Professional success requires you to stand out, make your mark, get noticed. We asked members in India who hire and train junior finance professionals for their tips on how best to do this, especially if you’re a newly qualified ACCA.
In a firm like EY, it’s all about constant learning, says Jeevan Sasidharan ACCA, associate director at the firm's global delivery services arm in Kochi. ‘We're fascinated by people who've taken the time to upskill. These days, we're always asking the question: “What else did you do during the pandemic?”. Even if it’s a job with a small firm, it adds value; don’t just wait for the Big Four opportunity.’
The trick to getting noticed amid an ever-changing business landscape is a very strong digital personality, says Sagar Ahuja FCCA, head of F&A outsourcing at SandMartin in Uttar Pradesh. ‘You need a LinkedIn profile where you interact with the right audiences, such as clients or future employers, or you promote the services of your current employer, or engage in thought leadership.’
Gen Z strengths
For digital natives Generation Z, making an impression can come through playing to such strengths. ‘You definitely expect them to sync up and make connections with the new employee base you want to create or the client base you want to target,’ says Ahuja.
‘There is an expectation that they'll be much better with new technology than Gen X and earlier cohorts.’
An exam might require only 50% to 70% to pass. A work environment requires 100%, which takes time to adjust to
Attitude, aptitude and self-awareness
The transition from studying and doing exams to a professional environment can be distinct. ‘An exam might require only 50% to 70% to pass. A work environment requires 100%, which takes time to adjust to – it certainly did for me,’ says Chris Robinson FCCA, executive chairman of QX Global Group, a top outsourcing company in Gujarat.
‘You can only get better if you're self-aware. Be open-minded and don't have a fixed mindset – otherwise you won't improve.’
Get out of your comfort zone
Being seen to provide additional support and services to the business alongside the accounting job you are assigned to will show you have initiative, says Ahuja. ‘Be prepared to step out of your comfort zone. The struggle to leave the cocoon is what strengthens the butterfly’s wings so it can fly high.'
For example, you could go above and beyond your day to day work by organising a webinar or a training session – such efforts go a long way in proving long-term worth.
Sell yourself, talk and engage
Likewise, the first thing Sasidharan tells new recruits is to sell themselves. ‘Every time you talk to peers or seniors, take the opportunity to let people know who you are and what you're good at,’ he says. ‘This is something people often fail to do; they take a step back when they should be asking a question.
‘And don't worry about being wrong; have the courage to ask.’ If you don’t, Sasidharan warns, you risk being underestimated and overlooked.
In countries with large populations, you have to compete with many people for opportunities. This attitude might get you through your exams and into a job, but once you’re in work, companies don’t want individuals: they want team players with initiative.
‘That's why collaboration is absolutely critical; you have to work as a team. We don't want one person to succeed: we want the whole team to succeed,’ says Robinson. ‘We still want people to be ambitious, but there's got to be a lot of empathy in how they work.’
Go the extra mile
Help your bosses with their key performance indicators; go beyond simply doing your allotted tasks. ‘Keep asking for responsibility, show you're willing to contribute. People who take on more and try to understand what's happening in their teams are the ones who move up fast,’ says Sasidharan.
Ultimately, to get promoted you need to start acting like you’ve already reached the next level before you start asking for a bump. So associates should be acting like senior associates, managers like senior managers and so on.
Accountancy isn’t just a numbers game; it requires a great deal of communicating. ‘Because our world is all about interacting with internal and external clients, the ability to talk really well and carry a conversation properly is what matters,’ says Sasidharan.
Ahuja agrees that the traditional way of thinking about accountancy has to be broken. 'Accountants need to be more communicative to prove their worth and be successful. Having the hard accounting skillset is a given, so for professionals to make a mark these days the communication side of things is fundamental.’
Finally, a cornerstone of good communication in an international business setting is strong English. ‘The one piece of advice I would give to anybody is to work on your English,’ says Robinson. ‘If candidates have ACCA, we already know they're good accountants. But you have to be able to present yourself well in a professional way and it's really difficult to do that if you can't communicate.’
Recently qualified Poppy Brimson ACCA explains how she keeps her skills relevant and her training up to date, and how she sees her career as an evolution that might take many forms. Listen to the podcast.