1. Pick a Career Theme, not a Title:
Fantastic opportunities are “quite random,” according to Usman Rabbani, Director and Technology Operating Lead at KKR Capstone. In light of this, he advises, “don’t manage your career around specific jobs or titles or companies or even sectors, but pick a theme that you care about… and then be very flexible around that theme.”
For Rabbani, that theme is information technology as it relates to business. For Andrew Townend, CFO of PepsiCo Australia & New Zealand, that theme is mobility. Townend chose his first role at PepsiCo “not because of the specific role, but because of the career trajectory that was being positioned for me. It was really about the theme of mobility: global mobility, long-term upward mobility, and functional mobility – the chance to work across the finance function in a range of strategic and operational roles.”
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Be Different:
Rabbani admits it “was kind of weird” to work in a hospital as a software developer while his peers joined Yahoo and Amazon, but it also helped differentiate his resume. His advice: “Don’t be afraid to be different in the choices that you make, especially early in your career when you have the flexibility to take some of those risks.”
3. Ask the Right Questions:
A flexible mindset will expand your opportunity set. Townend believes there are two key questions to ask when an opportunity arises:
– Is this experience going to stretch and develop my skills?
– Is this going to be rewarding in terms of the elements that are important to me as an individual?
4. Let Go of the Idea of a Fixed Path
Townend recommends viewing your career as “a series of differentiated critical experiences.” He adds, “generally I am on a global finance path, and would expect to continue to do CFO roles, but there is not really an ideal or fixed path.”
Vatsa Narasimha, CFO & Chief Strategy Officer of OANDA, would agree. “It’s so difficult to predict anything… How much planning can you really do? Most of my friends have all changed jobs significantly. So all of that leads me to believe that as long as you don’t do things that get you on the cover of the Wall Street Journal for the wrong reasons, you’ll be fine. At least I hope so. Fingers crossed.”