As professionals advance in accounting and finance careers, soft skills become increasingly important. Whether a professional is looking for a new job or seeking a promotion, focusing on and developing soft skills can help employees be more well-rounded and employable professionals.
For professionals looking to improve their work and their employability, the 4 soft skills listed below are most prominent.
Time management is an essential skill for any accounting professional because of not only how deadline-focused the profession is, but also because of the time management discipline required by the large-scale shift to remote work. It can be challenging to avoid procrastination, and it is easier to get off track when working virtually.
For example, if working within a team setting, use a shared spreadsheet with colleagues to track each person’s responsibilities for month-end close or whatever project the team has prioritized. For sole practitioners, diligently using a calendar can help with keeping on task and meeting deadlines. CPAs who demonstrate good time management have a leg up both for new employment opportunities and for promotions within their organization.
Critical thinking — analyzing problems and finding the causes and solutions to those problems — is a major facet of the accounting profession.
Organizations are constantly facing new financial challenges. Most recently, COVID-19 created a range of challenges for accounting and finance teams to solve. Reallocating funds and cash management, managing payroll changes, reacting to new legal changes to internal reporting practices, and other changes required employees to think critically and creatively to meet or anticipate organizational needs.
Accounting and finance professionals not only look at the problems of the past and find solutions but also should be able to predict problems before they occur and what can be done to plan or account for it.
Professional skepticism and general curiosity can make it easier to ask the right questions and find the “why” instead of just trusting information at face value.
Nearly every function of an organization interacts with accounting and finance teams. Professionals need to have exceptional communication skills, both written and verbal. If accounting and finance professionals have poor communication skills, making clear points, sharing their reports, and creating action items from their findings can be difficult.
When working to develop strong communication skills, reach out to a manager for feedback. After doing a self-review of any communication, have them review emails, reports, and other communication before sending out or sharing.
Ask them if the communication gets the point across and if they believe the end user will understand the report or the solution being communicated. It’s important to recognize who your audience is and the best way to present the information.
Collaboration with teammates and other employees is paramount for accounting professionals. Since accounting and finance teams touch every area of a business, they are expected to work cross-functionally and collaborate well with other employees.
While entry-level accountants might not lead these projects with other company leaders, they will eventually be expected to meet with teams across the organization, so developing this skill now is crucial for continued growth. Even for sole practitioners who work relatively independently, collaboration is absolutely key while working with clients and any other stakeholders in various projects.