Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Switching Jobs Before You Become a CMA

In one of my previous job positions part of my responsibilities were to interview and hire staff for my finance team (in a large Canadian Organization). Through that experience I have learned a lot about the hiring process, what having a designation can mean, and how to leverage it. I wanted to share a few tips/notes that I have picked up through my experience so that it may help you in your job search (I will be adding more job related posts from time to time if there is interest in them):

Applying for a new job while still a CMA student:
Some people do not apply to jobs requiring a CMA/CA/CGA designation because they are still students of these associations and have not yet attained the designation itself. In reality, I found that even though an employer may state that a designation is required, they may consider a strong candidate if they are not yet designated but are instead in the process of obtaining the designation. Do do not shy away from a role that you feel is a good fit for you, just because it asks for a designation.

What to write in you resume:
Even if you have not yet obtained a designation, make sure to include in your resume (as a focal point!) that you are in the process of obtaining the designation. Include the estimated date of when you expect to become a CMA. I found this to be a strong statement about a candidate and even as a student, it may help you stand out and will speak a lot about your character and ambitions.  

However, do not just simply write CMA if you have not yet obtained the designation. This is misleading and if I would have invited someone for an interview and they would then 'clarify' that they are still a student, it would be a deal breaker for me.

In the interview they will likely ask you to describe examples for various scenarios/situations or to give example of when and how you have used certain concepts or tools. If they ask you to talk about your experience with a tool/concept that you have not used at work but came across in the CMA process, it can be helpful to draw on that and use that as your example (i.e. if you are asked about your experience analyzing large projects, you can discuss the NPV, cost benefit analysis, etc. that you do regularly for complex business cases as part of your CMA SLP) Real work experience and examples would be better but don't forget that the experience you gain through completing the designation is also valuable.

How Much Money To Ask For
This is the million dollar question. You will be a CMA soon and want to earn a salary as one, but you have to keep in mind that you are still a CMA student, not yet a CMA. In my experience it is important to research the appropriate range of salaries to avoid low balling or over shooting, both of which I found to be huge turn offs from candidates. If I saw a candidate low balling a salary, it made me wonder what was wrong with them. If they were asking for too much, I would think that they are either over qualified or just full of themselves. Either way, there would be no interview. Know your worth, and ask for an appropriate amount. Do not be scared to ask for what you are as long as you are realistic. Just because you obtained or are in the process of obtaining a CMA designation, it does not mean that you can now start applying for Management roles at top salaries - it is generally a combination of your experience with your education.

I hope you find this helpful. Let me know what questions you have and I will reply in the comments or write another post.

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  1. great post. i could use a lot more advice.

    my current position is a billings coordinator. at the moment all i am doing is reconciliations for the past year and invoicing our customers in between. I was wondering if this is a role a CMA candidate should take? My pay is relatively above industry i believe and hard to take a pay cut to go to a another job. But my career aspirations is to be on the financial reporting side or management side. I don't feel like i am using my knowledge of accounting very much.

    My question is, is this job right for me or should i jump ships and take a cut to get more experience?

    1. I think you asnwered your own question when you said that your aspirations are to do something different. I am a strong advocate that we should choose our careers and jobs not just based on pay levels(though that is important too of course, it is just one piece of a big puzzle).

      You didn't mention if you work for a large organization or not. If you are, you may try to find another internal position that is more in line with your career aspirations and to hopefully avoid a paycut (in all the companies that I have worked for, when moving within the company, as long as the job levels are comparable, the pay stayed the same).

      Also keep in mind that you need to have a certain level of experience to obtain the CMA designation. So if you current job does not meet the practical experience, you may have another reason to consider changing jobs.

      Are you sure that for you to take another role it would mean a pay cut? If a company wants you, they may be willing to pay your price.

      I cannot tell you what to do, as there are many personal factors to consider, but here is what I would do if I were in this situation:

      I would start looking for work that is in line with what I want to do, meanwhile asking for a salary that is not lower to what I was already getting. I would then do this for a few months and see what type of response I was getting. I would also talk to some recruiters that I have built relationships with, as they may be able to provide some feedback on whether the salary expectations are reasonable or not.

  2. Thanks CM.

    Yes, my company is a very large and recognized company world wide. I will definitely look for internal positions. Thanks for the quick advice! I will keep this all in mind when looking or seeing where my career lies.

    Do you recommend any recruiters? Like Robert Half? Executrade?

  3. Hi...
    Excellent article! Thanks for the cool and useful tips.
    Interviews are about presenting yourself in a positive and confident manner.

  4. Hi CM,

    I am in IT and I am currently preparing for my CMA case exam. I have managed to get an extension for my practical experience, as I have no accounting work experience at all. I have about 8 years in IT (Web development, Business Analysis & Project Management) & am an engineering graduate. If I start with "introduction to accounting" work, I think my pay-cut will be $20 - $30k, as I will then be a beginner.

    What do you suggest I do?

    Also, your blog is excellent! Thank you very much for writing it.

    1. perhaps you can look for work that can incorporate both of your assets - your accounting as well as your IT/engineering knowledge? I am sure it wont be easy but if you can capitalize on your experience in IT, you may be able to justify a higher salary.


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