Getting Schooled: 7 Professional Development Tips to Build Your Skills

Building on the word, skills

It’s easy to let professional development take a back seat to our day-to-day responsibilities. We all seem to have growing to-do lists and competing priorities, and taking a study break may seem irrational in the face of looming deadlines. But as an accounting and finance professional, you need to continuously increase your accounting job skills to succeed in your role, maintain professional certifications and ultimately advance your career.

There are many ways to expand your skills, and we all have different preferences for how we like to learn. Here are seven professional development tips to help you get schooled.

1. Assess resources for professional development

Find out what types of training opportunities are available within your company and whether tuition reimbursement is offered for external courses. Resources like Accounting Today maintain calendars of upcoming conferences and events for accounting and finance professionals. Don’t overlook low-cost options such as online programs and resources, recorded webinars and books.

2. Join professional associations

Industry groups, like the American Institute of CPAs (APCPA), the American Payroll Association and Financial Executives International often conduct workshops and educational sessions where members can update their business knowledge and abilities. These events, whether in-person or online, also provide an avenue for networking and sharing ideas with others in the accounting and finance profession.

You might find this useful: 5 Networking Tips for Non-Networkers.

3. Take on new challenges

Talk to your manager about getting involved in projects outside of your normal responsibilities. Volunteer for assignments that stretch your skills.

4. Find a mentor inside or outside your company

If your employer doesn't have an in-house mentoring program, look for someone in other parts of your company or even outside it whose expertise you admire, and ask if he or she will assist you as a mentor.

5. Shadow a colleague to learn

Identify colleagues in your company who do something you’d like to learn, and observe their actions and ask them questions. Many people enjoy teaching.

6. Help others and develop skills

Volunteer on committees or for leadership roles at organizations where you can develop skills that not only benefit the group but also are applicable to your job.

7. Monitor your professional development progress

Create a professional development plan with one-year, three-year and five-year goals for the skills you’d like to obtain. This will help you track your progress and keep you accountable. Highlight during performance reviews the new skills you’ve developed.

Keep going! Robert Half's online accounting training and programs offer more than 8,000 courses and online reference materials that provide instant access to the latest online books and business resource materials. 

Editor's note: This post was updated in 2016 to reflect more current information.

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