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4 CIO Resume Builders to Get Ahead

Sep 20, 2010
By

Pam Baker






Moving from the CIO's seat to the top of the C-Suite is no small feat. It's not a venture won by thrust and feint maneuvers but by cleverly presented tales of fiat accompli on your resume. And it isn't your mastery of technologies that will win the day it's how well you play with others.

"One of the most important things that you can do is highlight work or projects that have been done in conjunction with other non-technical/information related business units," explained Paul Peterson, National Talent Resource Manager, Human Resources at Grant Thornton. "For example, write 'in conjunction with marketing developed strategy that …' or 'co-led finance project to …' The goal is to showcase your understanding of the business outside of your traditional role."

Big picture strokes


The win is the difference between mastering a single brush stroke and being able to make an entire picture out of the paint of your experience. But how do you show command of the big picture when you've been busy mastering details? Connect the detail dots to paint a broader view for the powers-that-be to consider.

Take, for example, a data governance program: "If a CIO can articulate the business problems and stakeholders who were served by the program, then the CIO is demonstrating three C-Suite skills: 1) the ability to deliver value from data assets, 2) balancing the needs of business units against the overall health of the enterprise, 3) resisting the allure of technology-based partial fixes in favor of a sustainable, systemic solution," said Gwen Thomas, president and founder of The Data Governance Institute.

Look at your accomplishments with a fresh perspective. Where have you worked with other business units? What was the outcome? How did your technology choices move the company ahead (as opposed to just keeping the lights on)?

Find the business result of every decision you made and speak to that on your resume.

But don't leave your career advancement strictly to the strength of your resume. Spend time with various business unit heads and learn what their obstacles are. Offer suggestions. Be helpful. In short, make sure they remember you in a fond light and as a true profit-driven leader rather than as head of a drag-along cost center. These are the people you'll one day need as references and allies. Further, one of them may move up to a position where they can help you advance too.

The rare find

Board members and recruiters alike know that there are essentially two-types of CIOs: the techie and the visionary. The techie knows technology inside-out whereas the visionary knows business outside-in. The techie can connect anything by wire or wireless. The visionary connects business units and goals by way of technology.

"Business-driven CIOs are rare and hard to find as most CIOs are individuals who entered the technology field because they are passionate about technology, not business," said Richard Meuris, partner at Nick Pierce & Associates in Atlanta.

A top-notch CIO will be passionate about "reaching revenue, profit and other overall business goals through the use of technology", which is why he looks at resumes with an eye-peeled for a laundry list of business skills and pretty much ignores any CIO resume chock full of technology terms.

Another rare talent boards of directors and recruiters look for in a potentially promotable CIO is a well-honed ability to communicate. Too many CIOs are comfortable only speaking geek but it's the CIO that can speak confidently to a non-techie group, make persuasive presentations, blog and write well that wins the higher seat.

The resume presentation

Your resume is your pitch for why you deserve a promotion. Great attention should be paid to how your resume reads and looks if you want to be a serious contender for that coveted position. "It's more than just skills that are crucial to include when a CIO is vying for the C-Suite; it's how those skills are presented," said Adriana Llames, veteran career coach and author of Career Sudoku: 9 Ways to Win the Job Search Game.

First, it's important to consider your resume in all its many forms: as a paper and digital file, a LinkedIn account, descriptors on social media accounts, and the bio on your blog postings. Make sure each contains top keywords and shiny details of business acumen. Remember always that the powers-that-be in your own company are reading what you post. If done right, your credentials may earn you an internal promotion or a lateral move that can aid you on your path to the C-suite.

"While it's not impossible to move from a CIO role into a non-IT role within another organization, it is much easier strategically to gain additional experience by moving into new functions internally, within one's current company," said Howard Seidel, partner at Essex Partners, a career advisory firm specializing in senior executive and C-level career management.

From traditional to savvy

The traditional resume is still the most important consideration in the final promotion or hiring decision so make sure yours is up-to-date in terms of content and form. Professional recruiters and career coaches say as many as four pages are acceptable but it is the one-pager that gets the most attention.

"Decision-makers for C-suite new hires don't like a lot of detail but they want to know what the person has accomplished -- actual results in past positions, which gives them a very good idea as to what the person can accomplish in the new promotion," said Richard Deems, career coach and author of thirteen books on key management issues.

Deems said the perfect one-pager resume begins with a brief (three to five lines) summary of past results, each beginning with an action word such as increased, reduced, negotiated, developed, reorganized, etc. This is followed by short descriptions of past results "either by category: leadership, profit growth and reduced costs; or, categorized by past employment."

That is followed by a brief blurb on your education. Lastly is a segment Deems calls the "What Others Say" section. "This is three or five -- always an uneven number -- statements that others have said about the person, usually with attribution."

Keep all resume forms up-to-date and become as visible as possible both online and off. But be careful how you go about it, because there is one more thing experts say is absolutely in demand from a C-suite candidate: "they want a person who won't rock the boat," said Deems.

A prolific and versatile writer, Pam Baker's published credits include numerous articles in leading publications including, but not limited to: Institutional Investor magazine, CIO.com, NetworkWorld, ComputerWorld, IT World, Linux World, Internet News, E-Commerce Times, LinuxInsider, CIO Today Magazine, NPTech News (nonprofits), MedTech Journal, I Six Sigma magazine, Computer Sweden, NY Times, and Knight-Ridder/McClatchy newspapers. She has also authored several analytical studies on technology and eight books. Baker also wrote and produced an award-winning documentary on paper-making. She is a member of the National Press Club (NPC), Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and the Internet Press Guild (IPG).


Tags: CEO, CIO career, resume building, CV, corner office,
 

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