4 Surprising Career Skills for Accounting Jobs

By Robert Half on January 18, 2016 at 3:00pm

Accounting professionals don’t just have career skills that involve spreadsheets. Sure, whether you're working in a traditional accounting position in a tax company, payroll department or auditing firm, or exploring a less common career path, you can rest assured that companies will always need their books balanced, accounts tracked, taxes paid and finances professionally handled.

But it’s not all number-crunching at accounting jobs. Aside from the in-demand accounting skills, such as Excel, cloud-based software, and risk and compliance, you should soften up with some non-accounting abilities.

Here are four surprising career skills that accounting professionals need to be successful:

1. ‘Big picture’ business acumen

Now more than ever, accountants must understand how their numbers figure into the big picture of a company’s operations and objectives. Data can provide support for important decisions and tell which plans are working and which are not. An accountant who can find and interpret that data will be a valued consultant for those decisions and plans.

2. Communication and storytelling

It’s important to keep your debits and credits straight, but unless you can clearly and concisely explain how they work to other departments — not to mention why they should care — you may not get very far.

The numbers on a ledger tell a story. Telling that story to non-accountants is a lot like translating it into another language. You are the interpreter, whose job is to make sure all the important information is included in the translated story. Communication and storytelling skills will make an accountant valuable to every other department in the company.

3. Written communication skills

When you aren’t talking through accounting matters with other departments, you will likely be writing those points for them. Whether in a memo, financial report, proposal or plan, the ability to write clearly and concisely, with a good command of the language, will be helpful for any accountant. Make sure your writing is well-thought-out and straightforward. Don’t forget to proofread. Don’t skimp on writing just because you may not be used to it, either. The more you practice it, the better you will get and the more valuable you will be.

4. Customer service and collaboration

Many accountants work directly with clients and customers. Boost your customer service skills by active listening to others. Being a proactive problem-solver who displays tact and diplomacy as well as adaptability and enthusiasm will help you build a solid reputation and advance your career.

As a bonus, these skills will help you collaborate well with your colleagues, too.

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