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Career Counselor
New Skills for a Brave New World of Finance

Oct/Nov 2007 To succeed in accounting, finance and audit roles today, professionals need a wider range of skills than at any other time in recent history. Hiring managers expect most applicants to have technical competency, but it's the subtle, softer skills that can really set you apart from the rest.

According to Robert Half International's Financial Leadership Council, job seekers with strong interpersonal and analytical skills are crucial to the future success of the industry. Earlier this year, the council -- composed of leaders from business and private industry, public accounting, academia, and professional associations -- met to discuss the challenges facing businesses and professionals as well as solutions to address them.

One outcome of the meeting was an extensive report, "Charting the Future of the Accounting, Finance and Audit Professions." This report includes a section on preparing tomorrow's workforce, which addresses the skills required for success in the future world of accounting and finance.
As a growing number of businesses offshore the more elementary accounting tasks, the demand for strategic, value-added work will increase. Instead of focusing just on basic accounting principles, practitioners will be required to rely more on their communication and critical thinking abilities and professional judgment to handle more big-picture issues.

Following are a few tips to help you develop your softer skills:

  • Articulate your ideas. Begin with the end in mind. Good communicators express ideas coherently and logically in an effort to get their audience on their side. Whether in conversation or in writing, make sure your key points and their importance are unmistakable and stated clearly, directly and simply. 
  • Understand the subject. Have a solid grasp of your topic and confidence in your point of view. If you don't believe in what your message, why should anyone else?
  • Email as a written transaction. The increase of technologies such as email make it even more critical to communicate effectively. The message offers recipients a glimpse of your writing capabilities and can be forwarded to multiple individuals.
  • Focus on others. Professionals receive so much information today that they may not pay attention to your messages unless they are personally engaged throughout the communication process. That's why highly accomplished communicators tailor their thoughts to the needs of the audience without compromising the integrity of the message.

By developing soft skills early in your career, you also increase your opportunity for advancement. Dedication to personal development will not only position you well for future leadership roles, but it will also increase your long-term marketability.

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ACCOUNTEMPS is a specialized temporary staffing service for accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps provides support throughout an accounting department. Headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif., Accountemps and has more than 270 offices in North America, Europe and Australia. Accountemps' Career Counselor column, a SmartPros staple for over four years, is refreshed twice a month.

2007 SmartPros Ltd. All rights reserved.

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