New Year, new (career) you! More than 20% of Britons toasted the start of 2023 with some form of New Year’s resolution and one in five of those pledged to pursue new career goals, YouGov research suggests.
But with January now over, many of those good intentions may have already fallen by the wayside. If that sounds familiar, you’re not alone. In fact, Brits will typically ditch their ‘New Year New Me’ resolutions by the second week in January.
If that strikes a chord, don’t despair. ICAEW Insights has spoken to careers experts for their top tips on getting your career back on track.
Re-evaluate your current career choices
For those with an established job, or who have taken time out of work to start and raise a family, it can be daunting to consider a new industry or completely change career path. However, it’s never too late to take your role in a different direction or re-enter education, says Heather Gough, an expert at BPP Education Group.
“If you’re looking to change careers in 2023, it’s important to evaluate your previous experience up until now. Consider which parts of your current or past job roles have brought you the most satisfaction or fulfilment, as this can help guide your new career path,” Gough says.
Adopt a continuous learning mindset
Passing all of your exams is an amazing achievement, but that’s when the real learning starts. “Don't assume you know everything now. Listen and ask questions and make notes and look things up. Every day is a school day!” says Helen Crofts, Lecturer in Accounting at Henley Business School.
Work on your soft skills
To get ahead in your career it's also important that you develop soft skills that complement your technical prowess, says Gough. “As part of your role, you will be expected to provide advice to clients and companies on any number of specific issues they may be experiencing, so developing strong soft skills including clear and concise communication, empathy, and the ability to make decisions to help resolve conflict will be key to your continued success.”
Develop a killer network
Natural networking is everything. LinkedIn bombing everyone you think might be useful to you is annoying and will rarely achieve anything. Show an interest in everyone you meet and connect in a more genuine way. Try not to just focus on people you think are 'important', Crofts says.
As an accountant, you are well-organised, a skilled number-cruncher and have a keen eye for detail. But as your career progresses and you become a team leader, you will need to focus more on management and people skills. If you get promoted to a management role without any formal training, it can be easy to act like the type of manager you’ve seen in the past. “People buy people, so be yourself, not the manager you think you should be,” says Liz Villani, career coach and founder of the #BeYourselfAtWork movement.
Focus on developing relationships
Accountancy is a task-oriented job and it’s easy to get lost in the daily grind of completing tasks and hitting deadlines. But the real value you add as a manager is building relationships with staff and being an enabler and facilitator for the team. That means getting to know your colleagues on a personal level and understanding their strengths and capabilities, Villani says.
Keep your eyes open for growth opportunities
Don’t get bogged down in short-term deadlines and tasks. “These need to be done for sure, but you should also look more widely to find new areas of growth and challenges that can help you advance in your career,” says Gough. That could mean studying for a qualification, taking on new responsibilities, or joining a cross-functional team. “Always look for ways to build your skills and contacts and your career will progress nicely.”
Don’t limit yourself to one area
One of the best ways to elevate your career is by making sure you don’t limit yourself to just one part of the accountancy industry. “Gaining experience in a variety of roles – especially during the first few years of your career, as you decide the areas in which you thrive and most enjoy – will build your confidence and will provide you with essential skills that help boost your long-term career prospects,” Gough says.
Connect with a mentor
Regardless of where you are in your accountancy career, having the advice of someone more experienced than you can be invaluable. If you are unable to secure a mentor through work, it is also worth approaching people that you work with who could help you, or you could even look at joining an association that could pair you with someone. ICAEW offers bespoke coaching and mentoring programmes through ICAEW Academy to help members further their finance careers.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
It's always good to be ambitious when it comes to your career and education, but avoid putting too much pressure on yourself when it comes to achieving all of your goals or training courses by the end of 2023. “Comparing yourself to others or putting pressure on yourself can lead to you feeling overwhelmed or burnt out. Take as much time as you need and find flexible options that work for you, especially if there are other important childcare or work commitments to take into consideration,” Gough advises.
Be ready to flex. Having a long-term career plan is great. However, things change and you will get frustrated if you can't adapt or sometimes go with the flow, adds Crofts.
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