Reflections of a CFO: The highs, the lows and what’s next?

CFO, leadership, career advice

We all go through highs and lows in our careers. But, despite the challenges we face, at every turn, there’s always an opportunity to learn something new – about ourselves and others, what we’re capable of, what drives us, and what we’re passionate about.  Arming ourselves with this knowledge, is key to having the career that we want to have.


Speaking at one of our emerging leaders eventsLouise Higgins, a well respected and renowned CFO, who has had an impressive 20-year career-to-date – which has included executive roles at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Nova Entertainment and Macquarie Bank – shared the five key lessons that she has learnt in her career and how this will help her approach the next 20 years of her career.

Keep taking risks

In your career (and in life), the best reward often comes when you’re out of your comfort zone, believes Louise. At two points in her career, she found herself leaving a job without having another job to go to, and while there is always that fear of the unknown and the uncertainty of finding yourself in that situation, for Louise, it led her to her next opportunity. Her top tips?

  • Extend yourself – whether it’s taking on new projects that may appear to be difficult, or doing something you haven’t done before, it will equip you with new skills you may not even knew you had and could set you up for your next opportunity.
  • Have courage of your convictions – back yourself.
  • So much can come from taking on challenges – even if it doesn’t succeed. We can all learn from our failures, as well as our successes. Don’t be afraid to try.
  • Don’t stay in a job because it’s comfortable. If that job is no longer getting the best out of you and you’re disengaged, that’s a sign that it may be time to leave.

It’s only a job

While this may seem like an obvious statement, so many of us forget this, says Louise, and we get so caught up in what’s happening at work, that we lose sight of what’s important. Her advice?

  • Don’t let your job define you and your identity. Don’t derive all your personal value and worth from your work – it’s only one part of your life.
  • It’s important to be fulfilled by your job, love it, be passionate about it, but realise at the end of the day, it’s not everything.
  • Be clear about what matters to you outside of work.
  • If you’re not happy in your job, reflect about what you’re putting in versus what you’re getting out of it. Are they aligned?
  • Work is getting harder and more complex – think about what’s important to you and what you need to feel fulfilled.

Relationships are important

Never underestimate the value and the importance of your relationships, says Louise.

When you get to the CFO level, it’s all about relationships and stakeholder engagement – the ability to influence and build successful partnerships with people.

“Your relationships with people bring a diversity of thought,” says Louise. 

We all have our own unconscious bias about ourselves, our skills and what we bring to the table. Having a wide network of people you can call on to give you different perspectives, is really important if you want to succeed in your career, believes Louise.

Keep finding yourself

In life, and in our careers, we never stop learning and growing. Every day, we are changing and learning something new about ourselves.

“You will never truly know everything there is to know about yourself,” says Louise.

Over her career, through the highs and lows, Louise learnt a lot about herself, what she is capable of, her likes and dislikes, what drives her, what she is passionate about versus what she’s good at, and believes that arming yourself with this information, is key to having the kind of career that you really want. So, what helped her?

  • Having a growth mindset – think of challenges as opportunities.
  • Figure out not just what you’re good at, but what drives you. What’s your passion?
  • Just because you’re good at something, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you or that you enjoy it.
  • Reflect on your weaknesses – what is your limiting behaviour? Working this out, will help you gain more clarity about what may be getting in the way for you and then be prepared to do the work to develop.
  • Recognise that your strengths, when overused, can be your greatest weaknesses and always strive to maintain balance.

Get used to uncertainty

“Get used to uncertainty, stare it in the face, get comfortable with it, because it’s not going away,” says Louise.

There will always be an element of uncertainty in our lives and our careers, so the key is to understand that, be aware of it and embrace the fact that we won’t always have the answers.

Her one piece of advice? Do the best you can, and the rest will take care of itself.

If you’re looking to take that next step in your career, we’re here to help. Get in touch with us today –  (02) 9262 4836.

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