How to progress from finance assistant to finance manager

Going from a finance assistant to a finance manager is, says Craig Barrass, financial controller at recruiters Anderson Frank, a huge leap.

“The role shifts from you being responsible for a single domain to managing several different areas,” he notes. “First and foremost you’ve got to be good at your job. If you’re excelling in your current role you’ll automatically stand out from your peers.”

So, if you are a finance assistant with plans for promotion, how can you stand out from the crowd and dazzle your managers?

Develop your soft skills

Finance director Mike Winn from MVF Global , says metrics and targets are great for benchmarking career progression but that it’s important not to underestimate working on your soft skills too. “Read books, attend training courses and learn management frameworks, then report back on how you have implemented these strategies and what you have learned,” he advises.

Be honest and open about your career aspirations

“Don’t assume everyone knows you want to become CFO one day, or that your manager can see you have an interest in specialising in a certain area,” says Winn. “Tell them! If you don’t already have these conversations, be proactive and schedule a growth conversation, identify (through feedback) the areas you need to improve, and then work on them.”

Grow your network

“For those working in-house it’s really important to build a network, particularly outside of your team. This will deepen your understanding of the wider business and will also give you a network of advice,” Winn notes. “Being able to think about finance solutions whilst considering the wider business implications will also help you to think like a manager.”

Reconcile your figures

Sam Boothroyd, a business coach and former finance manager, says the role of finance manager requires you to take full ownership of numbers. “When I was a finance manager, the biggest reason I found my assistants didn’t get promoted was the fact that they still relied on me to check their work,” he notes. “A finance director or financial controller looking to promote someone into a vacant finance manager position will want to see that you can work well without supervision.”

Build strong relationships

“Build good relationships with the finance director and finance controller,” advises Boothroyd. “This will play a part in any decisions they make about promotion. They’re more likely to promote someone they are sure they can work with.”

Go above and beyond

If you want to stand out, volunteer, says Boothroyd. “If you have report to finish, improve it somehow, maybe come up with recommendations for the business using the figures in the report,” he notes. “One of the things I did to help myself get promoted was to volunteer to lead the transfer from Sage to SAP. This gave me the opportunity to prove I could lead, demonstrate my ability to own something new and also gave me a closer working relationship with the business leaders.”

Become a problem solver and use your initiative

Barrass says it’s vital to understand how things can be developed and improved. “Make sure you’re not just identifying problems, but recommending and implementing changes to benefit the business.”

Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.

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