• Career Center

    Ask the Expert: Take Me to the Next Level 

     John Gill, J.D., CFE

    ACFE VP of Education   

    Austin, Texas, USA  



    John D. Gill graduated from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor’s Degree in English. In 1990, he received his J.D., with honors, from the University of Texas School of Law. Prior to working for the ACFE, John was an attorney at Bragg, Chumlea, McQuality, Smithers and Curry in Austin, Texas, where he was involved with civil fraud, insurance and deceptive trade practices cases. In 1995, John joined the ACFE and served as both its General Counsel and the manager of the Research Department for nine years. When the Research Department expanded in 2003, he took on the role of Research Director. In 2009, he was promoted to Vice President – Education. In that capacity he oversees the production and development of all of the books, manuals, self-study courses, and seminar and conference materials produced by the ACFE. He serves on the faculty of the ACFE and is a co-instructor of the CFE Exam Review class. He is a co-author of The Fraud Examiners Manual and serves as the editor-in-chief for the CFE Exam and the CFE Exam Preparation Course. He is also a contributing author to Fraud Magazine.

    Social media seems to be the buzz term that dominates conversations about job and career strategies. What key dos and don’ts can you suggest when it comes to using social media for progressing in my career or for people looking for a job? What’s the best social media option?  

    I know most recruiters and hiring managers will agree with me that some social media options are worth your efforts and others are just a waste of time, yielding little return for the investment. The key is to start with one social media option, and learn all you can about how to use it to your advantage. At the 2012 ACFE Annual Conference, the other members of the Professional Development panel discussion I was part of agreed across the board that one of the best to focus on is LinkedIn. LinkedIn has 160 million users (51 percent male/49 percent female) and is best used for showcasing your professional accomplishments and linking to others.


    My suggestion for next best is Google + with 100 million users and growing fast. You can organize contacts into groups and target messages to each group separately. Followers are 30 percent female, 70 percent male, and are engineers, web designers, students, software developers and marketing professionals. The advantage is that there is always room for an anti-fraud group to get started and grow (if there’s not one already).


    Facebook has 845 million users, with most users in the 21 to 24 age group followed by 18 to 20 year olds – not the best demographic for building a network of professional and experienced contacts. Yes, you can upload all kinds of information, photos, videos about you and/or your company, but with so many people trying to connect to so many others, the genuine connections get diluted. In a recent survey of Facebook users, 60 percent said they no longer knew 20 percent of their "friends" and 50 percent said they speak to only about 20 percent of them. In another survey, only two in 10 Facebook users ever read (let alone click on) the advertisements in the column edges of Facebook pages. As far as a social media network to consider, do so if you like reading about what others are cooking for dinner, what the cat did yesterday, or some other form of "look at me now!" message. I use Facebook to stay in touch with family and friends, that’s it.


    Twitter has 140 million active users who tweet an average of 340 million tweets a day. When Paris Hilton tweets "I like motorcycles" and CNN does a story on it for the evening broadcast (which they did in 2011), and Ashton Kutcher sets a goal of being the first to have 1 million followers, one may think that Twitter is a tool for narcissistic self-promoters. Well, it can be a great tool for businesses to promote breaking news, such as the way the ACFE’s Mandy Moody uses Twitter to alert followers of news in the anti-fraud world. It can also be used to promote your professional brand when used in the appropriate balance and perspective. I recommend Joel Comm’s book, Twitter Power, before jumping in to Twitter so you understand how the Twitter world works and how it can work for you.


    There are other social media networks out there, but the most favored way for getting hired or moving up the company ladder is through personal networks and personal networking. Focus on one or two social media networks that cater to the interests and needs of networking professionals; the other options just may not offer the payback for the effort you put into it right now.

    How important is attitude with career development?  

