Seven tips to develop your career in accountancy

This post is quite distinct from most of the others on this blog. Instead of focusing on accountants in practice, what follows is intended to help those accountants looking to develop their career. I am often asked for my advice in this connection so have gathered here some of my top tips and links.

1 – It is quite natural to find the options ahead quite daunting. Your next choice need not define who you are or what you will do for the rest of your career. Those days are long gone, even for qualified accountants. Consider your answer to these questions:

  • What type of work have you most enjoyed to date?
  • In what sort of environment have you enjoyed working?
  • What are your strengths? and
  • What talents, skills and experience do you have to offer an employer?

2 – Search online for specialist recruitment consultancies that offer help and advice to accountants like you. Do not rely on email or on submitting your CV online before you have actually spoken to someone with relevant expertise. Talk to 2 or 3 recruitment consultants to find one you can trust and who isn’t simply after a commission for placing you in a job quickly. You don’t have to pay for this advice. The consultancies get paid a commission by your new employer. Good consultants will give you independent advice as they know that you will return to them as and when you want to change jobs in the future – and you will recommend them to friends and colleagues.

3 – Register on LinkedIn and complete your profile there so that it is attractive to prospective recruiters and anyone looking there for someone like you.  Once registered you can then use LinkedIn to connect with past colleagues and business contacts. In due course you can then seek their advice and help to find your next role. These previous posts contain more tips on this topic:

4 – Cut your CV down to 2 pages. Remember the key point is that a CV is not about getting a job. It’s about getting an interview. It needs to describe you as a person, not simply what you’ve achieved at work. And 2 pages is all it needs to be.  In practice you will also want to tailor it to each role you go for.

5 – Think about your friends and other people you know who could introduce you to the sort of new employer you’d like to work with. Then talk to your friends etc and ask their advice about how to secure intros to those people. Have a clear story as to what value you would be to a new employer.  By the way, the more specific you can be as to the type of business you are looking to work with, the more you increase the chance of someone being able to effect a suitable introduction.

6 – If, as is likely, you are on facebook, make sure that your profile and activity there work FOR you rather than AGAINST you. Here are nine career related tips re accountants’ use of facebook

7 – Keep in mind that whatever you want from your next job is upto you. But you need to recognise that the only people ever likely to recruit you will be focused on what they want and on what you can do for them. Your online profiles and your CV need to make this clear and you need to be ready to explain this during job interviews too.

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Key business quotes for accountants

Not everyone likes seeing trite quotes that purport to inspire us to motivate us. Actually I do like them – in moderation. I’m not a fan of a quote a day, though I do have two calendars that offer me this option. If only I remembered to move them on every day….

For now here are a few that seem especially relevant to accountants. Hope you like them.

You don’t get paid for the hour. You get paid for the value you bring to the hour
– Jim Rohn

The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlights reel
– Steven Furtick

It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.
– Sir Winston Churchill

You’ll never regret what you couldn’t afford
– Unknown

I’m where I am because I’m willing to do things others are not willing to do to get what they say they want
– Jim Ziegler

Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.
– Lawrence J. Peter

Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.
– Unknown

Prescription BEFORE diagnosis is Malpractice
– Tony Allessandra

It is not always the strongest who survive, nor the most intelligent, but those who adapt and change the most.
– Charles Darwin

Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude
– Zig Ziglar

Whether you think that you can or that you can’t, you are usually right.
– Henry Ford

Feel free to add any others, by way of comments, that inspire or motivate you in practice.

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Lessons for accountants from…..comedians

Have you ever seen any of those TV panel games involving teams of comedians?

There are typically two teams with 3 comedians on each side and a host who may also be a comedian. I’m thinking of programmes such as ‘Would I lie to you?’, ‘Mock the Week’, ‘8 out of 10 Cats’ and so on. Even the long running ‘Have I got News for You’ typically has 2 or 3 comedians on each show. ‘So what?’ you say. ‘What can accountants learn from this?’

Well, it occurs to me that these comedians all seem to be happy appearing on screen together. They frequently laugh at each others’ jokes and seem quite comfortable with their competitors being seen along side them.  They know that if anyone is looking to book a comedian for a gig or to host a private event that it is their personal qualities that will count most.

