4 Tips for Success in Your New Accounting Career
Is your career in accounting starting tomorrow?
Or, you know, sometime soon?
Are you a semester away from your new career in accounting (and looking for a study guide to cram what you need to know)?
Maybe you’ve already started, but are finding yourself a bit overwhelmed by what’s expected of you—mostly because you don’t really know what those expectations are?
Guess what: you’re not alone.
As women in finance, we’ve all found ourselves waking up at a new firm, in a different industry, without a clue about, well, anything.
But, we have another surprise for you: we’re here to help.
We’ve put together just a few of our best tips for you as you start your accounting career, from skills to list on your resume to personal strategies for yourself.
So, what are they?
Develop (and Strengthen) Your Soft Skills
No, this won’t involve pillows, stuffed animals, or anything else physically soft.
We’re talking about skills that you can list on your resume, but you might not necessarily find as a requirement on a job application.
Soft skills are non-technical skills that can only be learned—not taught—and will all serve you in your career as a woman in accounting. These are skills like adaptability, work ethic, critical thinking, and motivation.
But, there are some that we’ve found to be particularly important as professional women in finance: interpersonal skills, communication, and time management.
Interpersonal skills: AKA your people skills
This is how you interact with others and it’s EVERYTHING! Why? Because as an accountant, more likely than not, you’re going to be working with others constantly. It’s important to learn how to relate to others because you’ll be either working in service to them or in collaboration with them.
This one is pretty self-explanatory; this is how you talk to and with others. You need to communicate, sometimes complex issues, to people who probably won’t be happy about it. This means you need to learn how to clearly communicate complicated situations without using jargon in a way that helps your clients understand.
It’s essential that you learn how to manage your time effectively and efficiently. Juggling multiple clients will require your split, but undivided, attention.
Once you spot a skill that you don’t possess (or you feel you could really develop more) focus on strengthening that muscle at work, in your relationships, whenever you get a chance. This doesn’t require formal training or professional certification: you could make a conscious effort to empathize with others to work on your interpersonal skills or set a daily schedule to stick to while working on honing your time management.
Connect with Others
Especially as women of color in accounting, it can be easy to feel isolated in this industry. And feeling alone in your career won’t lead to growth, confidence, or motivation—if anything, you might just burn out faster.
That’s why it’s important to connect with others. Foster relationships with co-workers, DM new and veteran accountants on LinkedIn. If you’re looking for an established network to plug into, look online for professional women’s organizations or an accounting network. (Ahem, here we are!)
In all seriousness, fostering relationships will help:
Clue you in: you might learn about which firm is a great starting point (and which to avoid) or how to navigate a tricky situation that you haven’t found yourself in—but they’ve experienced. Heck, you might even get a good book recommendation that makes all the difference in your career.
Motivate you: having an accountability buddy can make or break you. Think about it this way: is it easier to get up and exercise at 5 in the morning by yourself, or are you more inclined to get up if your best friend is joining you?
Support you: whether they’re deliberately trying to or not, knowing that you have someone to turn to can help you feel less isolated and keep you from giving up on your career. Two heads are better than one.
Whether it’s just small talk or the start of a lifelong mentorship, kickstart a conversation with someone in the field! We’re friendly, we promise.
Stay on the Lookout for Growth Opportunities
Here’s a big one: don’t get complacent. A big part of working in finance, and really any career that you’re committed to, is a drive to move forward.
You might get comfortable working a mid-level position at the firm you started with, but could you see yourself feeling fulfilled by doing the same few tasks for the next 10 years? 20 years?
If the answer is no, then it’s essential that you stay alert and open to any new opportunities that might present themselves.
Look for openings to rise into a higher rank once you feel ready for the challenge. Do your research on certifications that would give you an edge in your skillset—or ones that you’re just plain interested in.
This could be career-specific, like a QuickBooks certification or making the decision to plunge into the CPA path. There are also other skills outside of your field that could add further value to what you do within it. Running your own accounting business? Maybe you’d benefit from taking a social media management course to learn the basics of how to promote yourself and your services.
Trying to strengthen your firm’s systems? Take the time to learn how to implement Asana into your workplace and streamline the office’s workflow.
If this all sounds great, but expensive, time-consuming, or even geographically unattainable, we’re here to remind you that it’s 2020. You can find any number of courses like these on the world wide web.
Some sites that offer these courses include:
What’s the takeaway here? Simple: the work is never over. This can be a hard industry to stay in if you don’t make a conscious decision to choose your career on a regular basis. Invest in yourself, and you’ll eventually reap the benefits.
This one is easier said than done.
When we tell you to be observant, we mean that you need to take the time to sit down and be honest with yourself. It’s time to ask yourself the question: who are you and what are you looking for?
You might not know the answer right away; actually, you probably won’t. But that’s ok, even normal. What’s most important is that you’re asking yourself these questions, because that’s when you can start to pay attention to what you want and don’t want.
Are you a person who’s happy working in an office setting at an established firm?
Would you be happier working solo and going the entrepreneurial route?
What if you would rather work in education and teach others rather than serve clients?
Do you want to serve your community and work with nonprofits or are you feeling called to the big business sector?
All of these paths are wildly different and will ask special things of you: so as you navigate the industry, listen to what you’re feeling attracted to and what’s pushing you away.
There is no right or wrong path for you to take as a woman in accounting: only yours.
This is why it’s important to make sure you’re paying attention to what lights you up, so you can steadily work on reaching that goal and cultivating your fulfillment.
What’s helped you get started in your career so far?