For most starting out in a career in accountancy the initial priority is to get a professional qualification. Many start, some complete the qualification, while many fail and give up.
Looking back on a 25 year career in accountancy I know that getting your qualification is vital. It is also important to gain experience.
One would think therefore that if you master the technical aspects of the job and gain some experience you would almost be guaranteed to have a successful career.
The reality is somewhat different. I have worked with thousands of people who were well qualified and had some good experience. I have also seen plenty of people who were technically brilliant who struggled to make any sort of real progress.
What I noticed is that being good at the numbers or the technical aspects of the job is just baseline stuff. Focusing all of your attention on the technical elements puts you at a distinct disadvantage.
Why? One of the major reasons is that the role of the accountant in industry, commerce and the public sector is changing. When I started out we had big departments and everything from transaction processing to providing business advice being done in-house.
These days a lot of the traditional transaction processing is outsourced or done in a central shared services centre. Even statutory reporting is done centrally in many organisations.
As a result the role for those working at business unit level is changing. The expectation is that you will be like a mini FD, providing a full range of business support, business advice and business information.
You are no longer just expected to provide information and analysis. These days you are a key contributor to developing and delivering business unit level objectives.
What this means in practical terms is that you have to become a lot more rounded. As well as retaining your core accounting skills, you will need to be highly effective at working as part of a multi-functional team. You will need to understand what really drives the numbers and business performance. You will need to be able to take the lead, initiate change and get results through others.
For some this might seem daunting. Personally I see it as a huge opportunity to make the kind of contribution to business performance that in the past was only a pipe dream.
The question is are you equipping yourself for the challenges ahead?
Duncan Brodie helps accountants achieve more career success. He invites you to sign up for his free report The 7 Biggest Barriers To 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.