The skills you need to develop at each stage of your career to get promoted

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At the beginning of your career, your technical skillset will be the thing that gets you hired. 

However, as you gain more experience your key advantage will be the strength of your soft skills.

While your ability to develop and expand your technical skills and stay up-to-date with industry knowledge will help you remain competitive throughout your career, your progression will hinge more and more on skills such as leadership, problem solving and likeability.

This is because as you gain experience, employers will expect your technical expertise as standard, while an ability to inspire others, find new solutions and manage projects will set you apart.

These traits will allow you to move into more senior roles, particularly those that require management of staff or projects.

Here are some of the soft skills you can develop throughout your career.

First job

Oral and written communication skills

The ability to communicate with clarity and confidence is a key requirement during your first job. Martin Murphy, Analyst at Shell explains that his role involves communicating with different areas of the business on a global scale. He says, “I think people would be surprised by just how much of what I, and my colleagues do, is as much about communication as it is about accountancy.”

Developing this skill involves focusing on your ability to listen. By showing your genuine interest in the other person’s needs and point of view, you’ll find that you build rapport and collaboration will occur naturally. Spend some time analysing your body language, your tendency to get distracted and how often you ask questions of others – do you create a space that welcomes others to connect with you? Also think about  the 7 C’s of communication. Your communication should be clear, concise, concrete, correct, coherent, complete and courteous.

Be a team player

In the business world, true success is rarely accomplished or gained alone. In order to be a good team player, you’ll need to be reliable, communicate with confidence and go the extra mile. Good team work relies on good organisation – make sure that you know your role and what you’re accountable for. Put your hand up for tasks you know you’ll excel in – don’t assume your team mates know your strengths. Solicit feedback from others, share credit and champion the successes of others.

Manage your time and prioritize

Meeting deadlines will earn the respect of your coworkers and managers but will also establish your credibility as a reliable team mate. Creating a to-do list and using a calendar can be helpful in setting up reminders for important deadlines, tasks and meetings. If you anticipate that you won’t make a deadline, address it immediately with those that will be affected. Be accountable for errors that have impacted on meeting your deadline and share knowledge about any business challenges you’ve experienced to improve processes and mitigate risk. Make sure you track your successes by creating a weekly journal of your accomplishments, projects and learning goals. This will  be useful when you have appraisals but also as a way to help you identify areas that you want to improve.

Commercial awarenesss

Commercial awareness is about understanding what makes a business successful and appreciating the internal and external factors that influence success. As your career progresses, it’s likely that you will become more involved in decisions which directly affect your company or organisation.

Julia Nocker, Finance Business Partner at Unilever explains that, “a lot of people see finance and accounting as number crunching, when there is so much more to it. If you cannot understand the story behind the numbers and the bigger picture, you will not be successful. Sometimes, you might actually have no numbers at all and you will have to make decisions based on your business understanding and perception of the situation.”

Senior level

Most managers have both a specialisation and a set of managerial skills. To become a manager you must demonstrate competences in these areas:

Decision making

You’ll need to be able to weigh up several different options, make effective decisions and take appropriate action. Having good judgement and knowing when the time is right to implement decisions is crucial.

Anthony Meakin, Finance Analyst at British Airways explains that “accountants are often assumed to be boring, one-dimensional characters who find it hard to look beyond spreadsheets. This could not be further from the truth, in fact, CIMA qualified Chartered Global Management Accountants (CGMAs) play a vital role in businesses worldwide by providing the understanding and analysis required to make credible business decisions.”

Strategic thinking

Don’t just plunge yourself into today’s tasks, think big picture. Step back and come up with effective plans in line with an organisation’s objectives within a particular economic situation. Strategic thinking helps managers plan long-term, set goals and determine priorities, and identify potential risks and opportunities.

Gayle Wells, Strategic Business Accountant at Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust describes her role as, “supporting the transformation and financial sustainability which provides high, medium and low secure mental health services for the Mersey & Cheshire area of the NW of England.” As the finance lead to the clinical division, her role requires a strategy that involves innovation that creates value.


Managers who can inspire and motivate themselves as well as people around them have a better chance of advancing in their career. Rewarding and recognising achievement and encouraging people to achieve their personal best is key to successful management. A manager’s commitment to motivating employees through shared vision and communication is the fundamental skill that great managers bring to the workplace.

Leadership and team management

Leadership and team management are all about being able to direct a team to do the best that it can do. In many ways leadership is similar to teamwork, although it also involves taking responsibility for your team and maintaining your influence. Leadership also involves creating a compelling vision of the future, communicating that vision, and helping people understand and commit to it. Managers, on the other hand, are responsible for ensuring that the vision is implemented efficiently and successfully.

The CIMA qualifications are underpinned by the CGMA Competency Framework. It is designed to help management accountants and their employers understand the knowledge requirements and assess the skills needed for both current and desired roles. The framework is underpinned by the need for objectivity, integrity, and ethical behaviour, and includes a commitment to continuously acquire new skills and knowledge. Find out more about CIMA, our qualifications and the CGMA Competency Framework

Tamarah Alrayes is Specialist, Recruitment Marketing — Management Accounting for CIMA.

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