top of page

What Skills do You Need to Develop for Success?

Two Black women sit at a table in an office space talking and laughing. They both have pens in their hands and open notebooks. A large window with a view of other buildings is behind them.
Photo by Christina@WOCinTechChat via Unsplash

Are you struggling to stand out in the finance world?

Does it feel like no matter what you do, you’re not landing any interviews?

Is it starting to feel like your applications are going directly into the spam folder?

Accounting has always had walls that are hard to break through, especially for women in finance. Now, with November being the slowest month of job growth since the spring and the accounting and bookkeeping industry losing 2,400 jobs in the last month, it can feel impossible to even get your foot in the door.

One way to distinguish yourself from the rest of the resumes in the pile is easier than you think: develop yourself in relation to others.

Being technically proficient isn’t all that firms are looking for. And let’s be honest: we all know that one accountant who knows the ins and outs of even the most complex concepts like the back of their hand—but they don’t seem to be moving forward.

But, by showing potential employers that you’re more than just the information you’ve learned, you can increase your chances of getting that call back.

What does this mean?

It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work on developing your soft skills.

Your soft skills are mainly your interpersonal skills. Your people skills, communication skills, personality traits—basically, non-technical skills that define how you relate to others.

We’ve rounded up a list of 3 soft skills that we think are essential to your career success and beyond: written and verbal communication, the ability to work on a team, and leadership skills.

Written and verbal communication

This one may seem obvious, but its importance often goes underestimated. How you communicate both on and off the page (or the screen) tells others a lot about you: your attitude, your level of professionalism, the amount of detail you look for, and more.

Two women are facing a large whiteboard with text and post-its on it. One women points at text on the board with a pen while the other looks in that direction. There is a large office table with pens, plants, and open laptops. There's another small desk on the left with a computer.
Learning how to communicate is essential—and most times, it's a lifelong lesson. Photo by You X Ventures via Unsplash.

When it comes to working with clients, being able to explain complicated issues using layman’s terms is essential in getting them not only to understand what you’re doing but to leave them satisfied with the service you’re providing them. (A satisfied customer is a returning customer, right?)

Showing patience and understanding in your emails and phone calls with your clients goes a long way to maintain your working relationships. But, your client isn’t the only person you should be focusing on when it comes to keeping up with best practices for communication. Keeping consistent and friendly communication with your colleagues shows that you are considerate of others’ timelines and expectations. Plus, teams that effectively communicate with one another are more productive and efficient.

How can you develop this skill?

This is easier said than done, but to hone this skill, you need to follow a 3-step procedure. First is observation. Pay attention to how you talk to others with texts, emails, and over the phone. In-person communication isn’t as much of an issue right now since we’re all working remotely, but it could serve you to take note of how you interact with the people you live with.

Next is to notice any patterns in your communication. Do you tend to be short with people when you’re stressed? Do you assume that the person you’re talking to knows the same information you do? These are the types of things you should take time to spot.

Finally, take what you’ve noticed about yourself and apply it. Are you not very talkative when you’re busy? If you’ve been working straight for two or three hours, take a minute to tell your spouse that you appreciate something they’ve done while you were working. Working on a project with a deadline that’s still a ways away? Send a quick email to your client or colleague with an update on your progress.

The main takeaway here is to be mindful. And more effective communication will follow.

Ability to work on a team

The work you’ll be doing isn’t in a vacuum: at some point, you’re going to have to collaborate on a project with someone or team up with your colleagues on a presentation. Besides, success doesn’t come from individuals bent over a computer in their own separate corners: it comes from multiple people effectively working towards the same aim. It’s like they always say: two heads are better than one.

Five Black women sit around a large office table with open laptops, talking and laughing.
We're all in this together! Photo by Christina@WOCinTechChat via Unsplash.

Women in accounting need to show that you can not only work effectively with other members of your firm but can jump in to help out whenever needed. Working together as a cohesive team is what keeps the ship afloat and sailing forward towards a collective goal.

How can you develop this skill?

Try checking in with someone, a friend, your partner, even your child, and ask how you can help them out with something. It can be anything: a grocery run, help with homework, an extra hand making dinner. Make a regular practice of functioning as a member of a team. Soon enough, this mindset will be ingrained and you’ll have a valuable skill that firms are looking to hire.

Leadership skills

Now, every firm is looking for someone who can lead. This is a signifier of someone who is both independent and team-oriented, is ambitious and dedicated to their career, and has the drive not just to do well but to improve upon the firm’s results.

But, we don’t think having carte-blanche “leadership” skills are enough. There are tons of different leadership styles, and one kind of leader may not necessarily be what a firm is looking for.

From our experience, the kind of leadership skills you should focus on developing are under a specific style: service leadership.

Also known as servant leadership, this is a leadership style where your focus isn’t to lead; it’s to serve. With service leadership, you’re putting the needs and growth of those you’re serving first and encouraging those members of your team to develop their own styles of leadership (and other soft skills!).

A pile of hands are all in the center, each with different colored sweater sleeves in brown, red, green, blue, orange, cream, and yellow.
Service leadership tells us that it's not just about one person: it's about all of us. Photo by Hannah Busing via Unsplash.

This way, the power isn’t accumulated at the top of a pyramid. Instead, it’s shared, helping you and your team work together and grow as effectively as possible. As a service leader, you’re aware that your growth is, in part, contingent on the growth of others as well.

How can you develop this skill?

To develop your leadership skills, and in particular, your service leadership skills, try looking for women’s networking groups or other professional women’s organizations and look for a mentor. Or, if you’re more advanced in your career and feel like you have something to offer someone newer, search for a mentee.

Entering into a mentor/mentee relationship is an excellent way to develop your service leadership skills. In these relationships, you’re helping to guide someone on their own path and find their own power, while also gaining insight and mastery for your own journey.


A Black woman dressed in an emerald green blazer and black pants jumps up with a smile on her face and confetti falling down.
Now that you know what to work on to make yourself shine: celebrate! Photo by Clay Banks via Unsplash.

So, now you know about 3 soft skills that will boost your resume and launch you into the next half of your career:

  • Written and verbal communication

  • Ability to be a team member

  • Service leadership

These are skills that you might already have—and if you do, go add them to your resume now!

But, if you don’t, you can easily get started on developing them in your interactions with others. It’s that simple.

What are some soft skills that you’ve developed over the years?

1 Comment

Thank you for this dialogue! I think this is something I needed to read regarding my career. I tend to take things personal and at times, although I love working on teams, when I feel someone regressing, I tend to just do it on my own without asking for any sort of help. Sometimes working on a team can be difficult but then adapting and learning those interpersonal skills are important. I agree with these three essential skills. I'll take a look at my resume to see what I have listed. Perhaps I need to update my skillset a bit 🙂

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page