When CFO Stays Longer, What's That Mean for YOUR Career?

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If your employer's chief financial officer sticks around longer than expected, does that help or hurt your accounting career?

Although I'm not a lawyer, in print I normally hew to Rule No. 1 of trial attorneys everywhere: Never ask a question you don't already know the answer to. This time, however, I'm making an exception.

Seeing Robert Half Management Resources' recent flash survey finding that CFOs now estimate average job tenure at three to four years longer than in similar surveys in 2000 and 2006, my initial thought was: That lowers the risk management turnover might threaten the jobs of employees in corporate accounting and other areas that ultimately report to a CFO.

But my second thought was: That reduces advancement opportunities for the level of executives right beneath the CFO ... and by extension, for many, perhaps most, lower-level employees in the department.

Trying to gauge the career impact of possibly lengthened CFO tenure, I'm at a loss to decide which of the two outcomes is more probable or more significant - greater career stability, or a blocked path upward. (As always, comments from eFinancialCareers users are welcome.)

CFOs who answered the recent Robert Half survey estimated average tenure at 12 years. In 2006, the same survey showed an average response of nine years. In 2000, the average was eight years. The telephone survey involved 1,400 respondents from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.

While the main career impact of the difference has me stumped, the cause does not. As Paul McDonald, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources, observes, "The new survey was conducted during a recession, a time when job opportunities are fewer and the risks associated with leaving a position are perceived to be higher."

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