Technology, outsourcing, evolving roles, skills and career aspirations suggest accounting professionals are undergoing a fundamental shift. To remain relevant and take advantage of new and ever-changing roles in the business world, you need to secure a broad range of skills.
The nature of accounting and the type of work accountants perform is changing dramatically. For many, this change will lead to disruption in their current workplace as well as a drop in demand for traditional skills. For others, it may mean new opportunities in emerging fields and industries. That being said, we do not yet have an understanding of what new jobs, and in what number, will be created to facilitate or nurture this change.
Let’s examine two major emerging trends:
- Cloud Services: By taking the infrastructure for technology and putting it in the cloud data centre, we create utility computing. This provides organisations and individuals with computing capability on demand, without the need to invest in their own infrastructure. The trajectory to go beyond simply sharing infrastructure to sharing complete business processes, such as accounting, billing, payroll and transactional processing, will be purchased out of the cloud from a service provider.
- Big Data: The trends of cloud services will result in an environment where there are massive amounts of information available as well as the scalable computing environment necessary to store, retrieve and process that data. The technical ability to take all this data and analyse in real-time creates new software technologies and analytics software. These machine-learning solutions fall under the loose heading of ‘artificial intelligence’, which is a significant trend in its own right.
These two changes significantly transform the traditional accounting environment. Topping the list of skills expected to be more in demand will be enterprise risk management, which aims to manage risks by taking an integrated view of all the various uncertainties that exist across an organisation.
Strategic scenario planning and skills for improving the use of data and knowledge, both of which relate to an organisation’s ability to make effective decisions, are also expected to be more in demand over the next five years. What this research ultimately reveals is that organisations in a risky, uncertain world need a well-rounded hybrid accountant armed with technical competencies as well as strategic, analytical and softer skills in order to enable sustainable business success.
The evolution of roles, skills shortages, the growing demand for accountants and the higher career aspirations of accounting professionals are leading to a recruitment and retention crisis for many organisations. However, the success rate that people experience when applying for advertised jobs and attempting a career change is, on average, very low. The recruitment process is very arbitrary, subjective, and sometimes little more than a lottery.
Knowing yourself and what’s out there will enable you to understand which employers and jobs will offer you the best fit. Identifying the business skills sought by finance professionals across organisations results in softer skills and business awareness becoming critically important. Our research suggests roles are also becoming much more strategic and central to business performance.
How to get noticed
Think and act creatively, and innovatively, in the way you ‘package’ yourself – that is, the sort of image and presence you create.
The rising importance of financial information in decision-making is elevating the role of the finance professional across organisations. At a senior level, finance professionals are much more actively engaged in strategic decisions. Such roles require a greater level of commercial instinct and entrepreneurial flair, so it’s common for accountants to be taking roles outside of the traditional domain of finance.
Building relationships with recruiters may expose you to career opportunities that you might not otherwise learn about. Most employers don’t advertise the positions they hire recruiters to help fill, typically a firm’s most senior and highest-paying. Recruitment executives then usually promote their services to employers, not job hunters.
Identifying and connecting with recruiters who specialise in your area of expertise can be very worthwhile — though candidates should remember that recruiters are paid by the employer, and will put that employer’s interests first. Such niche recruiters aren’t always easy to find, so job seekers might need to use creative tactics.
Identifying recruiters who specialise in your field
Start by tapping into your own network. Many senior executives work with recruiters at some point in their careers as either a candidate or client. Ask the most experienced professionals in your network to refer you to the recruiters they know.
Other sources can be people you know in your industry, or at organisations that interest you. Find out which recruiting firms they or their employers use. Don’t be discouraged if the list you compile is short. In certain niche markets, there are recruiters who pretty much work with all big players, so you’ll typically hear the same name several times.
With all this said, one of the best ways to get noticed is to find your sweet spot and build a search around that. Most candidates have a hard time doing this for fear of being excluded from a possible position. I disagree, as this is one of the most important issues candidates must tackle during a job search.
In today’s job market, companies are very specific when hiring. You cannot be a jack of all trades, you must be the king or queen of your trade. It’s imperative you determine what distinguishes you from others. I have coached many candidates and they all have something that makes them unique. It may be their international experience, M&A, turnarounds, startups, changing a company’s culture from dysfunctional to one that thrives on success, a specific technology, and so on.
I recommend you survey your colleagues, bosses, clients and advisors for what they believe distinguishes you from others. Once you become aware of these strengths, build your brand and job search around those distinguishing characteristics and network. According to recruiters, It’s still the number one way to find a new position.
About Louise Pope
Louise has accumulated more than 20 years of recruitment experience in the UK and Australia. After successfully managing teams for one of the largest finance recruiters in the world, Louise transferred to Sydney in April 1999 and launched new offices and new product lines, managing the group through significant growth as head of the Accounting and Finance division.
In 2004, Louise founded Aequalis Consulting. Louise has a down to earth approach, but her energy, passion and ambition still fuel the business today and will continue to contribute to Aequalis’s long-term success. She is a strong advocate of acknowledging the shortcomings of the recruitment industry and is known for telling it like it is.