Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Is Taking an Administrative Role Career Suicide?

A reader writes:
My current role of accounting supervisor for a smaller company has been restructured and I'm looking at different opportunities. I was contacted by one of the global companies in my area for a position that has piqued my interest. The problem is it might be career suicide. The position is a hybrid of an executive admin and analyst. I think it weighs heavier on the admin side. Aside from it actually sounding interesting to me and paying well, I think it might be a good way to get my foot in the door. I don't know many admins that have turned into CFO's, which is my long-term goal. Any feedback on the possible impact it could have on my career is appreciated.
Before answering I contacted the reader and asked whether the company was in a growing or dying industry

She returned with:
The company has a lot of growth potential, but my concern is that this position might be too far out of the box.
Dear Reader,
Knowing this job is with a growing company, I wouldn't rule out the position. During the interview process ask how visible the position is, whether there will be opportunities to work on special projects and what if any professional development the company offers. Then evaluate whether this position will allow you to gain experience, learn new skills or make valuable contacts. All of the above is more valuable than being unemployed.  If you don't have another supervisory position in the works I'd recommend taking the position.

What do you think? Is taking an administration role career suicide?  Do you know of any CFO's that got their start in administration? 


  1. I think showing competence, initiative, and potential as an administrator can lead to bigger opportunities. My roommate started at Armani last year as an intern. She has been hired full time, promoted twice, and was one of the few people they sent to Milan for fashion week in September- all in one year!

  2. I do not know a single CFO who had a previous position as an admin. That's pretty much your answer. Definitely career suicide in my opinion...unless you are ok with leaving it off your resume altogether (which would be preferable if the reader decides to take the job).

  3. The parameters of your job scream middle management to me which can be a death knell. You're not one of the other. You're expected to be in both camps so to speak. When you are in that area, you can be the one person picked as the first fired when things go wrong. Additionally, I think finding an outsider to decide if the company is at the beginning of an upswing or at the start of a downswing is better than asking a company person who certainly will say upswing. Go with your gut.

  4. I honestly have never heard of someone moving up to a CFO from the admin ranks. However, that doesn't mean it hasn't happened. My biggest advice/insight would be from your position of them contacting you. I believe that open communication can really help you out here. I would discuss a job title change. Companies have some power with job titles. While your duties may seem administrative, you might be able to discuss and/or work around a way to discuss your role of analyst. It's possible you could work for the company with a title that won't kill your career path. Just a thought.

  5. Stefanie,
    What an inspiring story. I doubt few people start their careers in management. Even my company's CEO started with our company as a general accountant.

  6. You asked for my thoughts a while ago, sorry I'm just now chiming in! Here's my really long answer:

    I definitely believe in working your way up and shaping your job growth, it's worked amazingly well for me, but there is certainly a concern about the job being too far from the goal job.

    I'd have some questions:
    1. can you have a frank conversation with the higher ups about your ultimate goal and what intermediate steps would be necessary to reach it?
    2. Having established that, then I'd need to know if they were willing to, over time, incorporate the relevant skills and responsibilities into Reader's role with the company?

    You don't want to be pigeonholed but you also don't want to dismiss the possibilities out of hand if you can discuss and negotiate those things that would otherwise stand in the way. Can this be made into an interim stepping stone rather than an obstacle?

    I've known people who had completely unrealistic goals; despite working lower level jobs that were definitely in line with their ultimate goal, they simply didn't have the performance necessary. I've seen others with scads of skill and initiative and grow into jobs that couldn't have been predicted, based on: a) their hard work, b) their willingness to learn and stretch, c) someone in a management and hiring capacity willing to recognize their talent and help pave the way. Two parts you, one part them. Can't all be them or you, you really have to work together.

    CFO doesn't happen straight out of the box, I don't see why you can't strategize your way to it.

  7. Catherine,
    Thanks for sharing your opinion. It is a tricky move that has to be played right in order to work. I wouldn't leave it off my resume entirely, but if I haven't progressed within the company after two years I would certainly start looking elsewhere.

  8. Sheila,
    Thanks for the comment. Yes, this could be a disposable job. Not quite admin, not quite manager she will most likely be doing what others don't have time for. On a downswing this would be the first to go.

  9. Sheila,
    Unless of course she is liked better than the admin. Then the admin will be let go and she will be 100% admin.

  10. Kim,
    I do like the idea of negotiating a title that doesn't scream admin.

  11. Revanche,
    Great point - two parts you one part them. Your points helped me realize something - If you ask questions about promotion possibilities and talk about your ultimate goal in the interview and the employer does not hire you because of it they've answered this question for you. If they are open to discussions and are willing to talk about strategies this could be an opportunity. As an employer I would want to see how this employee performs before committing though.