Working in accounting and finance roles can be hugely rewarding.
Whenever I look back over the 25 years I had in various roles, I really was pleased with the progress I made.
Sadly, one thing I see way too often is accountants struggle to build the career they wanted.
Which is a real shame.
It got me thinking about what will help you build a successful career in accounting.
The first thing I would say is get an excellent grounding in the basics. This might seem a strange place to start. The reason why I have chosen this is that the majority of your time on the technical side of the work is doing the basics. Planning, budgeting, forecasting, cash and working capital management, monthly reporting and statutory accounts to name just a few.
The second thing I would say is take on responsibility for managing as early as possible. It’s one of those areas that looks easy. In practice it’s a lot tougher. Start by managing a really small team. See if you can manage some project or change.
The third thing I would say is to keep up to date with technology. For a long time this meant being good with Excel. Now the pace at which technology is changing is staggering. What you don’t want to do is become the expert in every technology. Instead you want to understand the potential of technology to do things smarter and even more cost effectively.
The fourth area that’s important is your interpersonal skills. One thing that I noticed was that your technical skills are almost taken for granted after a certain level. Often much quicker than you think. As you progress, your people skills, your ability to build relationships and handle tricky situations becomes more vital.
The fifth area that’s important is being able to present and communicate. It’s not just learning how to present and communicate but also how to simplify what you deliver to fit your audience.
The sixth area that’s important is to know yourself. The reality is that you will be good at some things and not so good at others. Being aware of and acknowledging this is important. You may choose to improve some of your not so good areas. Alternatively you may decide to get someone else to do the things that are not in your area of expertise.
The seventh area that’s important is your professional development. I’m often surprised just how little time and money some accountants put into this. Chances are you will have invested a lot in your professional qualifications. Your professional development helps you grow, thrive and prosper in the longer term. When it comes to your professional development you want breadth rather than being too narrowly focused in technical updates.In truth success in your accounting career is achieved over the long term. Focusing on the right things will increase your chances of building the career in accounting you want.