    Attitude reflects the degree of professionalism you have for your particular job function and even how well you interact with others. People who like what they do most often exhibit a positive attitude about it; and managers prefer to give additional responsibility and authority to people who express a positive attitude because it conveys a "can-do" approach to problem solving or just the day-to-day more mundane tasks. Attitude is not something you put on in the morning after you brush your teeth - it is an internal determination to be your best regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in on the job.

    What things can I do to increase my value to the company I work for?  


    Depending on your exact job function and responsibilities, you can increase your value to your employer by either or both of these methods: 

    Find ways to directly or indirectly generate more revenue for the company. Selling more products or signing up new customers are ways to add value to the company. If you don't work in a job that has that kind of direct impact then learning a new technical skill that directly impacts business revenue generation would work.

    Find ways to directly or indirectly avoid costs for the company. You can improve the efficiency of how departments function, streamline work processes, or simply turn up the AC thermostats by one degree in the summer and one degree in the winter. Ideas like that help save the company money, which is another way of avoiding costs.


    Should I tell my supervisor and/or manager when I am applying for other jobs outside the company in hopes of moving up so that I can use them as references?  


    Bad move! If you follow through with this strategy, you will find yourself out of a job sooner than you want and NOT able to use your former manager as a reference! Never use a current supervisor or manager as a reference - you won't get a good reference if they are surprised by a phone call from the HR department - of another company. As I mention in Confessions of a Hiring Manager, always clear it with people first before you use them as a reference. No one likes to be blind-sided or caught off guard by a reference phone call.

    What is the best way to ask for a raise?  


    I have to laugh whenever I go into a retail store and see a "Tip" cup next to the cash register. Are you kidding me? A "Tip" cup? For what? Doing nothing and not bothering me while I shop? Something for nothing didn't work when I was growing up and it STILL doesn't work, to the disappointment of Generation E (entitlement) people.


    The best way to ask for a raise is to first ask yourself: What have I accomplished that has added value to the company to warrant a raise? Can I demonstrate that value? Has my idea been implemented on my team or in my organization and has it resulted in any kind of improvements in efficiency or costs? Is my accomplishment a one-time event, or have I repeatedly risen to the occasion to exceed my manager's expectations?


    Next, schedule time with your manager. Get on his or her calendar so you can sit down one-one-one and present your case. Remember, raises are tied to your performance on projects; not to how long you've been on the job at $XX dollars an hour or week. Use numbers (costs saved, earnings generated, efficiency improvement) to demonstrate your contributions and value to the team/department/company - and ask for the raise.


    Keep in mind that your request has to be reasonable. Raises for 2011 will be around 3 percent, so if you're thinking in the double-digit range, prepare to be disappointed. That doesn't mean you can't ask for 5 or 7 percent - you may have to settle for 3 percent. If that amount isn't enough to bother with, consider asking for the equivalent of a 3 percent increase, such as being able to leave work on Friday at 2 p.m. instead of 4:30 p.m., or being able to work from home one day a week. If your manager is flexible, you can probably be a little creative in how to convert 3 percent cash into something that may have more value for you.

    How can I get into a management position without any experience as a manager?  


    Is that like wanting to get a job as a pilot without any flying experience? First, understand that some people make good managers and others don't. Some people embrace the different responsibilities management demands; others fight them all the way. Ask yourself, why do I want to get into management? Prestige? Title? More money? More responsibility and authority? Career advancement? In my career, I've noticed that the best managers were those who first worked many years as great followers. They consistently performed above expectations, had great people and communication skills, and when management positions were made available, they were asked if they'd be interested in them. If those positions never materialized, they moved on to better opportunities elsewhere.


    If you have repeatedly demonstrated leadership, performed beyond expectations, shown good interpersonal and written/verbal communication skills and good decision-making skills, you have done much to prepare yourself for your move into management when the opportunity presents itself (often in a reorganization, a realignment or simply a new vacancy).

    Have questions for our experts about your career? Send your questions to asktheexpert@acfe.com and an expert will answer you promptly.