Seven top tips for fast-tracking your finance career, from ACCA

Last updated: 13 Jul 2023, 10:41

With the help of ACCA professionals, we’ve put together seven top tips to boost your employability and get your career off to a flying start. You may discover you’re more prepared for a finance career than you think.

ACCA finance career, woman thinking

1. Digital know-how: use your tech literacy to your advantage

Students are more comfortable with technology than any previous generation (and employers love that!), so make sure you develop your tech literacy further at every opportunity, highlight it in your graduate job applications and make the most of it when starting a new role.

Lucy McMillan, a Finance Officer with the Civil Service, comments ‘I have grown up with tech around me so it’s second nature, entwined within what I do, every day. At work you could use your digital skills by automating a process, for example, and then sharing that process with your colleagues.’

If you want to develop your knowledge of software packages while at university there are plenty of free resources available. Good ones for aspiring accountants include Excel, advanced Word and Outlook.

2. Build your personal brand

Take the time before you start applying for roles to build a wide network that includes a strong presence on social media on sites such as LinkedIn (remember not all jobs are found on jobs boards), and go that step further: create content.

Xhulja Duka, an Assistant Accountant with Zaj Associates, advises, ‘You need to seize every opportunity to participate in networking events. Be active on LinkedIn. Share your unique view with professionals to make connections or gain knowledge to progress your career – don’t be afraid.’

Aaron Dunster, Cost Controller with the Ministry of Defence, echoes this sentiment: ‘Show off your strengths – let people know what you’re good at. Be approachable and don’t be afraid to approach others so you can connect.’ He adds, ‘Be open to new ideas and adapt when you meet new people so you can learn a lot about yourself and others – this will make your personal brand stronger.’

3. Resilience and health: nurture both

Employers increasingly look for resilience in candidates, as no application process, job role or career journey will be without challenges. Prioritise your mental health and find ways to build your resilience and demonstrate it.

Maria Sigacheva, a Tax Specialist at Glencore, offers three top tips to increase your resilience:

  • ‘Build good habits. Eat well, take exercise, take breaks from your laptop and social media, and make sure you schedule in time to see family and friends.
  • Be more flexible and adaptable. When I was looking for a job after Brexit I was disappointed to get rejected from the company I really wanted to join. But two years later, having spent my time doing other work and volunteering, I received an offer via LinkedIn (where I had built a strong presence) and have now been here at Glencore for four years… If something is not happening for you, let it go and try something different for a while.
  • Maintain your focus: Keep your eyes on the end goal but take little steps in the right direction.’

4. Teamworking: focus on your collaboration skills

Employers want to see candidates who can work comfortably with others to meet business needs and tackle complex cross-functional challenges. In the workplace, collaborating with others offers an opportunity to learn and experience different aspects of a job.

Aaron sums it up simply: ‘Two heads are better than one. In a previous job our team of five people worked together to create a system that could track any accounting errors more efficiently. We couldn’t have done this solo; it was a team effort and benefited the wider company too.’

Lucy warns: ‘Watch out for teamplaying pitfalls, such as not listening to colleagues, not being reliable or willing to collaborate, or thinking you’re the best at something – the team will fall down and there won’t be a positive outcome.’

5. Adapt or stagnate

Employers prize adaptability. You need to demonstrate that you are proactive and open-minded, ready to learn new things and build new skills. Members of ACCA are recognised financial experts but they still look to build extra knowledge all the time.

‘Always be aware of your weaknesses and where you can develop,’ says Aaron.

One way to make sure you continue adapting is to build your communication and interpersonal skills as it’s often through hearing others’ opinions and wisdom that we adapt. Maria and her team make sure they have Friday coffee together every week as it’s easy to stop talking to each other, especially when you’re working remotely. The coffees ensure everyone takes a break and has a conversation, so you know what’s going on beyond your personal responsibilities.

6. Mentors and sponsors – seek them out

It’s vital to have the right sort of support in your career, especially at the start. In a new job, ask your employer about the career support mechanisms available. But don’t be afraid to look for mentors before starting your graduate job.

Xhulia turned to her professors at university to get their advice about the best way to start a career in accountancy, and then connected with professionals on LinkedIn to get further advice and knowledge. She points out: ‘It’s about asking the right questions.’

Aaron comments, ‘My employer have supported me by giving me the time and resources I need to succeed in my ACCA journey.

7. Pursue your dreams

Seek roles and experiences that really interest you, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes, especially early in your career. You can make mistakes and pivot, changing your career or direction.

‘Go for what you will really love,’ says Maria. ‘Define your market of interest and then your function – what sort of role you’d enjoy… If you enjoy what you do, time flies.’

Remember that an ACCA qualification doesn’t limit you to building a career in just accountancy. There are people – entrepreneurs, CEOs, you name it – working in every sector imaginable with ACCA qualifications.

For more top tips about how to fast-track your career, watch ACCA’s recent targetjobs webinar .

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