Successful CA’s vs Unsuccessful CA’s (Smart Choices)

As I was interviewing a friend who is also a recruiter at one of the Big 4 CA firms, we began to discuss what makes a new CA successful. There were definitely some key qualities that differentiated a successful Chartered Accountant (CA) from an unsuccessful one and I managed to finagle some insights from her. The difference seemed to lie in the choices they made – choices that not only moved them forward, but choices that demonstrated wise planning, initiative and strategic thinking.

…choices that not only moved them forward, but choices that demonstrated wise planning, initiative and strategic thinking.

This line of conversation naturally led us to the topic of what choices translated into a lack of success. Because new recruits can be the lifeblood of an organization, her words resonated with me. I decided that my next post would focus on new CA’s, and the choices they needed to make to be successful. It seemed that there were 4 key things they could do to fast track their future career and 3 pitfalls they needed to avoid.

Without further ado here are the 4 choices you can make to become a successful Chartered Accountant (CA).
1) Pick the right school – Pick your school carefully. Ensure that the school offers a widely recognized finance program that has a reputation for producing forward thinking CA’s. Without getting into detail about which school offers the best finance program, I would recommend that you do your research and find out which school will contribute the most to your success. Take the time to weigh the pros and cons of each school and then make an educated, strategic decision about which one offers you the best skillset to advance your future career.

Without getting into detail about which school offers the best finance program, I would recommend that you do your research…

2) Develop strong interpersonal skills – Strong interpersonal skills are often the difference between winning a promotion and getting passed over. They not only allow you to land the job in the interview because you can build rapport, but they also enable you to speak effectively to different departments. This gains you credibility and gets you noticed. The CA firms are professional services and their teams are always in the field interacting – trust me when I say they want “likeable” people. Ultimately, having the ability to speak comfortably with different kinds of people, means that you can speak to your fellow team members and the company’s clients as well – a valuable skill that results in promotion for you and revenue for the firm.

…trust me when I say they want “likeable” people.

3) Be well-rounded – Being a well-rounded person makes you a more interesting person. It demonstrates to those looking to hire you, or your fellow employees that you are more than just your job or your academic achievement. Well rounded people are interesting and “driven” people are divine to work with. Geetika Issar – Ontario & Atlantic Canada Lead– Talent Acquisition for Deloitte told me the following: “Extracurricular activities also provide common ground for discussion, allowing you to connect more effectively with those around you. The broader your experience the easier it is for you to engage with people.” Consider volunteer work if you don’t have an activity or sport you are passionate about.”

Well rounded people are interesting and “driven” people are divine to work with.

4) Be inquisitive – Take the time to ask intelligent questions. Show a genuine curiosity about people and their interests. Be inquisitive about a project or cause that someone is passionate about and don’t simply nod your head at their answers, actively listen and ask follow-up questions. Now shift that curiosity into meetings. Ask questions, clarify the answers and show that you’ve taken the time to think about the possible permutations of the situation. This will make you stand out, build rapport and on a foundational level, build your knowledge base for the next project.

…don’t simply nod your head at their answers, actively listen and ask follow-up questions.

Having covered the 4 ways to increase success, I will now examine the 3 choices that can limit career advancement.
1) Demonstrating a lack of initiative – Individuals who are not successful often see external factors as limiting their progress. The reality is that the problem may lie in a lack of initiative. Most successful CA’s take the initiative, doing extra work without complaining and showing an interest in different areas of the organization. By going the extra mile you show your team and manager that they can depend on you to deliver on objectives.

Most successful CA’s take the initiative…showing an interest in different areas of the organization.

2. Having a sense of entitlement – A sense of entitlement means that there is a belief that the firm should approach you and actively seek to develop your skill-set. While the big 4 firms do have an approach like this, why not approach your manager and express a genuine interest in professional development opportunities. If this is not an option, take the time to observe which higher level employees possess the skills and qualities you want to enhance in yourself. Approach that individual, build rapport and later ask if he/she would be willing to be your mentor in this specific area. This allows you to work in a collaborative model, build a key relationship and increase your skills in the process.

…take the time to observe which higher level employees possess the skills and qualities you want to enhance in yourself.

3. Work is only 9-5pm – There will be times when you will have to work well beyond 5pm. Many high level finance executives have told me that they would tell their younger selves to accept the long hours that can be a part of a CA’s life, and do the work without complaint. Busy Season anyone?

There will be times when you will have to work well beyond 5pm.

They have stated that their willingness to work those long hours, deliver consistently high results and do so unflinchingly (ok, they may have flinched a bit), helped get them to where they are today.

New CA’s have many choices to make as they embark on their careers. Picking the right school is only part of the equation. The rest of it is making wise, strategic choices that may not always fit with how you see yourself or your life. Being successful means building real relationships, connecting with people and having a genuinely inquisitive nature. It means a willingness to work long hours when necessary and taking the initiative. Ultimately, it is about delivering for those who depend on you and understanding that success isn’t about one thing, it’s a series of conscious choices that pave the way to the career that you want.