Essential Qualities to Advance Your Accounting Career

In accounting, well-regarded and high-paying jobs aren’t guaranteed to go to the person with seniority or even the person with the most accounting knowledge. It takes more than mastering a chart of accounts. There are other essential qualities that a hiring manager will seek in an applicant before they offer a promotion or extend a job offer. Here are just a few.

You adapt to change.

Adapting to change is key to being successful at any job, but this skill is especially important for accountants. Accounting standards and compliance requirements change often, and businesses are looking for someone who can not only take note of those changes but also interpret them and implement them into the business.

You have general business knowledge.

You shouldn’t limit your knowledge to accounting and finances. To best serve the business, you should have a broad understanding of the business’s revenue streams, its goals and pain points, its customer base, the market, the competition, and — most importantly — how each department interacts with the financial data. Having healthy insight into the entity’s inner workings will help you find better solutions for your colleagues when they need your help.

You have healthy relationships with other departments.

Financial reporting affects everyone in the business, not just management and the Board of Directors. Leaders in other departments rely on internal and external financial reports to gauge progress and make key decisions, so it’s important for you to interact with those leaders whenever you can. If you foster those relationships, they will come to you when they need help, and you’ll be able to show company management that you’re a team player.

You know how to prioritize.

Month-end close can be one of the most stressful requirements of the job, and for good reason. Month-end close requires you to:

  • Collect and organize bank statements
  • Reconcile accounts
  • Follow up on outstanding invoices
  • Adjust inventory and asset balances
  • Calculate accruals
  • Post adjusting journal entries
  • Finalize intercompany transactions
  • Prepare financial reports

…and so much more.

With so much to be completed in just a few days’ time, you must be able to triage problems that come your way. Those who can work well under pressure (and produce good results in the process) will likely be the first ones considered for a promotion.

You have good communication skills.

Good accountants understand the financials, but how many accountants can effectively explain the financials to someone else? To advance in your career, you must be able to explain complex accounting concepts to your peers — those with financial knowledge — but also to colleagues, vendors, customers, and board members who have little or no financial background.

You are familiar with current accounting principles.

Accounting principles aren’t written in stone. In fact, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) changes them frequently. Recently, the FASB introduced two significant changes to generally accepted accounting principles that affected (or will affect) nearly every business in every industry: revenue recognition and lease reporting. As a lead accountant, you should feel comfortable discussing reporting requirements like these with the Board and working with management to adopt new standards.

You embrace technology.

If you can improve your familiarity with technology that’s on the market today, you’ll make yourself more marketable. Hiring agents will want to know that you feel comfortable with technologies like:

  • Automatic Reconciliation Software

Reconciliation software (like FloQast’s AutoRec) uses AI to draft monthly amortization entries, match transactions, and identify exceptions that need further review.

  • Financial Dashboards

Accounting dashboards (like the ones built by Sage Intacct) centralize financial data in one location to provide real-time visibility into the metrics you care about most.

  • Billing and Invoicing Software

Software that simplifies billing and invoicing (like Striven) can improve A/R and A/P efficiencies, having a lasting impact on cash flow.

  • Cloud-Based Accounting Systems

Cloud-based accounting systems (like those offered by QuickBooks, NetSuite, and Xero) not only make communicating with consultants and auditors easier, but they ensure you have the ability to keep tabs on the finances even when you’re disconnected from the local server.

Learning new technologies can also be helpful if you want to stay with your current employer. Actively seeking out software that makes your and your coworkers’ lives easier will show company leadership that they can rely on you to move the company forward.

You’re addressing your weaknesses.

Be honest with yourself and hiring managers about what you bring to the table. Show confidence in your abilities but be honest when your skills are lacking. Admitting that you have weaknesses is only a problem if you haven’t taken steps to address them. Come to the table ready to show the steps you’ve taken to shore up your weaknesses so that management knows you take your career progression seriously.

You consciously choose to grow.

Take the steps you need to best position yourself for the job you want. Work with a mentor, solicit feedback, ask for more opportunities, and make it clear that you want to be considered for that new position. In other words, you won’t get that bigger and better job unless you work for it.

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