How to Get a Job Promotion in Finance and Accounting

By Robert Half January 29, 2019 at 5:00pm

You've landed that corporate accounting job, and now you may be wondering what's next. Should you be thinking about your next job promotion and what lies ahead? Is it too soon to ask for the corner office?

Think of it this way: Your career path is a work in progress, and each job promotion is earned, not simply handed out. The key to moving up is to take the right steps at the right time. Here are six suggestions that will help you reach your goals.

1. Map out your pathway to a job promotion

Take a good look at your department and examine what the pathways are. At the top of a typical finance hierarchy is a CFO or vice president of finance. Below that person is a controller or director, followed by managers and staff-level financial specialists. Among these, depending on the size of your employer, there may be an internal audit career path or tracks for general accounting, management or cost accounting, tax accounting, compliance, business analysis and payroll. If you’re in public accounting, you may be headed up the CPA career path.

While you want to be open to multiple opportunities, you should also think about what type of accounting piques your interest and what you want to specialize in.

2. Get more education

You probably already have a four-year degree in business, finance or accounting. If not, at the top of your to-do list should be a relevant bachelor’s degree, which is almost always a requirement for a job promotion in accounting. You should also be working toward your CPA or CMA (certified management accountant) credential, both of which open doors and set you apart from your competition. Other professional certifications include:

  • CIA (certified internal auditor)
  • CISA (certified information systems auditor)
  • CPP (certified payroll professional)
  • CCEP (certified compliance & ethics professional)

If you want to become a financial controller or CFO someday, a graduate degree, such as an MBA, is a definite plus. Some employers partially or fully reimburse workers the cost of attaining certifications or degrees, so take advantage of this perk, if you can.

Looking to start anew at a different company? See what positions we place at Robert Half.

3. Polish all those skills

The higher you climb in accounting and finance, the more you’ll need technical skills, as well as abilities in leadership, critical thinking and written and verbal communication, so professional development is a must. You should also hone your interpersonal skills, which include negotiation, persuasion and relationship management.

Formal instruction is helpful, but some of the best training occurs on the job. During meetings, pay attention to the discussion so you can make meaningful contributions. Eagerly accept assignments where you’ll have to give presentations or write reports, and then ask your boss for feedback on how you could do better the next time. Volunteer to manage tough projects. You’re more likely to get ahead when you do more than the minimum to get by.

4. Be happy and professional

Who wants to work with negative people who complain all the time? Leaders look for emerging talent who see opportunities, not obstacles. Position yourself as a problem-solver with the foresight to see future possibilities. It also goes without saying that you should be professional at all times. That means dressing professionally and being punctual, cooperative and productive.

5. Do internal networking

The path to a job promotion isn’t built on just accounting know-how. To get ahead, you’ll also need to navigate office politics. Be seen as a team player instead of just another behind-the-scenes worker, and don’t limit your networking efforts to your boss alone. Think about establishing your connections internally throughout the company. Often, it’s not just one person who makes the decision about an employee’s promotion. If everyone has positive things to say about you, it will increase your chances to get promoted faster.

6. Be open with your boss

There’s no need to keep your enthusiasm and career goals a secret. Tap your boss for advice and direction. Employers are eager to hold on to talented employees, and one of the best ways for them to do that is to help staff move up within the ranks rather than seek opportunities elsewhere.

Let your manager know of your interest in a long-term career within the company. Then ask for advice on how to get there. Some of the steps may include continuing education courses, skills training, job shadowing and/or a mentorship with a senior member of the team.

Getting a job promotion is great recognition from your company that your contributions are valued. If you're looking for the next opportunity, keep these tips in mind to ensure you are on the right track to success.

Rather than waiting for fate to smile upon you, create your own “luck” through hard work, perseverance and a little political savvy.

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