Why you won't succeed in accountancy without soft skills
Posted by Callum MacRae
The accountancy profession is changing – fast. There has been a profound shift in the role of accountants in recent years, from bean counters to strategic business partners. Firms are now embracing new technology, providing services that deliver added value and helping their clients beyond just the numbers. As a result, the way employers define top talent has changed. No longer are qualifications and technical skills the sole focus. Whilst these requirements remain important, equally as valued are skills such as commercial acumen and entrepreneurialism. So, what does this mean for professionals seeking to progress their finance career in today’s market? One key point is to work on your soft skills. Take a look at any job description these days and you are likely to see a request for ‘excellent communication skills’ or ‘ability to build strong relationships’. These are soft skills. They are not new by any means but are more important in the workplace now than ever before. However, unlike hard skills which can be proven and measured, soft skills are intangible and difficult to quantify. There are a number of different skills within this category but, based on feedback from senior business leaders on the lookout for their next rising star, here are two key skills we suggest focusing on. Business Acumen Sometimes referred to as commercial awareness, this often takes a back seat in accountancy in favour of technical competency. However, organisations are now looking for their accountants to act as strategic business partners, being proactive in identifying solutions to complex problems and new ways to add value. Business acumen takes effort to acquire but often comes at no other cost than a bit of your time. Try the following: · Follow key developments in your industry, reading up on emerging practices and successful business strategies. Try setting Google Alerts so that you receive breaking news directly to your inbox · Follow industry experts and commentators on social media that foster strategic thinking and recommended tactics · Learn from others. Perhaps seek out a mentor who can help you better understand how a company and sector works Communication The official definition of the word communicate is to ‘share or exchange information, news, or ideas’. Well, we can all do that but how effective a communicator are you? Did your parents ever tell you ‘it’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it’? Strong written and verbal communication skills are vital in accountancy as you will often be required to collaborate with multiple departments and stakeholders. Successful business development is also achieved by making new connections and nurturing relationships. Here are some tips to help you improve your communication skills, which you should find useful both in the workplace and in an interview scenario: · Listen. Really listen. Pay attention, put away the distractions (phones, tablets) and engage with what the other person is saying · Adapt your communication style to your audience. Whether you’re talking to your boss, a co-worker or the CEO of a global organisation – adjust how you speak according to who you are speaking with · Ask questions and repeat back some of what has been said. This shows you are listening and interested in what the other person is saying · Be aware of your body language. Even when you are not saying anything, you are constantly communicating. Making eye contact, avoiding crossed arms and not fidgeting are a good place to start These are just two of the vital soft skills required to perform well in a modern accounting firm. If you would like to stay ahead of the game by polishing up on these skills, get in touch with Pro-Recruitment for further tips and advice.