve and show your track record of solving these types of problems using concrete examples. Companies also want to work with consultants who they feel they can safely let loose in their organization. So, they will be judging your ability to connect with people, think on your feet and communicate effectively.“The biggest mistake I see candidates making is not being able to provide a compelling story that answers the question: Why choose you?”Sindhu: I see a lot of consultants struggling to build their narrative and tell their story, and they often have trouble condensing it into a 5-minute elevator pitch to impress the client. Do you have any advice?
Jacqueline: Before you even think about an elevator pitch you’ve got to take a step back and consider what success looks like in an interview. It’s you positioning yourself as “the” best solution for the role.
How do you do this? First, you want to make sure you are clear about the company’s needs and the context for the role. Then you will want to come up with three key messages or themes that you want to drive home throughout the interview. These include: what is the unique approach/perspective you bring and what are the one or two superpowers you have to offer. You will also need a handful of really impactful stories to share in the interview – proof points that illustrate your track record of solving similar problems in the past. Lastly, you need to practice your pitch out loud! Know your narrative inside and out so you can maintain control over the interview.
Sindhu: These are all great points. One of the benefits of working with Clarity is the support we provide in helping you do these things. Here’s how Clarity helps:
- We help you to identify your most marketable skills
- Once you are in front of a client, we help to ensure your interview is successful
- Most importantly, we support in marketing you to our clients and enhancing the networking process. This allows you to focus on your projects while we do the networking.
For those who are still undecided about making the transition to financial consulting, what advice would you give?
Jacqueline: I would say: talk to other consultants who are already doing this and find out what a typical day/week/month looks like. And then ask them what they love about being a consultant and what they hate. What traits and skills they think are needed most to be successful. And then ask yourself, does this excite you? If not, this probably isn’t for you.
Sindhu: This is a conversation that we have with a lot of candidates thinking about the transition to finance consulting. We work with high-growth startups and scale-ups going through several events. This includes things like IPOs and RTOs, systems upgrades, and revamping accounting altogether. They need consultants that can step in and help with a big project and then step out.
We’ve placed numerous fractional CFOs, interim controllers, and ERP systems consultants. They have had experience working on these types of growth projects, and our clients give our consultants rave reviews. The consultants are able to parachute in and address the pain points without disturbing day-to-day operations. Then they train the staff on revamped processes and leave the company in a better position. If you’re interested in learning more, check out the Projects & Interim page on our website. You can also connect with Jacqueline by visiting www.JacquelineFoley.com
Considering becoming a finance or accounting consultant? You don’t have to do it alone! Clarity will connect you with a recruiter who will support you and help prepare you for interviews. We proactively connect our consultants with our clients, commonly placing consultants over and over again. We focus on helping you make connections and build your narrative to create a successful consulting career. Get in touch today to learn more about the transition to financial consulting or register to get our roster. Click HERE to apply now.