The importance of setting career goals in accountancy

workplace targets, career goals For chartered accountants, career development is an important priority throughout their studies and professional life.

Data from CABA’s 2019 UK brand research found that career development coaching is the most important service for ACA students, with 55% of students ranking this as number one. This was followed by emotional support (15%).

In 2018 the financial services industry contributed £132 billion to the UK economy, 6.9% of the total economic output, making it a highly lucrative and appealing sector to work in. Last year it was reported that over 1.1 million people work in the financial services industry, around 3.1% of all UK jobs. However, the accountancy sector is fiercely competitive, and progressing into more senior roles can be difficult.

While trying to get ahead at work, students also need to focus on maintaining a healthy work-life blend. Further research by CABA on student and member wellbeing highlighted this as a key work-related issue, with 63% of students saying that they would consider leaving their job within 1 year of qualifying.

Whether you have just become a qualified accountant, or you have been in the industry for a number of years, setting out clear career development priorities and goals will not only help you progress and reach the position you aspire to achieve, but will also help you to keep your personal health and wellbeing in check too.

So, how can you stand out from the pack and get yourself noticed?

CABA, the charity supporting the wellbeing of chartered accountants and their families, offers its tips on progressing in a fast paced and challenging industry whilst keeping your emotional and personal wellbeing front of mind.

Career Coaching

Career coaching can help in many ways, whether you want to find employment, move jobs or simply to be happier in your current role. Most people have face-to-face sessions with a career coach, but many coaches are available via phone or email coaching, or even sessions via Skype or instant messaging. A typical face-to-face or phone session lasts anything between 45 – 60 minutes. The first session is all about your coach finding out who you are and what you want out of your career and life in the future. They will ask you lots of questions and – in some cases – give you questionnaires or surveys to complete that will help them get a better picture of your aims, strengths and values.

At the end of each session your coach may also give you one or more tasks to help take you a step closer to meeting your career goals. How many sessions you’ll need will depend on your circumstances and your objectives.

If you’re looking for a coach and don’t have a recommendation from a friend or colleague, it’s a good idea to make sure the person you choose is accredited by a professional body such as the International Coach Federation, Association for Coaching or the European Mentoring and Coaching Council.

Career Adaptability

Change is an inevitable part of modern working life. From globalisation to the rise of new technology, a number of different forces now impact our career development. Career adaptability testing involves having the skills and abilities needed to successfully shape and adjust to this ever-changing professional environment, so that you can have the career and future you want. By exploring the key areas of career-adaptability – concern, control, curiosity and confidence – you can measure how adaptable you are, building the skills you need to ensure you can adjust easily to different industries or roles which require adaptability.

In order to be career-adaptable, a person must exercise a certain level of concern about the future. This is because a desire to achieve certain goals requires one to be concerned and aware of what they need to do to achieve this, fueling their drive to eventually reaching it.

In order to become ‘concerned’ about the future in a ’controlled’ way, people need to set themselves clear objectives. This can be helped by talking about hopes and plans for the future with friends, colleagues and family who all make for great advisors when it comes to making such decisions.

Take things one step at a time. Once people start considering what inspires and motivates them, they can utilise that inspiration to start exploring opportunities which match their personal goals and values. Even taking one step each day can bring a person closer to the career they desire.

Curiosity is important as it drives people to investigate the possibilities which are open to them and investigate the world around them. This in turn is fuelled by confidence, which is the last piece of the adaptability puzzle: it gives people the courage to pursue new options, and step outside of their comfort zone.

Build on key skills

As a seasoned accounting professional or as an accountant just starting out, you will be confident with numbers and competent with complex financial models.

However, to work your way up the career ladder, not only do you need sharp technical knowledge, but you will need to develop those soft skills that can help you to progress even further.

Being highly organised and having excellent time management is a benefit in any role but being able to demonstrate these abilities will help show your company that you’re proficient and capable of handling the added pressure of a managerial role.

Reacting quickly will also help you to develop your critical thinking, which is vital if you want to move into a leadership position. A good leader will be able to foresee problems before they arise and deal with them accordingly. You will also be able to see opportunities which you can use to benefit your company.

You need to stay calm under pressure, deal with problems rapidly, and find suitable solutions. In doing so, you will start to demonstrate your leadership skills and your ability to manage calmly and confidently in a crisis when others around you are panicking.

Effective communication

You can have many leadership skills but if your communication is lacking you may hit a ceiling in terms of progression. Being able to listen and understand are vital skills for being a good leader and will in turn help you reach your career goals.

Not only do you need to listen to understand a problem, but you need to listen to what co-workers, or your team, say and figure out what inspires and motivates them.

Most people underestimate the importance of listening. You’ll need to be able to process complex and important information while also being able to lend an ear to your team members issues and concerns as well as juggling your own workload. If you’re unable to listen effectively it can lead to costly mistakes and misunderstandings, not only for you but for the rest of your team as well.

Once you do discover what drives other professionals in your industry it’s much easier to explain your own ideas, visions, goals, and intentions and get your team to carry out your plan.

With workplace culture changing, and careers becoming even more fast paced and fluid, being able to understand the stresses and strains faced will stand you in good stead and shape you into becoming a skilled multi-tasker. Being adaptable and working with professionals who can help propel your career forwards will only help you understand what it takes to meet your goals so that you can plan your career and the direction you want it to go in.

This article was written by a CABA expert. For more information on how to get the most out of your career, and for tips and tricks on a range of topics from exam preparation to managing stress and anxiety, visit the Help and Guides section on CABA’s website: https://www.caba.org.uk/help-and-guides

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WeAreTheCity staff are all working remotely as per the UK government's advisory. We are always looking at ways we can support women in business remotely and have launched a series of FREE virtual events (WeAreVirtual) to help support everyone in their careers and their well being. This could not be possible without the support of our network and we are very thankful for the time given by all of our speakers at these sessions.

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