If you ask 100 company leaders the definition of a good employee, you can expect many different responses. Despite this, one thing is certain: Qualified employees are indispensable. Companies are always looking for the best and brightest to carry it through positive growth. So, how do you become that employee?
Becoming an indispensable employee starts with exploring the unknown. What are some areas that interest you? What do you think could positively impact your professional growth? Whether that’s looking at your literal skill set or nontechnical capabilities, this strategic thinking will exemplify that you mean serious business to employers.
As you work on becoming a more well-rounded accounting or finance professional, here are a few specific areas to keep in mind:
1. Get behind your company’s mission. This sounds like a no-brainer, but a key indicator of success is being excited about your work. While many people may be enthusiastic about their specific job requirements, true passion stems from getting acquainted with the company’s mission statement and overall goals. Take some time to get acquainted with these goals so that you can reframe how you define your success and what it means to accomplish these goals.
For instance, if you are an accountant at Campbell Soup Co., maybe a goal is to close the books ahead of schedule each month. Instead of thinking about your work as a task to “cross off” your to-do list, consider how important this work is to keeping the organization running smoothly. Without your efforts, how could the company deliver on its promise to promote nutrition and a more sustainable environment?
Reframing your goals around the company’s mission gives you purpose. If you are passionate and committed to this purpose, it will be visible to those around you and will significantly impact your work and what you can accomplish.
2. Develop soft skills. Excelling at the skills listed in a job description is table stakes in today’s accounting and finance landscape. As technology automates more tasks, the requirements of entry-level accounting positions are more sophisticated.
The challenge for employers is finding professionals who possess the qualities that can’t be automated – soft skills, like communication and leadership, that complement technical abilities. In fact, a survey conducted by the Institute of Management Accountants and the American Productivity and Quality Center found that 87 percent of finance employers say communications skills are needed in their departments.
To set yourself apart and become indispensable, you must advance your competency in these nontechnical skills by practicing active listening, being open to criticism, and thinking thoroughly about the choices you make. By developing these skills, employers will value your ability to influence, motivate, and gain the support of others in order to achieve organizational goals.
3. Embrace technology. The threat of a technology takeover in the accounting and finance profession is a common fear. Research on the future of finance found 78 percent of business experts agree that many standard finance processes will be automated in the future.
While this is a widely held perception, it does not mean there will be nothing left for accounting and finance professionals to do. On the contrary, digital technologies have the potential to elevate the accounting and finance field and allow professionals to play a more strategic role in their organizations. By using technology to cover mundane, repetitive tasks, you will have more time for developing richer information insights, ensuring compliance and creative collaboration in the finance function.
4. Continue learning. As the business landscape evolves and new regulations take hold, professionals must invest in their education. Going back to school for an MBA is a daunting (and expensive) idea for many who have been in the workforce for a few years, but there are alternative ways to continue learning.
A great place to start is inside your company. Check out company resources, including training courses, webinars, and volunteer opportunities. Another great way to show your employer your commitment to your trade is through certification. Employers have shown their desire for certified employees through increased compensation – with certified employees earning an average of 31 percent more than their noncertified peers.
Explore certification programs like the CMA (Certified Management Accountant), which guarantees management accountants have the most critical skills for the accounting profession.
5. Network. Networking isn’t just for job seekers. Because finance touches multiple, if not all, functions of business, networking allows accounting and finance professionals the opportunity to engage and communicate with other like-minded professionals.
Networking opens opportunities to learn and grow through your career by exploring other business sectors through the finance lens. Conferences, for example, are a great way to interact with inspiring speakers, connect with industry leaders, and share experiences with other aspiring professionals. Joining member-only organizations allow you to explore trending issues in your profession, meet with regional councils for mentoring, and increase leaderships skills while, most importantly, growing your network for future career advancement.
When considering which of these five steps to focus on in 2017, the first step is to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, where you are in your career, and where you want to be next year. From there, you can prioritize these practical solutions and demonstrate your willingness and ability to provide value within your company.
As the accounting profession continues to change, make sure you’re able and willing to change along with it.
Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE, is president and CEO of the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). Since assuming this position in 2008, he has led the development of a strategy resulting in IMA becoming one of the fastest growing accounting associations in the world, with nearly...