How To Be Proactive in Your Accounting Career

Good things don’t come to those that wait – they come to those that take them. Here are some ways you can embrace a more take-charge approach to your career.

“Proactive.” It’s a word that’s thrown around a fair bit (often as part of the professional jargon of accountants and other business folk). But what does it actually mean to be proactive in your accounting or finance career? When you’re an accountant and you spend day after day looking at numbers, it can be all-too easy to become caught up in the minutiae of your work. After some time, you may start to function as if on autopilot, simply cruising through your job – while your ambition steadily peters out.

Learning to counteract this tendency to career complacency is important to succeeding. Here are some ways you can develop a more proactive attitude towards your accounting job and career.

Don’t wait for things to happen 

Whether you’re a CA or a CMA, you should never get so comfortable in your role that you stop actively thinking up strategies for organizational or process improvements in the way your company does business. Within any accounting cycle, there are bound to be cracks in the system – areas in want of improvement or repair.

Rather than sitting back and waiting for a colleague or superior to come up with solutions, do some brainstorming and offer up your own suggestions. Make yourself helpful, and propose some alternative methods of doing things.

After some time, you may start to function as if on autopilot, simply cruising through your job – while your ambition steadily peters out. 

Anticipate changes in the market, and gather new skills accordingly

Between fresh competition entering the workforce at a reasonably consistent rate and technological advancements contributing to changes in accounting processes faster than you can say “financial statement,” the accounting industry is almost always undergoing change. It’s important, then, to keep up with these developments, and to stay on top of the changes in expected skill-sets and tools.

Read about your industry and stay abreast of changing qualifications listed on job ads or industry discussion groups on sites like LinkedIn. Then pursue professional development opportunities accordingly. If you’re a CMA, for example, and you start to notice that job ads for your designation are starting to call for a particular breed of technical skill, it’s probably time to go out and acquire said skill – either through a course, mentorship, or self-schooling. That way, the next time you’re on the job hunt – maybe in pursuit of a rebound job – you’ll be able to hit the ground running. 

Initiate networking opportunities

The most efficient way to network is to seek out contacts before you need their help with something – like, say, information about a job opportunity, or a reference or letter of recommendation.

Networking is something you definitely want to practice proactively, and ideally, on an ongoing basis. Take some time out of your schedule, then, to get coffee with that manager whose firm you covet. Even if you’re a social wallflower or you’re tired beyond reason, force yourself to attend those after-work get-togethers for drinks. All the schmoozing you do will pay off the next time you find yourself in a pinch.

The most efficient way to network is to seek out contacts before you need their help with something…

Build internal relationships preemptively

Don’t just look outside your workplace, for new skills, external contacts, etc. It’s also important to take initiative within your organization. That means being opportunistic and looking ahead to the job you want three jobs from now, and then building relationships within your company accordingly.

One surefire way to plot out your career path is by recruiting a mentor from inside your company – someone who can nurture your skills and confidence, as well as endorse you professionally to others.

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Expand your repertoire by building relationships with individuals across company departments. You may not need to work directly with an individual in your current position, but by building rapport and trust cross-functionally, you’re more likely to earn that internal promotion down the line. After all, people talk. So be proactive about making good impressions across the board now.

The sad truth is that people who make grandiose statements about what they want to happen professionally rarely end up achieving their goals. But those who are active and aggressive in developing their skills and expanding their networks – both within and without their immediate organization – are the ones who truly get ahead.

What are some ways you’ve taken the reins in your career progress? How do you make sure that your professional development doesn’t stall? Post a comment below.

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!