As companies around the world seek to ensure their financial information is sound and compliance mandates are met, they seek accounting professionals with comprehensive skill sets. Firms need accountants who possess strong functional skills but who also are strong communicators, proficient with financial systems and information technology tools, and have an understanding of the broader issues impacting business – often with a global perspective. The need for talented staff has only intensified as business activity has improved in parts of the world.
While these trends have presented new opportunities for accountants, many employers continue to report challenges finding the skilled employees they need. This has boosted the career marketability and salaries of those with in-demand skills and, at the same time, highlighted the dual job market taking place in many areas. The general job market often remains competitive, but for individuals with highly sought experience and abilities, the market has become, in some instances, candidate-driven.
How can accountants advance their careers in this environment? Following are some steps they can take:
Earn an industry-recognised certification.
Possessing a professional accreditation, such as the certified public accountant (CPA) or chartered accountant (CA), can give candidates a leg up in the job search. These designations also can have financial rewards. For example, according to the Salary Guide from Robert Half, in the United States and Canada, professionals with an advanced degree or certification can receive starting salaries 5-10 percent above the market average.
Hone your soft skills.
Robert Half research has found that interpersonal abilities are commonly the leading factor employers use to distinguish between similarly qualified candidates. Accountants need to be able to explain financial data to internal and external clients with varying backgrounds, collaborate with colleagues across the organisation, and effectively present strategic recommendations.
Work with a recruiter.
A recruiter can be your eyes and ears – and advocate – in the job market. These professionals have broad networks in the business communities they serve and often know of opportunities yet to be advertised. When determining the recruiter who will be right for you, look for a firm that specialises in accounting positions and also check with your network for their recommendations.
Consider temporary or project work.
Companies increasingly realise the value of interim professionals, working with them to access specialised expertise and support full-time staff. These opportunities can transition into full-time roles as well. Some professionals, however, prefer to work as temporary employees or consultants over the long term, enjoying the flexibility and varying projects and challenges this career option provides.
Accountants continue to take on increasingly strategic and prominent roles within business, and demand for professionals with well-rounded skill sets has picked up in many areas. Those who acquire the sought-after attributes and expertise and take advantage of the resources available to them are in the best position to advance their careers.
Founded in 1948, Robert Half International is the world’s first and largest specialised staffing firm. Its financial staffing divisions include Accountemps, Robert Half Finance & Accounting and Robert Half Management Resources, for temporary, full-time and senior-level project professionals, respectively. The company has more than 350 staffing locations worldwide. For more information, visit www.roberthalf.comand follow Robert Half on Twitter at twitter.com/roberthalf