Learning is a rewarding experience, but it definitely has its challenging moments too.
When you find yourself feeling frustrated, overworked or otherwise at the end of your tether, it’s helpful to focus on your end goal: the job that comes after your studies. So what can you do right now to stand out from the crowd and ensure you’re on track to land that dream role?
Gain knowledge by doing
Studying and working both involve a lot of knowledge building, but if you want to lay the foundations for a prosperous and exciting career, your learning shouldn’t stop there. Think creatively about how you can build extra layers of understanding and open your mind to new opportunities by doing.
“Part-qualified workers might not have the most exciting roles at the moment, but they should aim to become an expert: to master the theory, the practical side, the application and how it fits in with the business,” says Sholto Shakespeare, partner and head of part-qualified and transactional finance at specialist recruitment firm Cedar.
That will mean different things for different people, but the core ideas stay the same. Consider your colleagues and managers as the amazing resources they are, and constantly take an interest in what’s going on around you in the workplace.
“If you’re in accounts payable, that work will immediately impact the management accountant above you. Speak to that person and other colleagues around you – really be involved in your work,” Shakespeare advises.
Take the initiative and suggest solutions
You might not be fully qualified yet, but you can still add huge value to both your company and your team. Different organisations have different bad habits, skill gaps and technical blind spots, so work to identify the unique ones around you – then be the one who takes action to make things better.
“Look for opportunities to upskill and then use your knowledge to suggest improvements to your organisation’s current systems,” Shakespeare suggests. “Simple activities like watching YouTube videos and improving your spreadsheet skills are straightforward but will definitely give you an advantage over others, especially if you can say you’ve contributed solutions in a working environment.”
He adds: “If we’re talking about a dream job, there’s going to be competition, and these skills will give you that competitive edge. The investment is worth it.”
Get business savvy
Mastering a variety of business skills is helpful no matter what profession you’re in, so think broadly about how you can use your spare time to bolster your CV and make a positive impact in your workplace. Even for accountancy and bookkeeping roles, it’s important to remember it’s not all about the figures.
“We assume a finance candidate is good with numbers, but employers want to know about commercial skills too,” says Sophie Corke, a specialist part-qualified recruitment consultant at Grafton Banks Finance Recruitment. “Communication skills are important. You need to show that you’re comfortable speaking to people at different levels and for different purposes.”
If there aren’t straightforward opportunities to build these skills or show them off in your current role, don’t be afraid to take bold steps and make it happen yourself. “Ask to shadow your line manager,” Corke suggests. “It will demonstrate your passion and you get to say ‘I tried this, I put myself out there’. It shows you’re somebody who finds opportunities, which makes you much more appealing.”
Pursue your industry niche
There are job opportunities for finance professionals in a diverse range of industries, so honing in on your chosen niche ahead of time can really pay off when you’re looking to land that dream job. The best way to do this is by tailoring your skills, experience and understanding the specialism you want to pursue.
“Look at competition within the industry and read the latest reports,” Corke advises. “At part-qualified level, it’s surprising when someone’s read up about industry goings-on. Showing that knowledge and bringing it up at interview highlights that you’re well-informed and different from other candidates, which is only going to benefit you.”
Getting clued up is especially important if your ideal role is in a different industry than the one you’re currently working in. As Shakespeare puts it: “If your dream job is in a film production company, understanding the industry and its challenges is essential. If you work in a housing company right now and you interview for a media company, you have to have credibility talking about the industry, the business and why you’re interested in it.”
Whether it’s working with a small firm or landing a role with one of the big four, actively chasing that dream job before you’re fully qualified will give you a serious edge over other candidates. Dedicate a little time to thinking about your future each week, and you’ll be able to land the perfect role before anybody else has even started their search!
We’re hosting a CV surgery Facebook Live event at 18.30 tonight with Karen Young, Director and all round recruitment guru, at Hays Accountancy and Finance. She’s going to give you all the help and advice you need to make your CV shine, so make sure you log in and join her. We also have great CV tips, tools and advice to help you get that job.
Lauren Razavi is an award-winning writer and content strategist, and managing director of communications consultancy Flibl. She has worked on projects for leading global brands such as NatWest, Google and Facebook, and her writing focuses on technology, finance, entrepreneurship and innovation. Follow her on Twitter @LaurenRazavi.