There’s no question that a CPA designation is still a door opener for accounting and finance jobs. Increasingly, however, nontechnical skills are what really seal the deal for financial professionals looking to land a job or gain a promotion.
Once thought of as bonus or “nice-to-have” qualities, nontechnical skills such as leadership and business communication abilities are now as essential to overall career success as technical expertise, which remains critical but is no longer sufficient on its own.
Robert Half and The Institute of Internal Auditors (The IIA) collaborated on a report that outlined seven essential nontechnical qualities for internal auditors. Although the report focused on audit practitioners, the attributes identified are “must-haves” for accounting and finance jobs in all areas. They are:
This character trait is important in any business setting, but it’s particularly critical when financial information is involved. Although integrity is an abstract quality, its presence or absence can be seen in numerous work situations.
2. A talent for relationship-building
There’s no such thing as “just-in-time networking.” The need to develop strong and healthy relationships with others takes time and effort. The most successful professionals invest countless hours building trust and credibility with colleagues and clients.
3. Ability to partner
Positive relationships create the foundation for partnering with business and operational leaders. The ability to partner enables financial professionals to better understand others’ challenges and make more valuable contributions.
4. Communication abilities
While the ability to communicate effectively is a commonly cited attribute for accounting and finance professionals, the nature of organizational communication is changing rapidly. Driven by the emergence of social media (and the shorter bursts of information social media users expect), as well as the ever-growing amount of organizational data and information, this transformation comes with fresh demands.
The ability to synthesize and present financial data clearly and concisely, both in written form and verbally, is critical. So is the ability to maintain an ongoing and two-way (i.e., talking and listening) dialogue with others across the organization.
While relationship-building and partnering refer to working with people outside the accounting and finance function, teamwork applies to the ability to work effectively with one's immediate colleagues.
6. Openness to diverse perspectives
Today's workforce includes people of different backgrounds, generations, experiences and skill levels. Professionals who have a global mindset and can view issues through multiple perspectives are highly valued.
7. Commitment to continuous learning
Individuals who are dedicated to lifelong learning position themselves for more successful careers because they’re able to quickly adapt to change. As business needs and environments shift, naturally inquisitive professionals who are proactive about their development will be ahead of the curve, rather than behind it.
As a financial professional, you already possess the required functional skills and maybe one or more industry-recognized certifications. Your ability to advance and achieve lasting career success will be hampered, though, if you lack these other vitally important attributes. Look for ways to build — and continually demonstrate — these qualities.
Download the report
For more insights on in-demand skills, download Succeeding as a 21st Century Internal Auditor: 7 Attributes of Highly Effective Internal Auditors from Robert Half and The IIA.