“Heading into 2022, there’s lots of optimism from employers as hiring is firmly back on the agenda compared to the previous year to 18 months,” says Lorraine Twist, Director at Hays Accountancy & Finance. At the same time, skills shortages, shifts in employee demands, job-hopping and the Great Resignation all mean competition will remain high. “Accountancy professionals have a unique opportunity to excel,” says Chris Goulding, Managing Director of recruiter Wade Macdonald. “Now is the time to capitalise on industry shortfalls and stay ahead of the game.”
Know your worth
The outlook is extremely positive for professionals as greater confidence in the recovery leads to heightened competition and rising salary offers. “Now is a good time to be aware of your worth in the market,” says Twist. According to the Hays Salary & Recruiting Trends 2022 guide, almost two-thirds of accountancy and finance employers increased salaries in 2021, with more than three-quarters expecting to increase salaries again this year. Tools such as the Hays Salary Checker can help you compare your salary, helping to inform your conversation if you are looking to increase your pay this year.
Understand what makes employers tick
To make the most of your accountancy career in 2022, it pays to be aware of what employers are looking for. In addition to an analytical mind and strong communication skills, a passion for continual learning, adaptability and an innovative mindset and independence are consistently cited. “Ensuring hybrid working can work well for organisations is a key consideration too – so employers are looking for professionals who can adapt well to both office and remote working. Strong accountability, time management and organisation skills are important here,” Twist says.
Identify skills gaps and have a plan
Have a career plan for the next 12-18 months, suggests Liz Sebag-Montefiore, Director and Co-founder of human resources consultancy 10 Eighty. “Revisit existing plans to see how close you are to achieving your objectives and set some targets for the new year ahead. Once you’ve identified where you want to be, build out an action board to help support your goals, says HR and workplace expert Ruth Kudzi. Think about role models within your field and which additional skills would you need to develop to achieve a similar position, Kudzi asks. “It might be that you need to gain more strategic experience, go on a course to develop your presentation skills or improve your internal networking.”
Develop super strengths
Look at where you have been praised in the past and the areas of your role that you are good at, and think about how you can develop these further so they become your super strengths, Kudzi advises. Review the last 12 months of your accountancy career to decide what you’ve enjoyed most so you can try to make sure you do more of the same – and look at what caused you frustration and irritation to see if you can minimise those aspects of your work, Sebag-Montefiore adds. “Decide on a skill you are interested in and work out how to develop it and spend more time using it.”
Hit your network
Review your LinkedIn profile, revisit your skills endorsements and make sure they align with what you are telling your network about your plans and aspirations, says Sebag-Montefiore. Don’t be shy to ask members of your network what they like about you and what you do, and the kinds of projects they think you should work on. Segmenting your LinkedIn network allows you to target your networking activities more efficiently, both in accountancy and out of the sector. “Ensure that your 50 key contacts are on message with your plans, send them all a New Year email with best wishes and arrange to meet up with each of them in the first quarter of 2022,” she adds. Resolve to be ‘kind’ in 2022. And give as good as you get; help other accountants when you can, pass on news or information that will be useful to your network and say thank you and let people know that you appreciate them.
Seek out a mentor
Having a mentor can help you play to your strengths and improve your weaknesses, and will challenge you to be the best you can be. “Having a trustworthy source of wisdom close to hand who has already achieved something similar to your goals can be invaluable as you prepare for a senior leadership role,” says Sarah-Jane McQueen, General Manager of online accounting course comparison website CoursesOnline. “Identify someone who looks like you on LinkedIn, someone in a similar job to you, either within accountancy or a different industry, and reach out to them; see if you can arrange to do some peer-to-peer mentoring,” Sebag-Montefiore adds.
Never stand still
Seize opportunities to broaden your knowledge, particularly if you’re relatively new to your industry. “Learning new skills outside your profession, for example via webinars, courses or some form of accredited training, can be both fulfilling and good for your wellbeing,” says Paul Day, Support Officer at Chartered Accountants’ wellbeing charity CABA. Allow yourself to be open to doing new things, Kudzi says. “Within your own personal boundaries flex your ‘yes’ muscle, whether it’s working alongside new colleagues or doing something out of your comfort zone in your personal life, learn to embrace the uncertain by saying yes.”
Set micro goals
Smaller, focussed goals can help you progress towards achieving your greater career aspirations without becoming overwhelmed. “For example, researching current job adverts will not only help you keep a pulse on the job market, but also help you understand if there are any additional skills you need to be a more attractive candidate,” Augustine says. Other micro career goals could include taking a course, joining a professional association that caters to either accountants or an industry you’re passionate about to expand your knowledge and network.
Update your brag book
A brag book is essentially a place where you keep track of your professional successes in detail. Think about every time you achieved a work goal, completed a project, developed a creative solution to a problem, assumed a new responsibility, or received positive feedback from your boss. Keep it updated on a regular basis, and use it to prepare for a performance review, negotiate a pay rise, or update your CV and LinkedIn profile before searching for a new job.
Look after your mental health
Staying active is as crucial to your mental wellbeing as it is to your physical health. Setting yourself targets, such as a number of steps per day or minutes of exercise per week, can be a good way of keeping on track, Day says. Meanwhile, research suggests that getting involved in creative pursuits can enhance your decision-making abilities, Kudzi says: “Take some time every month to do something creative that you enjoy, whether it’s going to an art gallery, learning a new skill or doing something you already enjoy, as this can help you in your role.”
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