I’m simplifying things of course to make a point. And that is that there is NO NEED to fear being in the same room as other accountants at networking events. I know some accountants who are only prepared to attend groups that limit attendance to one person per profession (as does BNI for example).  This is unduly limiting in my view.

First of all you are unlikely to be able to have meaningful conversations with everyone in the room. Secondly there is no point in racing around the room giving out your business card to all and sundry. As I have pointed out many times here: No one refers work to a business card.

But, most of all, you not competing with the other accountants for work. You are competing with them to build relationships with the other people in the room. Again, as I have pointed out many times, you are never just networking to secure business from the people in the room. You are also looking to be remembered, recommended and referred AFTERWARDS.

Most of the people you meet will take it as read, if you say you are an accountant, that this means that you can do all  the basics they assume every accountant can do.  You are not competing to be thought of just another accountant.  Just as comedians are not competing to make us laugh. They can all do that – otherwise they wouldn’t be on TV.

What matters most is how easy it is for other people to get to know and like you. I’d suggest that making them laugh can help here but there is no need for accountants to start acting like comedians!

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads of valuable insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who want to STANDOUT and speed up their success. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

 

 

 

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Lessons for accountants from….dating sites

I was fascinated to hear a friend of a friend bemoaning the challenge of finding suitable guys to date online.

The lady in question (we’ll call her ‘Brenda’) is looking for guys 45-65, but is routinely put off by their photos and their profiles.

It seems that few have thought about how to create the best first impression. And this is the lesson I want to share today.

It’s been a while since I blogged about how ‘You never get a second chance to create a first impression’.

Now it is perfectly possible that the guys who approach ‘Brenda’ are just as choosy as she is. Perhaps they want someone who will accept them, warts and all. For them maybe it’s best that they haven’t tailored their dating profiles. Perhaps there are women who look to date guys who think it makes sense to use a photo that shows them half drunk, with a pint of beer in their hand wearing a football t-shirt that is too small for them.

But I bet it would be easier for such guys to find their ideal woman if they posted more attractive photos and less self-centred profiles.

What impression do prospective clients get from the photos they see of you on your website and elsewhere in your online profiles? If you have a unique name try a google image search. Is the person you find looking back at you approachable and mature or stupid, sad or boring?

Does your profile describe you as the perfect date or as the ideal accountant? By all means include some evidence of your personality and outside interests. But remember your profile’s job is to evidence you as an experienced, able and approachable accountant.

My tip of the week then is to set out the adjectives and description of you that you would like to stress in your online profiles, website and photos. Now ask someone else to review your preferred photo and profiles. What adjectives and description come to mind? If there is a disconnect you had better make some changes.

You might try the same exercise if you are looking for love on dating sites too 😉

Related posts: How to build your personal brand and Online profiles – make sure yours isn’t boring

Related ebook: How to be more than ‘just another accountant’.

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How accounting has been changed by technology

I was intrigued by this infographic and thought it was worth sharing. I recognise the picture of the modern accountant as I started in the profession just before accounting computer programmes were introduced to enhance our lives.

The infographic starts with Pacioli in 1494 and comes right uptodate via the introduction of visicalc in 1978 and then quickbooks in 1998.

Visicalc led onto supercalc and then to Lotus 1-2-3 which was the last spreadsheet software on which I received any training. It was later that I learned to excel 😉

Do you agree with the conclusion that today’s accountant has become a business consultant rather than just a mathematical tool?
How Accounting Has Been Changed By Technology Over Time

Source: Accounting-Degree.org

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I’m not boring but my firm is. What should I do?

I was recently asked by an accountant whether it matters that his firm has a boring website and boring branding? The individual in question does not come across as boring themselves.

In typical accountancy fashion, I responded: ‘It depends…’.

I believe that firms that are keen to attract business from people who search online for an accountant need to have an attractive compelling website that make it both appealing and easy to get in touch. Or at least that those firms which do this will convert more visitors than those with boring looking websites.

