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3 Questions to Guide You Toward Intentional Upskilling

May 6th 2019
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Upskilling is a hot topic in the accounting profession in 2019, but do you know your team’s unique abilities and if so, are you leveraging them?

In case you’re not familiar with the term, the Cambridge Dictionary defines upskilling as, “the process of learning new skills or of teaching workers new skills.” Technologies such as machine learning, blockchain and artificial intelligence are disrupting the accounting profession and forcing professionals to move beyond compliance work to offer higher-value strategic insight and guidance. Fortunately, lifelong learning has always been a focus for accountants.

The difference now is in addition to staying on top of the latest accounting standards and tax laws, accountants are also required to learn about emerging technologies and, moreover, the skills that can help them become better advisors. Of course, nobody can be all things to all people. That’s why it’s so important to identify and develop your own unique abilities as well as those of your team.

At a recent P3 Leadership Academy session, participants discussed how to identify unique abilities and intentionally upskill yourself and your team. Here’s a look at how to put this into action in your firm:

1. What are Your Unique Abilities?

Each person in your firm has a unique set of experience, skills, talents and motivations. Sometimes, they are so ingrained in who we are that we don’t recognize how special they are. So how do you find them out?

Why not ask the people who know you best? Pick five to seven friends, family members, colleagues, clients or coworkers and send them an email asking them for feedback. Here’s a sample email you might send:


Dear XXX,

I’m doing an exercise for work to identify my Unique Abilities – the talents, interests, and capabilities that are unique to me.

Because I trust and respect your opinion, I would really appreciate it if you could consider the following question and send me back an answer. "What do you see as my Unique Ability?" My Unique Ability includes my talents and abilities, characteristics that describe me, what I'm good at, how I do things, what you count on me for, and anything that impresses you about who I am.

Thank you for taking the time to give me your feedback.


As you receive responses, patterns will emerge. You may see certain things that other people always count on you for or ways you positively impact others. These are clues to help you identify your unique abilities.

2. What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

As accounting firms shift to becoming better strategic advisors to their clients, firms are comprised of fewer generalists and more niche specialists. This isn’t just about focusing on particular industries, but also new positions within firms.

You may be interested in pursuing the traditional CPA firm career path of becoming a partner in the tax or audit departments, but you could just as readily branch off into technology, outsourced accounting or CFO services, marketing, business intelligence, business valuation, M&A consulting and more. The skills you need for these career paths are different than those required on the traditional CPA career path.

Do the skills required in that field align with your unique abilities? Consider your aspirations and do your homework to discover the combination of technical and success skills needed for where you want to be in the next five to 10 years so you can start working toward there now.

3. Where Does Your Team Want to Go?

No matter your experience level or position within your firm, you are a part of a team. Hopefully, it’s a team that is as passionate about preparing for the future and growing professionally as you are. Having conversations with your team about what they want and where you are going can ensure you’re on the right team.

Once you’ve identified your unique abilities and drafted your plan, talk to your supervisor or manager about how your career path fits into the firm’s strategic plan and what the firm can do to support you on that path. Work on 90-day game plans to set small goals that get you closer to your ultimate vision. Then, share your goals with your team so they know where you want to go and how they can support you.

Final Thoughts

All growth and learning are good, but understanding your unique abilities and identifying your ultimate vision for your career can help you get more intentional about upskilling. Getting clear about who you are and taking steps to get what you want to go will ensure your skills remain relevant for the job you’re doing now, but also make you a more valuable member of the team for the future.

The original article appeared in the Boomer Bulletin blog.

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