The Importance of Ongoing Professional Development

Whether you’re a CA, CGA or CMA, your work as an accountant will never be just about the numbers.

Sure, your expertise in taxation, finance and auditing is invaluable, but often, what really sets you apart in this industry is versatility. That means a truly successful accountant will possess a range of diverse skills, including those not directly related to accounting. Among other things, an accountant should be business-savvy, adept with technology, a strong communicator and a good leader.

Yes, it’s a lot. That’s why it’s important to refresh your skills and develop new ones through ongoing professional development.

Luckily, professional development courses are a dime a dozen. And if you work in a large company, courses may be offered internally, by your workplace. Failing that, many employers regard professional development as important enough that they’re willing to pay for an employee’s extra courses or training.

Not sure what to take? The following are key skills that every finance or accounting professional would benefit from developing or brushing up on:

Leadership and management
For most of us, understanding how to effectively work with others and manage a team isn’t second nature. Luckily, courses in leadership and team management are abundant, and can prove extremely handy to an accountant.

For one thing, it’s quite common in the sector for individuals to be promoted into managerial roles without leadership training. Taking matters into your own hands and acquiring some formal training in team-leading, delegation, supervision, etc. will likely serve you as you progress in your field.

Further, according to Katya Forsyth, CFO of FlightNetwork.com, “[accountants] need to be able to effectively manage people, to maintain finance excellence without having to do all the work yourself.”

…a truly successful accountant will possess a range of diverse skills, including those not directly related to accounting.

She recommends courses that focus on personality type and working style, like the Myers Briggs personality assessment indicator.

“In finance,” she says, “you will have customers in different areas of business who will likely be less detail-oriented than you (because accountants tend to be!) and you need to learn to present information in a way they can understand.”

Understanding personality theory and, for management especially, knowing how to recognize and draw out people’s strengths can both earn you respect and ensure greater efficiency for your team.

Systems/tools/technology
Love or hate it, technology is increasingly important, and likely plays a substantial role in your accounting work. Learning to use different accounting software, programs and tools, and staying up to date with new developments will keep you current and competitive.

Particularly for the luddites among us, intensive or crash courses are often the best way to go in terms of getting a properly in-depth understanding of a computer system or tool.

And if you are technologically-inclined, consider the potential leg-up you could have by developing a niche in IT and business/finance—something of a rarity. By delving deeper into IT and its applications to accounting of finance, you could, with the under-30 crowd especially, find that your services are increasingly in demand.

…intensive or crash courses are often the best way to go in terms of getting a properly in-depth understanding of a computer system or tool.

Sales, marketing, operations
The clients you serve as an accountant or finance professional will inevitably be diverse, so staying up on all facets of business will prepare you to help any client in any industry.

Basically, by understanding the nuts and bolts of things like sales, marketing, manufacturing and the supply chain, you’ll be able to provide better overall finance support.

Consider, then, taking a course on sales management, market research or supply and demand strategy.

Process/continuous improvement methodologies
According to Forsyth, “financial results are produced by business processes, so if you understand how to measure or improve processes, it adds tremendous value [to your clients].”

She suggests taking a course in a methodology like Six Sigma.

The clients you serve as an accountant or finance professional will inevitably be diverse, so staying up on all facets of business will prepare you to help any client in any industry.

Final thoughts
Supplementary courses are a great way to complement your existing skills or learn new ones.

If you don’t have much spare time, or if your employer isn’t willing to foot the bill for classes, you can always check out online resources like webinars (the CICA, CGA, or CMA websites, for example, offers some) and industry conferences. Or, pick up books on relevant skills and squeeze in some extracurricular reading.

While all of this extra learning and professional development might seem like arduous extra work in the short-term, the perspective and qualifications you will gain could very well get you more business in the long-run.

So go forth and learn!

Let us know what you think! At Clarity Recruitment, we’re always interested in hearing from accounting and finance professionals like yourselves, who are ready for new, exciting opportunities that can take their careers to the next level. And be sure to follow us on Twitter (@clarityrecruits) and connect with us on Facebook for more great tips and advice!