Accountants: 7 Skills to Master
As a current bachelor’s of accounting student or recent graduate, it’s important to stay focused on mastering the necessary skills to succeed in accounting jobs. Accounting technologies are always changing, but the basic skills expected of professional accountants remain the same.
Even for accountants who have studied at the best accounting universities in the country, subject knowledge is much less effective without the ability to communicate, utilize the latest digital tools, and have an appreciation for work ethics. Here are seven of the most important skills that can help you be an excellent accountant.
Few industries are as dynamic as accounting. With financial software and tools constantly changing, it’s essential to adapt quickly. This could mean getting familiar with a new accounting system every year or two, but in general, being able to keep up with growing trends puts you at an advantage.
Accountants can become more adaptable by keeping up with evolving trends, planning ahead and thinking about the future. Individuals might feel stressed when faced with unexpected difficulties, but having the ability to adapt and determine alternative options helps the best accountants cope with change.
An adaptable accountant will anticipate changing environments, remain calm in stressful situations, take on new jobs on short notice, think quickly, and be able to deal with challenging workloads. Accountants can prove their worth to firms and clients by showing willingness to learn new techniques or methods, showing initiative, looking for ways to improve a work situation, and keeping a positive attitude.
Being a good leader doesn’t only require communication skills. While this could be valuable in any leader, having strong leadership skills is more about making oneself approachable and having the ability to mentor others.
Developing leadership skills requires a certain level of confidence. This isn’t a trait that comes easily to most people, especially to recent graduates, but if you are confident in your abilities to think strategically, plan ahead, and use the latest technologies, you can set yourself up for success.
A good accountant should be a creative visionary known for making the best decisions. A leader who displays ambition and motivation can also have a positive impact on co-workers and employees.
If you’re like most graduates, you already have experience with the public from working a part-time job. Whether you’ve worked in food service, retail, or hospitality, part-time jobs are invaluable experiences that help you develop those important customer service skills early.
When you work for an accounting firm or business client, you’re expected to maintain a good relationship, retain existing customers, and bring in new clients. Customer service skills are just as crucial to the success of your career as your accounting knowledge itself.
To take your customer service skills to the professional level, focus on being the following:
Accountants also need the ability to read clients, especially since they won’t always be interacting with them face to face. Reading clients can be difficult, as each client communicates differently and it can take some time to pick up on the nuances. The ability to understand a client’s needs and keep them in mind is incredibly important in an age where face time is being steadily replaced by technological alternatives.
Merriam-Webster defines tenacious as “persistent in maintaining, adhering to, or seeking something valued or desired,” as well as “not easily pulled apart.” Given this definition, one can probably already see why tenacity is such an important skill for any accountant to have.
A tenacious person is willing to go above and beyond the normal expectations to get the job done right. Tenacity also means having an exceptional work ethic and taking on extra challenges with determination.
Of course, being tenacious may mean you’re dedicated enough to work tirelessly until you’ve run out of steam. However, there is a difference between being tenacious and being single-minded. While single-mindedness can cause you to forge ahead without thinking, tenacity is more focused and relies on strategy.
As an accountant, you will be working with a variety of colleagues and clients, including different departments within an accounting firm. Communicating effectively is extremely important for success, especially if you are just beginning your career in the accounting field.
Accountants depend on all sorts of communication methods on a daily basis. They could spend their day answering emails, responding to texts, having face-to-face meetings, or even giving presentations. In all these tasks, one needs to be able to relay information as concisely, quickly, and professionally as possible.
With advancements in finance software, cloud computing, and automated programs, accountants are working with new technologies on a regular basis. For instance, for someone just starting out in the profession, you were likely exposed to the latest tech in your university’s accounting courses. This is a great start, but with technology changing so quickly, staying ahead of the game is essential. Familiarizing yourself with the following technologies and trends can help.
• Advanced Excel
• Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
• Business Intelligence Software (e.g., Yellowfin, IBM Cognos)
• Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
• Structured Query Language (SQL)
• Cloud computing software
• Automated accounting software
One of the most important skills an accountant can have is the ability to stay organized. Accountants deal with so much information on a daily basis that organization is important to keeping that information safe and confidential.
If you’re the type of student who’s always used color-coded highlighters or Post-it notes to study, you’ve already developed crucial organization habits that will come in handy as an accountant.
Accountants often utilize day planners, calendars, and technology to store and access information. Thanks to cloud-based accounting software, they can access a client’s information from your smartphone, making it easier to do their job no matter where you are.
Staying organized shows that you’re responsible, competent, and reliable, so develop those organizational skills now (and don’t forget to include them on your resume).
Although this is by no means the definitive list, these seven skills can be beneficial for the modern accountant. If you start by focusing on them when entering your new accounting career, you will prove yourself an invaluable employee from the start.
If you are interested in learning these and other skills as you pursue an accounting career, consider an online Bachelor of Science in Accounting with Maryville University.