In-demand technical abilities and designations have long been the keys that open doors to top accounting and finance jobs. But today, many employers specifically seek experienced professionals who can bring a range of non-technical skills to their position, as well.
Once viewed primarily as nice-to-have qualities, soft skills — such as the ability to communicate effectively with non-finance audiences or to work collaboratively across departments — are now requirements for many accounting and finance roles. That includes consulting jobs.
Flexibility and adaptability are important qualities, in particular, for consultants to possess. Employers also want consultants with top notch analytical skills who can assess situations quickly, and clearly explain what needs to be done, and why and how. To deliver on that expectation, consultants need to have a strong mix of technical and soft skills.
The non-technical skills that can help you stand out
A number of these desired non-technical skills, such as adaptability and flexibility, are listed in our latest Salary Guide as in-demand skills for accounting and finance jobs. Following is a closer look at some of the non-technical abilities that can help you advance your accounting and finance or consulting career:
This character trait — albeit abstract — is important in any business setting. But it is particularly critical for professionals who handle financial information, intellectual property and other sensitive data. It’s also a top leadership trait: In recent Robert Half Management Resources surveys of Canadian workers and finance professionals, both workers in general and CFOs cited integrity as the most important attribute for business leaders to possess.
Relationship-building is important for both full-time positions and consulting careers. But any accounting and finance professional who invests the time to build trust and credibility with their colleagues and clients is likely to see career benefits stem from that effort. Mastering the art of relationship-building also can help you to understand others’ challenges and make more valuable contributions to an employer.
The nature of communication in business is changing rapidly due to new ways of sharing information, like social media and collaboration tools, and the growing volumes of data that companies are collecting and generating. The ability to synthesize and present financial data clearly and concisely has never been more critical for accounting and finance pros. So is the ability to maintain an effective two-way (i.e., talking and listening) dialogue with others inside and outside the organization. Polished public speaking skills are also valuable given the heightened profile of the finance function in businesses today.
A commitment to continuous learning
Individuals who are dedicated to lifelong learning, position themselves for more successful careers because they’re able to adapt to change more easily. As business needs and environments shift, naturally inquisitive accounting and finance professionals who are proactive about their development will find they are able to stay ahead of the curve, rather than struggle behind it. Plus, businesses today emphasize innovation and expect that mindset from everyone in the organization, including the accounting and finance teams.
Openness to diverse perspectives
Accounting and finance professionals, including finance leaders, must be able to interact and collaborate with people from dramatically different backgrounds — and different generations. Communicating with, motivating and persuading different parties can require varied approaches, as well as emotional intelligence — that is, the ability to identify and manage your emotions and the emotions of others.
To advance your career, look for ways to build — and continually demonstrate — the above qualities to employers. Technical skills and designations are typically still the things that hiring managers will look for first in the candidates they evaluate,. But demonstrated strength in the non-technical areas that employers value and evidence of a strong work ethic can help to set you apart and allow you to take on positions of greater responsibility.
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