Six ways to future-proof your career

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The stereotype of accountants being number crunching bean counters is under threat.

Whilst holding an accounting qualification means that you are unlikely to ever be out of work, smart accountants are equipping themselves with a diverse and changing set of skills, allowing them to increase their earning potential, marketability and future proof their careers.

In this post we highlight six ways to invest in your future self.

1. Technology

Mastering cloud accounting and productivity software allows you to work more effectively by leveraging automation of tasks, reducing data entry and allowing greater collaboration with colleagues and stakeholders. A number of cloud accounting software packages (Xero, Sage and QuickBooks)  integrate with other third-party software solutions such as payment providers, customer relationship management (CRM) and invoicing software. Researching smart solutions for clients or your company can result you being able to execute your own role with more ease.

Additionally, you may garner recognition and kudos from more senior members of staff who may not question tried and trusted ways of doing things.

2. Economic awareness

It is easy getting bogged down in numbers and spreadsheets. Being aware of the bigger picture, by increasing your economic awareness, can allow you to put your work into perspective by allowing you to assess it within a wider context and provide up to date commentary to clients. One way of achieving this is by developing a habit of consuming general high level business news. This can include listening to the The Today Programme’s 10 minute daily podcast on business news, subscribing to the Economist (great for global perspective) or setting up business specific newsfeeds with apps like Feedly or Pocket. Becoming more economically astute will also allow you to hold more gravitas at work by being able to confidently comment on the general business environment in which your company operates in.

3. Social media

Becoming a power user of social media can have numerous benefits such as making valuable connections which can lead to you identifying a mentor or future clients, finding your next job, researching information relevant to your day job or creating your own personal brand. It is possible to build your digital footprint by putting aside around 30 minutes a day on platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Medium. Graduates at Grant Thornton were able to develop clout in their company by approaching CEO Sacha Romanovitch, to create Spilling The Beans, an award winning recruitment blog.

4. Soft skills

A recent survey by Adaptive Insights revealed that chief financial officers (CFOs) are increasingly valuing soft skills within their finance teams.  Developing soft skills, such as those associated with communication and collaboration, can allow you to become more adept at problem solving, presentations and adaptability. It is important to develop these skills, irrespective of the level that you are at in your organisation or career. Presentation skills can be improved by joining a toastmasters club or by volunteering to give a presentation at a local conference or educational institution. A short presentation explaining financial information to non financial people could be a good place to start. Collaboration skills can be enhanced outside of the work place by volunteering at a local charity or non-profit organisation. Additionally, this will help boost your CV.

5. Intrapreneurial

An entrepreneurial skillset is becoming increasingly in demand from employers, as technology is fast changing a number of industries and the way that a number of business functions are carried out. In order to be a valued employee and progress within a company, employees increasingly need to be intrapreneurial (entrepreneurial within an organisation) by displaying problem solving skills, being opportunistic and reevaluating process driven tasks. In order to develop this mind set, get into the habit of having a questioning mind by mentally evaluating everything that you do in work. This will enhance your own knowledge, as well as identifying new ways of doing things which could increase efficiencies and cost savings for your company. In order to cultivate this way of thinking see the Lifehacker blog for inspiration or read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, the current bible for aspiring entrepreneurs seeking to build new companies.

6. Learner for life

Your education doesn’t have to end with your A levels, degree or professional accounting qualification. Committing to continue to learn and acquire new skills is a way of investing in your future. This is likely to lead to career progression and allow you to enhance your marketability within the labour marketplace by accumulating an up to date and unique collection of skills. You may want to continue to develop your knowledge of Excel, learn how to code or how to become a project manager. A number of leading universities (Harvard, Oxford and Stanford)  already offer access to free videos and lectures on YouTube. Additionally, Massive Open Online Course (MOOCS) websites such as Udemy and Coursera provide access to a plethora of highly specialist courses across a whole range of disciplines.

Nick Levine is a chartered accountant and freelance journalist, with a background in fin-tech who has written for Accounting Technician magazine.

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