Steve Saah is a noted expert, author and presenter on career, management and hiring trends, particularly those affecting the accounting and finance fields. He’s also the executive director for Robert Half Finance & Accounting, the world’s first and largest specialized financial recruitment service.
What career advice does he give to new and upcoming college graduates and others looking to land a new position in the field of finance and accounting?
First off, make well-informed decisions for you, personally.
“There is so much information on the internet and preconceived notions,” he says. “Take a step a back and evaluate all options for a new position or company and how that sets you up for the long run.”
If you’re still in school, gain experience that sets you apart.
“Get practical, relevant real-world experience, a summer job or accounting internship, anything that offers you experience for the job or career you want upon graduation,” Saah says. “That will help to separate you from the rest of the pack.”
We sat down with Steve recently to find out what other career advice he has for college students and beyond who are pursuing an accounting career. Here’s part of our conversation.
Instruction beyond Accounting 101
What don’t students learn from college texts and professors that can be valuable in an accounting career?
"When launching your career, it’s tempting to dabble in different positions. This can help some people recognize their strengths and interests. But if you aspire to become controller or CFO, your career path must point in the right direction. Ask yourself, where do you want to be in three, five or even 10 years? Then sit down with a professional mentor and discuss the skills and experiences you need to achieve those goals.
"Today’s finance professionals wear many hats, making soft skills a necessity. To propel yourself to upper management, you’ll need to demonstrate leadership skills, technology proficiency, interpersonal or soft skills, analytical thinking, problem-solving prowess, business acumen and an ability to see the “big picture."
Is there a good reason to use a recruiter in a job search?
"Whether you’re starting a career or job searching, specialized recruiters are an invaluable resource. They assess your aspirations, skills and experience, then work with you to find a role that’s the best fit. They can also offer early insight into job postings — or may know of positions that won’t be advertised publicly."
Read Steve Saah's advice to managers on how to hire top talent in today's competitive environment.
Success and satisfaction
What key leadership lessons have you learned over your career?
"Surround yourself with the best people possible. Being even keeled and patient is also pretty critical."
What does work-life balance mean to you?
"We hear about work-life balance a lot from our candidates when they are looking for a job. To me, work-life balance and working hard are not mutually exclusive. I put in a lot of hours, and I'm fairly effective with my time. Figure out what’s important to you. Do what is significant to you. Be settled in your personal life to be effective in your career."
What do you love most and least about your job?
"It might be one in the same. I love the fact that I do get to travel and engage with everyone at every level of the company and work with the best of the best, and that's rewarding personally and professionally. The travel and the time away from my family is a sacrifice. It was a decision we collectively decided to make, and my family has been incredibly supportive, and we make a conscious effort to make the most of the time we have together."
Any travel tips or lessons learned for business professionals?
"You have to be intellectually honest with yourself and make sure it's something you enjoy; otherwise, it will drive you insane. It takes flexibility and patience. You will have curve balls thrown at you. Take direct flights whenever possible."
Looking for career advice for college students? Ready to look at the job opportunities?
Steve Saah is the executive director for Robert Half Finance & Accounting, the world’s first and largest specialized financial recruitment service. The company has more than 300 locations worldwide. He is responsible for leading worldwide operations, based in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.