Without getting into all that's been written about the jobless recovery and record high corporate profits without the accompanying hiring, there has indeed been a fundamental shift in how corporate America is working with labor. This includes accounting and finance professionals. There has also been a fundamental shift in how these professionals prefer to work. "Temporary" may be the new name of the game, and it just might work to the benefit of many accountants, as well as their employers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), temporary workers currently make up roughly 2 percent of the U.S. labor force. Since the end of the recession, the staffing industry has created more jobs than any other single industry in America, according to the American Staffing Association (ASA). The ASA further cites that according to BLS data temporary staffing jobs accounted for 91 percent of total nonfarm job growth from June 2009 through June 2011.
Accounting and finance professionals are ideally suited to take advantage of this new flexible workforce trend. In fact, the market for temporary and contract accounting help totaled approximately $6.7 billion in 2013. (Estimated using data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and industry sales published by the American Staffing Association.)
Accounting and finance professionals have skill sets that by their nature are transferable, can benefit numerous companies, are not always limited by geography, and are becoming increasingly easier to carry out virtually.
Below are the more common benefits that the accounting and finance professional who embraces this more flexible career choices often experiences:
- Mitigated Single Employer Risk. Adaptable accounting and finance professionals can work for several clients either sequentially or at the same time, thereby decreasing their dependence on a single employer.
- Flexibility. Choosing when and whom you want to work for means flexibility in scheduling.
- Career Growth. Temporary assignments can provide professionals the challenges of new job responsibilities and learning new skillsets that they might not have otherwise had.
- Comparable or Better Pay. Temporary professionals often experience comparable or greater levels of compensation than what they earned in full-time jobs
Technology definitely helps too, particularly cloud-based accounting and finance systems and other productivity tools like cloud storage and network access and online video meetings. Accounting and finance professionals who embrace these technologies can also employ them virtually across a multiple client base
Another big facilitator to this more independent career is the changes brought by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA means independent accounting and finance professionals are no longer as dependent on a single employer for health insurance, enabling them to have consistency in their insurance provider while they build their flexible accounting and finance careers.
So how does one embark on this new flexible accounting and finance career? Here are some tips:
- Agency vs. Go It Alone: First, you should decide if you want to build an independent consulting approach, tap into a staffing company, or a little of both. Building a track record through an agency first can be easier instead of spending your time canvassing for work. But if you have a strong network you may not have to.
- Try Your Current Employer First: This option is often missed since you might not think it's an option at all; but it's actually a great place to start, especially if you're just looking to move to part-time or just projects. Your employer may prefer this over losing you permanently. A big plus is that this gives you your first client!
- Network: We've all heard it…networking is the best way to find a job. But it's even more important when you're looking to consistently land assignments. In the beginning, these are also the people that you have credibility with already, so they can be the first building blocks of clients and referrals.
- Leverage Your Existing Accomplishments: It's important to inventory what you've already learned and accomplished, and then decide which to focus on when offering your services. You'll increase your chances of landing a well-fitting spot, and you can command a higher bill rate too.
- Learn To Market Yourself: Whether a consultant or temporary professional, you're basically in business for yourself—and what you're selling is you! Putting the time into marketing yourself, both offline and online, will pay off nicely. This means a thorough examination of your resume as well as a one page profile summary of your skill sets and accomplishments. Then take this and get it all online! This, of course, means LinkedIn, but don't ignore Google Plus. You can even consider your own website (its cheaper and easier than you think). Contribute to groups on all these sites to get your expertise noticed and even put a blog on your site if you decide to build one.
So can accountants be flexible? Maybe not all of us—but $6.7 billion of us have learned to! Maybe it's right for you, too. It's certainly worth considering.
About the author:
Stephen DelVecchia, CPA, is the CEO of Adaptive Professional Solutions, an online marketplace designed specifically for temporary accounting and finance professionals. He began his career in public accounting and established a track record that included financial and operating roles at companies like Corbis Corp. and Barnes & Noble, Inc. He also served as a CFO and EVP for a large staffing company which he took public in 2008. He graduated from CUNY Brooklyn College with a BA in accounting.