Nb: The look and feel of the website is also relevant to accountants and firms where prospective clients look them up online. This typically happens after an existing client, business or networking associate has recommended or referred the accountant or firm to the prospect. (More tips on accountants’ websites here>>>)  

I also believe that accountants who attend networking events and give out boring looking business cards need to be particularly memorable, special and distinct in themselves. Otherwise there is less chance of the people they meet wanting to follow up with them. And networking without following up is invariably a waste of time.  The more you can tip the odds in your favour here the better. And quality business cards that stand out can only help.  (More tips on accountants’ business cards here>>>)

On the other hand…

Existing clients will be less interested in the firm’s website and branding than in the individual accountants with whom they are dealing.  Other partners in the firm may perceive any changes to the website and branding as a costly exercise that will not improve the bottom line. This may be true in the short term. And, of itself, such changes will not achieve anything. They would need to be part of a review and upgrading of the firm’s marketing activities, messages and ambitions. Should the more standout partners and members of staff push for this?  It depends… 😉

 Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more marketing insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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What skills set does it take to be successful as an accountant or tax adviser?

Some years ago I routinely highlighted the need to build and develop personal and business skills in addition to technical skills. It’s all very well to understand accounting and tax rules and how to produce a set of accounts and tax returns, but ambitious accountants need a wider skills set if they want to be successful. Today I return to the topic – for reasons that will become apparent.

It has long been my experience, and that of other training providers, that accountants and tax advisers are far more willing to invest in keeping up to date technically, than they are to invest in their personal development.

The number of attendees at technical courses will often be more than double the number who seek out non-technical CPD. This seems to be seen as simply a nice-to-have, rather than a crucial element of becoming and remaining a successful accountant or tax adviser. I find this odd as my own career success in practice owed far more to my non-technical skills than it did to my technical ones. And I know I’m not alone. It’s actually very common. Some of those skills may have come naturally to me but most benefitted from the numerous training courses I attended, books I read and tapes(!) I listened to over the years.

What prompted this blog post was the impassioned plea contained in a full page letter published in the June 2013 issue of Tax Adviser magazine. The letter  was written by Margaret Connolly, Partner and Head of Taxation at Reeves, a major firm of Accountants with over 40 partners in south-east England.

Margaret doesn’t mention non-technical skills as such but does note, inter alia, that:

Too many bright and talented tax staff only have experience of compliance work; They have had very little opportunity or experience in the advisory field even if they have secured an ATT or CIOT qualification.

“What makes a good tax adviser is the possession of the ability to interpret tax legislation and to apply it to each and every situation offerred by clients; indeed this is what clients expect.”

Those coming into the profession today are not afforded the time or encouraged to undertake detailed technical research, to think for themselves and offer their understanding of the legislation.

Most experienced tax partners today are under too much pressure to meet billing targets such that they cannot devote time to training up less experienced colleagues.

Although candidates’ CVs imply they have relevant experience, when probed during interviews they seem unable to demonstrate that they can give advice that considers all relevant tax issues.

If the profession doesn’t provide return to the days of adequate on the job training we will end up with a dearth of good quality tax advisers.

I have long believed that a period of varied and relevant practical experience is crucial over and above the achievement of professional qualifications. For this reason I entirely agree with Margaret Connolly’s concerns. But I would go further.

To be a successful accountant or tax adviser I believe  that you also need a range of personal and business skills and to have practiced these in real life client and office scenarios. Yes, you can learn some ‘on the job’ but why not accelerate your personal development in the same way as you do your technical skills? We think so much of this is common sense. Some is of course – with the benefit of hindsight. But we need to make it common practice and that’s quite different. We also need to learn about best practice and new techniques.

A few years ago I created a personal skills audit for ambitious accountants and tax advisers. It’s a one page note that highlights a dozen key skill areas. At the time I planned to act as a mentor, but I no longer have time for this. Still, I have dug it out and you can now access the note with my compliments through this link>> [edited: for a few weeks I was sending this by email but it’s become so popular….]. You can then see for yourself which areas seem to be important to you in your current role. You can also then grade yourself, honestly, for each of those skills on a scale of 1-10. What you do with the results is upto you.

And if you have any views on this topic, do please let me know direct or add your comments below this blog post.

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads of valuable insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who want to STANDOUT and speed up their success. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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