7 tips to enhance your accounting skills in 2021 (hint: they’re not all about numbers…)
According to government stats, there are nearly 200,000 people working as accountants in Australia. With thousands of new graduates and successful completions of graduate qualifications every year, it can be hard to stand out of the crowd.
But whether you’re going for a junior role or an all-rounder position, a promotion or a partnership, the answer might not be purely advancing your technical skills. Here are seven ways you can enhance your accounting skill set.
1. Know how to talk technology
Technology changes so fast, even in the accounting sector, that you’re not expected to be an expert on all the latest accounting and bookkeeping software. What you do need is to be open to using different digital solutions. This includes cloud-based software, programs with integrated apps, and anything that aims to automate some part of your work flow. While it might be challenging to regularly update your software skills, and scary to embrace fundamental changes to your processes, it’s critical for the future of your work as an accountant.
Other than being open-minded, there are some practical steps you can take. Most major accounting software providers offer free online training resources, so you can learn to use their product correctly. Make time to access and work through these resources. You may also be able to create alerts, both within your professional subscriptions and with online news services, for articles and press releases on new innovations. This will help you discuss relevant new technology from a confident and informed point of view.
2. Understand data analysis fundamentals
Even if you’re not a specialist management accountant right now, in the future you will likely be expected to interpret and analyse the account data you work with. This involves understanding what the numbers mean, identifying significant patterns and trends, and spotting opportunities (or risks) well in advance.
If all this has you thinking back to some dreaded stats class from your past, don’t stress. The basics of data analysis are easier to grasp than you might think. It’s about being able to find the story in the spreadsheet. Consider taking an introductory short course in analytics, or shadowing a senior accountant or analyst if you get the opportunity.
3. Master digital security basics
This one isn’t exclusive to accounting, but it is extra important when you’re working with clients’ sensitive financial information. These days, it’s not enough to leave everything digital security related to the IT department. Everyone has a role to play in keeping data secure, private, and intact. It’s about more than not giving out your username or password to the software you use.
Looking for a starting point? Try learning the basics of:
- setting secure passwords
- device security
- Wi-Fi security precautions
- cloud backup services
- encryption standards (especially for financial services)
4. Learn the difference between management and leadership
Management and leadership are two separate (but closely related) skill sets. Management is about control and rationality – things like making rosters, checking reports against KPIs, and watching compliance with rules. Leadership is more creative and nuanced; it’s more about getting people inspired, passionate, and on the same page. All organisations need both managers and leaders to be successful[ii].
If you are looking to advance your career and become a manager or partner, you will need formal management skills, but you will also need to develop your leadership ability. Aside from studying leadership, you can start by thinking about the attributes of the senior practitioners in your workplace who are seen as role models, inspirations, and uniting forces.
5. Prove your communication skills
‘Communication skills’ aren’t just about being able to write or speak in an articulate manner. Good communication also involves knowing when to communicate, how (what channel), and how to tailor your message to the people you’re speaking to. Strong communicators also understand dialogue and engagement, and how to have productive two-way conversations with people.
Look for opportunities to practice and demonstrate your communication skills. This may be through formal training, or a workplace project that requires you to communicate with colleagues, clients and/or other stakeholders.
6. Diversify your experience
Some clients may prefer to work with accountants and bookkeepers who have practical experience in their industry. This is because, amongst other things, it helps them save a lot of time translating different industry terms and phrases, or explaining their needs and priorities.
You can start by tapping in to your past experience, whether that’s part-time jobs, volunteer work or a previous career. Where previously you might have left these off your resume as being ‘irrelevant’ to your work, start to think about how you can let potential employers and clients know about your breadth of experience, without detracting from your achievements in accounting.
7. Be proactive about your PD
Most accounting and bookkeeping practices, especially those outside the big international firms, don’t have the resources to create and fund customised professional development plans for every employee. However, new skills and knowledge are still highly valued when it comes to selecting candidates for new positions or promotions. Practical experience matters, and you can certainly learn some things on the job, but most mid-career and senior practitioners have advanced qualifications or further certifications. This means it’s up to you to be self-motivated and proactive about your professional development.
You can start this process by asking colleagues and mentors about their own qualifications and training pathways. That’s certainly a good way to get ideas. However, it may be more efficient and effective to do an audit of your own accounting skills, against those required for the next step in your career ladder. You may be able to do this yourself, or with the help of a career consultant.
If you’re looking for the next step in your professional development, and want a formal qualification that’s nationally recognised while still being flexible and practical, consider Monarch Institute. Our education provider of choice delivers Certificate, Diploma and Advanced Diploma programs in a variety of accounting, bookkeeping and related paraprofessional disciplines. Explore the options and speak to a friendly course consultant today.