Luck, I’ve found in my experience as a recruiter for accountants in Toronto, gets a lot of undeserved credit for success. Many of the people I’ve talked to, who have been successful in accelerating their accounting and finance careers, are quick — maybe too quick — to count their blessings. Humble to a fault, they often chalk up their accomplishments to simply being in the right place at the right time, or having things unexpectedly pan out in their favour, or some other fortunate coincidence that was out of their hands.
Your First Job: Ideally, you will have spent some considerable time thinking about the industries that you want to work in. Really gauge your passions — find just what it is that you love. Then start looking for a job in the sector that most interests you. The great thing about being an accountant is that every industry under the sun will have a need for your services; you should only feel limited in your choices by your own personal enthusiasm for the field. I have worked in industries that I’ve not been passionate about, and it adversely affected my attitude and desire to deliver.
Build Your Internal Network: It’s hard to know who will have a say in getting you promoted in your company; if anything, some of the most important people may be those you would least expect to have a vote on the matter. So start looking to build relationshipsthroughout your organization, simply by helping others and spending time with them. Of course, you shouldn’t wander around your office and start random conversations with others, at the expense of your productivity. You will need to produce results for your own accounting and finance team and look for opportunities to partner with the other teams on different initiatives. As an accounting and finance professional, you have a unique ability to analyze information and bring colour and context to it. People will love you for this — use it to your advantage.
Get in Front of New and Big Initiatives: These can be found everywhere. They provide important opportunities for you to add value and gain visibility in your organization. It’s important, however, to be proactive. Don’t wait for someone to ask if you want to be a part of something — VOLUNTEER! When I was managing teams, I would have loved for someone to give me a hand with some of the bigger problems I was tackling by myself. Unfortunately, I was often too immersed in the details of the project to ask for help. But on the few rare occasions that someone approached me and offered their assistance, I accepted instantly — and I was eternally grateful.
Stay Focused and Remain Opportunistic: “The only constant is change itself.” Your work environment is in a continual state of flux; it is always changing and evolving. Every industry today is being disrupted in one way or another. But this very instability can create opportunities for you to shine in your accounting and finance team. You will need to be strategic, however, in capitalizing on your opportunities. If you are truly focused on your career trajectory, you can choose successive roles that will steer you towards your end goal. I myself always found it helpful to think not so much about what I wanted my next role to be, but about what role I wanted to pursue after that. By always thinking two “steps” or opportunities ahead, I was able to determine what my next role should be, and how I could use it as a stepping-stone towards my ultimate goal.
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// ]]>Learn to Sell…FAST!: The ability to sell is a necessary skill for anyone looking to progress rapidly. I have watched countless accounting and finance professionals become more potent in their jobs simply by developing their sales and marketing skills. This may run against your nature, or strike you as counterintuitive. But realize that, as you climb your way up your organization, selling ideas will quickly become part of your job description. Several CFO’s who have participated in our STORIES have said that working in or with sales contributed immensely to their success. As one CFO turned COO put it, “A key part of a COO / President / GM role is working with customers — often helping with sales, but certainly having the credibility and experience to meet with customers. Nobody is going to stop you from broadening your scope, as everyone wants their CFO to be their business partner.”
As the saying goes, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” By following these tips, you can raise your profile and build your skills within your current organization, so that you’ll be sufficiently prepared to make “luck” happen the next time you’re presented with an opportunity to advance your career. Assume roles that redefine how people perceive you, and broaden your scope. With enough determination, you can have a career that will allow you to test yourself, connect with staff in unexpected ways, and realize exceptional growth, both for yourself and your organization. Hard work, perseverance, and some career smarts are all the “luck” you will need.