I am sure like me you have worked with some accountants who seemed to be almost effortlessly climbing the career ladder. Or at least they did on the face of it. We all know that people who get professionally qualified in accountancy or indeed in any profession are smart people.
Yet the reality is that just being smart is no longer enough. In many ways your qualification is merely the baseline. It’s what gets you in the door or gets you an interview if you are looking to move jobs.
When I speak or work with recently qualified accountants I always stress the importance of becoming T shaped. This was a concept that I was introduced to by one of the Partners when I worked at PwC. At the time I probably did not give it a lot of thought. Looking back it was smart advice.
So what’s the basic idea behind being a T shaped accountant? In essence as you start to move up the career ladder you face different challenges. It’s almost certain that you will have responsibility for managing people, processes and projects. You will also be expected to contribute to a whole host of areas where you are not the expert.
In other words you have to retain your technical expertise, represented the vertical part of the T while making a contribution across a range of areas, the horizontal part of the T.
Which has implications for your personal and professional development as in my experience accountants’ fall into 3 main groups. The first group does little or nothing on their professional; development. The second group undertakes professional development purely on the technical stuff. The third group recognises that you have to have rounded personal and professional development.
So what areas do you need to develop skills in to start transitioning to a T shaped accountant?
Business and commercial skills would be the first area I would recommend. One of the biggest complaints from employers seems to be that while the accounts people do a great job on the numbers, they lack commercial skills. Looking back I had training in areas like negotiation, sales and business development while working in accountancy.
Management skills are another vital area and specifically managing people. If you are going to be successful you have to be able to bring out the best in others and of course mange yourself.
Leadership skills are key too if you want to get more senior level posts.
Interpersonal skills are also important as success in accountancy is often down to your ability to build strong relationships with those within and outside your professional field.
The Reality: If you are serious about having a successful career in accountancy, it is no longer just about being great technically.
Duncan Brodie helps accountants to achieve more career success. He invites you to check out his free report, The 7 Biggest Barriers To Having A Successful Career In Accountancy.
Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 7,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.