Positioning Yourself in The Current Accounting/Finance Marketplace

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By, Dom Vacca, Acsys Inc.

Unquestionably, the labor market conditions that we find ourselves in are less than optimal. However, history tells us that the pendulum continues to swing and the good times will return. We just don't know precisely when that will be.

Like other aspects of our lives, we have no choice but to respond to the situation with which we are faced. We can moan and groan about the ‘soft' market -- but that accomplishes nothing. So, in the meantime, how can we best deal with the realities of the marketplace?

First, accounting and finance professionals must make every effort to understand the truth about the marketplace both nationally and locally. There are some general themes that are occurring across the board.

To assess these themes, it is advisable to regularly read reputable business publications and current literature from professional associations and industry resources, as well as to talk with reputable search firm professionals who are ‘on the front line' of the finance/accounting marketplace.

Search consultants who specialize in the accounting and finance arena are those who will know best what the current supply and demand is like and what trends are surfacing.

For the better part of this year, Acsys consultants have observed the following general themes:

  • A sharp decline of senior-level financial professionals such as CFOs and controllers. This is due, in large part, to layoffs, downsizing, merger activity and the dissolving of a multitude of small, start-ups.
  • A small, but noticeable pick-up in staff-level accounting positions due to pent-up, unmet demand.
  • Continued demand for tax, audit and public accounting experience.
  • Increased emphasis on specific industry expertise or knowledge.

With these facts in mind, here are a few tips for accounting job seekers who are looking to increase their marketability and career options.

First, if you find yourself between jobs, one option to consider is working project or temporary assignments. These opportunities will not only allow a continued income stream, but they will keep your skills sharp and your mental attitude positive. Such assignments may also lead to a permanent position and can provide exposure to some still-thriving industries in which you lack experience.

Secondly, expand the geographic parameters or commuting distances of your search. This may open up more opportunities, especially for senior level managers.

Pursue or activate your CPA if you don't currently have this certification. This is still the top distinction for accounting professionals. Angie Buday with the Acsys Atlanta group says, “On average, half of the accounting positions that we fill require the candidate to be a CPA. So in effect, having this certification can double an applicant's chances of getting an interview.”

Be prepared for some reasonable compromise in your compensation. Because many employers are cutting costs and view the market as flooded with candidates, very few of them are offering top range salaries.

Lastly, but not least, activate your network of contacts. Talk with former co-workers, managers, subordinates, professional association colleagues, former professors, friends, and extended family members. And don't forget to seek out a relationship with a reputable and well-connected search firm in your field. A top-notch firm can significantly expand your existing network!

Dom Vacca is one of the original founders of Acsys, a national staffing firm specializing in placing accounting, finance and information technology professionals. Vacca has extensive experience serving the accounting and finance industry and regularly speaks at local and national conferences about issues affecting the profession. He works daily to provide advice and counseling to individuals seeking to advance their careers. For more information about Acsys, visit www.acsysinc.com.

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