7 Skills for Accountants to Succeed on the Job
The pandemic has taught us that the ability to learn and adapt is vital to our job growth. As you manage your career in accounting and take the steps to advance it, make sure you enhance your accounting skills and learn new ones.
What skills are the most valuable complements in this constantly evolving marketplace?
In-demand accounting skills vary by specific job title, of course, but the following overview of seven sets of skills for accountants — some technical, some not — can help you advance your job search, as well as your accounting career.
Specialization, such as a focus on regulatory compliance, can be a strong addition to your accounting skills. Many employers look for candidates with a background in anti-money laundering (AML), Know Your Customer, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review, and the Dodd-Frank Act, particularly rules related to capital adequacy and consumer protection.
Companies also seek accountants with experience in revenue recognition. Organizations like the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) offer courses on revenue recognition to help you better understand and implement the current and new revenue recognition principles — and make appropriate revenue recognition decisions.
General business knowledge
The scope of accounting positions has been expanding over time, especially so in recent years. In particular, accounting professionals must collaborate with other departments, so it’s important to know what other teams do to make your relationship more productive.
Accounting professionals who possess strong business acumen can help develop strategy, inform key decisions and serve as business partners across multiple departments.
The better you understand the overall business, and how you and your team fit into the big picture, the more productive your relationships outside your department will be.
Up-to-date technology expertise
With advancements in software, cloud computing and automation, accountants are working with new technologies all the time.
You’ll want to gain familiarity and even enhance your expertise with the specific software and tools accounting leaders are looking for:
- Advanced Excel
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP) (e.g., SAP, Oracle)
- Big data analysis, advanced modeling techniques and SQL
- Business intelligence software (e.g., IBM Cognos)
- Microsoft Visual Basic
- Hyperion (for analyst and financial reporting roles)
- Microsoft Visual Basic skills
- QuickBooks (for positions with small and midsize firms)
If you want to advance in your current position, consider asking your manager what kind of professional development the company would support to sharpen your accounting skills. Or, if you’re searching for a job, you could enroll in a course in one of the skills areas listed above. Being proactive about your professional development could impress a potential employer.
Accountants need to be able to tell the story behind the numbers, particularly for colleagues in other departments less familiar with accounting principles and jargon. Both verbal and written communication skills are critical for success in any accounting role.
Whether you’re writing or speaking, you will have to present information about the business in ways that can be understood and acted upon. The insights you share will be of no use to others if you can’t communicate them in a way that can be understood and acted upon.
Ask yourself these questions about your communication:
- Do you use jargon that might not be understood?
- Are you providing too many numbers or too much detail for your audience?
- Are you listening actively to others?
Adaptability and flexibility
Adaptability and flexibility are also top among the skills accounting professionals possess. A key driver for this trend is technological change, like the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) as a critical business tool. The ability to pivot and roll with change is an absolute must.
Managers have an eye on the future and want professionals who possess strong leadership qualities and who can step into more senior roles when the time is right. They look for individuals who can avoid or resolve conflicts, adapt well to change, mentor others and embrace continuous learning.
Customer service orientation
Whether you work in public or private accounting, solid customer service skills are critical. If you work in a public accounting firm, you need to be able to retain current customers and bring in new clients. And if you work in corporate accounting, you must meet the needs of the organization’s other departments and managers.
“How can I help you?” shouldn’t be a phrase far from accounting professionals’ minds.
Looking to boost your accounting skills?
As an accounting professional, you may already have the technical expertise to do the job. As you build your career, consider earning in-demand accounting certifications. Look for opportunities to get training that will make you more marketable as a job candidate and more valuable as a team member.
That said, on-the-job experience is often the best way to learn or improve a skill. If you want to advance in your career, you really need to demonstrate other qualities — these skills for accountants that are essential to your success.