Take control of your career with strategic upskilling

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How to gain the skills and experience to help achieve your goals.

FloQast, provider of accounting workflow automation software, has found that 53% of accountants are not sure they will stay with their current company in the next year. Of those, 63% aren’t sure they’ll even stay in the industry. With so much unrest, make sure your career moves are strategic ones.

As finance professionals, continuous learning is more than encouraged, it’s often obligatory. But let’s say you have a fairly clear idea of how you’d like your career to flow; how do you go about gaining the skills and experiences that will help you to achieve your goals?

Plan, plan, plan

“If you have a career end goal in mind, then you need to work out what boxes you need to tick off to get there,” says Gary Darlington, Associate Director at Robert Walters UK.

“Speak with individuals that are in that position and seek advice as to how they navigated through their career to get where they are today.

“Put a two, three, five-year career plan in place and work out what job role moves you need to make to get where you want to be. It might be that those opportunities are not available in your current business, so you may need to move on to gain that experience. You may even need to make two or three moves to get all those boxes ticked, but always have sight on the end goal.”

Stay in the know

It’s key to keep moving with the times and ensure your skills are relevant and up to date, so Darlington suggests building a network outside your current business and peer group, ensuring you are constantly learning from others outside your usual network.

“Ensure you are abreast of industry news and aware of what’s on trend and upcoming and seek to gain those skills. Attend networking events, CPD seminars, join industry-relevant LinkedIn groups and take online learning courses to keep your skills and knowledge up to date.”

Steve Sully, Regional Director, Finance & Accounting, at Robert Half, recommends following general recruitment trends in the market and benchmarking your skills. This together with having an honest and open discussion with your employer is hugely beneficial in guiding your journey. “Knowing what direction they expect your career to take can help identify any upskilling needs or even any disparities between what you want and what your employer expects of you.”

Stay resilient

Let’s say you’re focused on remaining resilient amid uncertainty and you’d like to be ready for anything – a good idea given how the pandemic took everyone by surprise.

“When looking at any upskilling opportunities, it’s important to consider what will be valuable outside of your sector requirements,’ says Sully. “Tech and digital skills, for example, are in demand across the board and have a part to play in almost every role. Having specific training in this remit on your CV will certainly stand you in good stead.

“In addition, given the volatility of global markets today, being adaptable and resilient is key to most jobs. These may be much more difficult to learn but will certainly prove valuable not just in any career moves, but also in managing your current role.”

Become a specialist

When focusing on your ultimate end goal, consider the qualifications that will help you get there. It might be that you need to continue your accountancy qualifications through CIMA, ACCA or ACA, and even further down the line you might consider more specific qualifications in tax, forensics, data analysis or management – there are so many courses you can do to support career progress.

“Find out what suits you and supports your career goals best,” says Darlington. “You can also investigate what support there is from your internal HR/L&D function. Many companies have mentoring/buddy schemes, make sure you are utilising these and if you are moving companies ensure you explore what their appetite is to support your development.”

Evergreen modern skills

Certain skills, knowledge and experience will set you apart in any situation. Businesses are hungrier than ever for information to support decision-making, so the ability to manipulate data using software or Excel is vital – particularly when a business’s systems struggle to provide this intel, says Darlington.

“Being able to improve the information coming out of finance and improve/shorten processes will stand you in good stead. Alongside this, being able to build strong stakeholder relationships with non-finance colleagues and become their go-to finance business partner will raise your profile and put you in line for future promotions.”

Neil Johnson is a freelance business journalist who contributes regularly to trade publications and member organisations, covering employability, recruitment, business trends and industrial analysis.

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