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Step up for career success
Potential job candidates often assume that upon qualifying as an accountant they will automatically secure a job when applying for a role. What they don’t realise is employers are looking for a lot more than someone who is ‘good with the numbers’.
Navigating a successful career in finance and accountancy involves implementing certain steps and accepting some realities of the new world of work.
ACCA’s report Professional accountants – the future: Generation Next presents us with many of these new realities – from the rise of technology in the workplace, to globalisation, to the fact there is no more ‘employment for life’.
Almost 19,000 ACCA students and members under the age of 36 and from 150 countries participated in this study, making it one of the largest surveys ever across the global profession.
Managing your own career:
ACCA’s research shows that owning your career, which means thinking about your career plans, will be crucial to whether you succeed in the future.
Successful professionals manage their careers with a blueprint, carefully plotting out the experiences they need. As the employer/employee relationship continues to evolve, and with job tenure decreasing, the future will mean taking responsibility of your career and seeking out professional challenges which will allow you to develop.
So thinking about the skills you need for the future is an important part of developing a career plan. Future proofing your skills will be crucial in an age of collaboration in the profession, between smart people and smart tools.
The future means that on-going relevancy will be required as careers become more fluid. It will be up to you to ensure the skills you hold are not only of the highest standards, but are current and relevant to your employer’s needs.
Building your personal brand:
One thing to do now is to start creating and maintaining your personal brand. Social media is a powerful tool to showcase your personal brand through a strong online profile that includes endorsements from colleagues and clients where possible.
Being able to demonstrate a positive professional footprint through platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn goes a long way to making you stand apart from other candidates.
Considering lateral moves:
It’s important to be realistic about what future employers will be able to offer you in terms of career progression.
We know that it takes time to build up the requisite skills for those in finance and accountancy careers. It can be beneficial to work ‘within the system’ and see the employer’s perspective in charting out your career journey – this is of course if you want to stick with your current employer.
Be open to exploring a move into roles without a salary increase or promotion. These lateral moves can help you build additional technical competencies and knowledge, as well as developing softer talents and behaviours such as leadership, communication, influencing skills, change management and collaboration skills.
As organisations often provide opportunities for professionals to undertake innovative or creative activities, becoming ‘intrapreneurial’ – which means benefiting from the resources, capabilities and security offered by your employer – is a key learning opportunity. Being an intrapreneur will allow you to learn from possible failures without the personal risks of entrepreneurship.
Where possible, gaining global experience will give you a more diverse view as an employee and will look attractive on your CV. A great way to obtain a more diverse outlook is to work in global teams and to seek international experience.
Mentors and networks:
Other key considerations involve looking for mentors and sponsors from both within and outside the organisation. Having a strong network can significantly help with your own personal brand building.
It’s widely regarded that the strength of an individual’s personal network can have a significant bearing on career success particularly in a world where next career moves may be less obvious and following less linear paths.
Being able to talk to clients, always remaining personable and your ability to demonstrate how you will add value from the word ‘Go’ as a new employee will determine whether you get and maintain your dream job in the future.
My advice is to be proactive in managing your own future career trajectory. Plan ahead, think ahead and be aspirational. Build you network, and your personal brand. Future proof your skills so that you will be among the career elites and remain in demand as an accountancy professional.
• Anita Brook is an ACCA qualified accountant and entrepreneur
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