4 accountants reveal the secret to their success

Accountancy skills lay the foundations for your career – but it’s your extra, non-accounting skills that will differentiate you.

When applying for jobs, candidates are often told to identify their “unique selling points” to ensure they stand out from the crowd. It’s for this reason that many accountants have chosen to combine their accountancy skills with other learnings to help them develop their career.

Here we look at four skills – data analysis, coaching, marketing, and tax relief – that have helped accountants supercharge their careers.

1. Data analysis

Frustrated by the “needless repetition” within data entry, manipulation and analysis tasks, qualified accountant David Elms decided to learn more about data analysis – specifically, Microsoft Excel.

He started to undertake extra-curricular database and data analysis projects, exploring and developing his interest by experimenting with existing software.

Very quickly, Elms became the “go-to” Excel expert within his team, and it gave him the edge during appraisals and promotion opportunities at work.

“I became a reliable source of data analytics knowledge, and I was seen as a significant asset to the firm,” he explains. “In fact, my previous company started introducing me to senior stakeholders when they needed data advice.”

Supercharge your career with data analysis

  • Data Science for Executives – a five-day course run by the London School of Economics and Political Science.
  • Analysing Statistics with Excel – a one-day seminar run by the BPP Professional Education Group.
  • Data Analysis for Accountants – a four-hour, Power BI online short-course run by Paula Guilfoyle, Excel and Power BI specialist and accountant.

2. Coaching

Raheeq Ahmad landed an audit associate role just 16 months after starting his accountancy apprenticeship with LTSB. As part of the scheme, Ahmad also volunteered as a children’s coach at West Ham Football Club, which he says gave him the confidence to get out of his comfort zone.

Despite his young age (21), he’s now responsible for coaching small teams of juniors, helping them settle in and overseeing their work.

“Coaching really helped me develop my people skills, as I was working with people with different skills and abilities. It taught me how to become a team player, quite literally,” says Ahmad.

He says coaching has also helped him gain a deeper understanding of the auditing process. “If you’re working independently, you can’t really understand the full picture because you’re too closely involved,” he explains.

“But if you’re overseeing a project and you’re reviewing someone else’s work, you can see the context, and you can spot the mistakes. That’s really helped me develop my knowledge.”

Supercharge your career with coaching

  • Coaching and Mentoring: An Introduction – a one-day course run by the BPP Professional Education Group.
  • Management Accountant to Finance Director: Leadership and Management Skills – a one-day course run by the BPP Professional Education Group.

3. Marketing

Carl Reader – business consultant, chairman and former director of D&T Accountants – used his marketing and networking skills to promote his personal brand.

Reader became interested in marketing and self-promotion 15 years ago when he realised he should be doing more to promote himself and his business expertise.

“I wanted to go out and meet people,” he says. “Marketing and networking became a natural evolution of my existing accountancy role.”

Through an experimental trial-and-error approach, Reader set about promoting himself on social media, TV, in publications, and at conferences and events.

“Marketing isn’t an exact science,” he explains. “They say that half of what you do in marketing works, you just never know which half. You’ll never sell accountancy through a tweet or an Instagram picture, but it makes it easier to find and build trust. It’s about reinforcing my reputation and experience within niche markets and getting my name out there.”

Supercharge your career with marketing

  • Digital Marketing and Social Media – a four-day course run by the London School of Business and Finance.

4. Tax relief

Nigel Holmes – head of R&D technical operations at a specialist tax relief consultancy – first decided to specialise in tax relief following the introduction of R&D tax relief in 2000, when it became evident that several of his clients at the time would benefit from the new legislation.

“In the UK, tax legislation is extensive and complex, and it changes with each year’s Budget. It’s impossible for anyone to become an expert without dedicating significant time and energy to specific areas,” he explains.

He attended several HMRC-run training courses and read up extensively on the issue. His motivation, he says, has always been about adding value for clients. It depends entirely on having detailed knowledge of an “intricate web of rules”, which determines whether a company qualifies for tax relief or not. “My favourite R&D tax relief claims are those that help people – whether medical or safety or security. Those where it’s obvious that they have a real, tangible benefit on someone’s life.”

Supercharge your career with tax relief

  • Claiming R&D Tax Credits – afour-hour seminar run by Linda Eziquiel, R&D tax credit specialist.

In summary

As we head into 2020, it’s a great time to think about where you’re at in your career and how to challenge yourself further. This is especially true if things have been feeling a bit stale lately. Add a new string to your bow with one of the ‘extra skills’ listed above, or something else you’re passionate about to reinvigorate your career.

Read more on broadening your skills as an accountant;

The content team are the owners of AAT Comment.

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