|Net Gain Business Consultants
Jason S. Giaimo: Interim Controller & Accounting Project Specialist
|· Interim Controller, CFO, Accountant · 1 to 12+ month projects · Part-time or Full-Time
· Forecasting, Planning, Analysis (FP&A) · Restructuring · Accounting Clean-ups, Budgeting
· Financial Modeling Accounting · A/R, A/P, Fixed Assets, GL · Bank & Account Reconciliation
· Cash Management, Banking, Collection · Technology / Start-up specialist · Accounting System Conversions
|The Plan & The Game
Career Advice to the Intern & New Graduate
-by Jason S. Giaimo
As published in the Alaska Journal of Commerce (01/06/02), and by the Institute of
Management Accountants (12/2002)
Tip #1: “Don’t spill hot coffee in the CFO’s lap.” OK, so some things just don’t need to be
said -- but others are not quite as obvious. Have you ever looked at your old resumes and
thought…”no wonder I didn’t get the interview!” I think by now I have read just about every
“career guide” type book on the market, and I know that I have made many, many mistakes
over the years (yes, including spilling coffee on the CFO!). I thought it might be helpful &
fun to put the two together and pass along a few insights to new graduates & job seekers.
Here are some excerpts from a presentation that I made to the UAA Accounting Club
entitled,“The Plan & the Game.”
Step One: The Plan
Decide what you want, and how much you will give up to get it
This is without question the most important and most difficult of all the points listed here.
Do you want to be the CFO of General Motors, or Financial Controller of Microsoft - or
would you be happy with being a staff employee in a local firm? Do you want to make
$250,000/yr or $60,000/yr (a much more complex question than it seems)? If you are
married, be sure to incorporate your spouse’s goals and “sacrifice tolerance” into your plan
as well. Statistically speaking, a stable, happy marriage is a key factor in your business
success – and besides, you can’t focus on your career when your spouse has thrown your
clothes out on the lawn anyway! Since you have read this far (and since you read the
Journal of Commerce), I will assume you are interested in pursuing the executive tract.
The Virtual Mentor Matrix
Objectively analyze characteristics of others who are where you want to be. If you want to
be a top executive, do your own study of what top executives in your chosen field have in
common (this information is often located in the “Management Team” or “Investor
Information” hotlink on the company’s website), including education, certifications and of
course, salary. Create a spreadsheet matrix of at least 20 successful executives in your
field, and see if there are any common attributes amongst them (there are).
Get a Plan
Where will you go without a plan? Not very far. Think out a 3, 5, and 10 year strategy to
get to where you want to go (you can always change it). Your exact path depends on your
own particular goals and situation, so think it through, write it down, and be selective with
whom you share it. Human nature being what it is, some people will view your success in
direct relation to their own progression (or lack of). Don’t be surprised if not everyone you
share your plan with is supportive! If people start saying that your plans are crazy & you
can’t possibly achieve them – you’re probably on the right tract.
Step Two: The Game
Get a Mentor: Get at least one mentor who is already in the game, and seek as much
advice from them as possible – two or three mentors are better. When I look back on the
resumes that I did when I first graduated - it is very clear to me why my resumes probably
ended up at the bottom of the HR lady’s parakeet cage. If you interview with a temp
agency, remember that they don’t get paid until you do. Since agencies typically get a 40%
cut of your salary – they are often a highly motivated source for good resume and
interviewing advice. Be careful though, because sometimes these guys don’t have a clue,
so ensure the person you are working with has been in the game for a few years. How do
you get a mentor? If you are in a finance-oriented profession, one of the best ways is to
join a professional association like the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA).
Dress the Part: Think about how much you have spent on your education...now think about
how much you have spent on your business wardrobe! Or to put it another way, spend at
least the same amount on business clothing as you spent on beer your Freshman year.
Forget what the HR department says about their “open dress code policy” -- in most cases
dressing like your boss is the best bet.
Deliver More than Planned: This takes some discipline, but is very effective. When you
think you can finish the report by Friday - always tell the boss you can finish by Monday.
This way you will deliver more than expected, and if your report crashes...you have the
weekend to fix it! Try to add some buffer time to all self imposed deadlines - then beat
Ditch the Soggy Sandwich & “Do Lunch:” Lunch is not just for eating, so DON’T huddle in
solitude at your desk each day with your soggy sandwich! Schedule at least two lunches
with colleagues per week. This networking is essential to your personal success, and it
makes for a more enjoyable work environment besides. Every lunch that you eat at your
desk is a lost opportunity.
Keep up with industry publications & news: Learn the buzz-words of people in the know, it
will keep both your vocabulary and mindset in sink with top management.
Get all recommendations in writing: Phone numbers quickly become out of date, and old
bosses who loved your work can be hard to locate for references when they take that new
job in Taipei.
Close the Open Book & Observe Details Everywhere: Be keenly observant of body
language, especially your own. Are you telegraphing information that you do not want
shared? Trust me, you are. Never look around (or especially at your watch!) when
another is talking to you, even if they could put an insomniac into deep REM sleep. It says
to them, “you bore me.” I’ve seen people actually start snoring during corporate meetings
– hardly a career booster! Train your eye to notice minute details of human behavior...with
a keen eye you can almost read minds.
“Yourself, Inc.” Think of yourself as your own company, and don’t be totally dependent on
your employer; financially or emotionally. If you start introducing yourself at parties as
“Betty with KPMG” you know you have a problem. Remember, talent does not guarantee
employment, and “job security” is a concept from the “Father Knows Best generation.” I
have a friend who won an international award for her company, and was “down-sized” two
months later. Do your best - but keep your skills marketable.
Be Nice to the Cook: Treat all people you meet with dignity and respect (primarily because
it is the right thing to do). Need another reason? I was once introduced to, and later
interviewed by the VP of Global Operations of a Fortune 500 company by the short-order
cook at a corner diner! You just never know. Oh yes, one more thing…DON’T SPILL HOT
COFFEE ON THE CFO! Good luck.
Jason S. Giaimo is an Interim Controller, Freelance Accounting Consultant and
President of Net Gain Business Consultants. He can be reached at (415)722-9674 or
by E-mail at: email@example.com