When working on your accounting or finance job application, you probably don’t think of listing out traits such as communication and interpersonal skills. However, with more of the world becoming digitized, “soft skills” are becoming increasingly important to employers. In fact, 97 percent of employers stated soft skills were either as important or more important than hard skills (Journal of Accountancy). You might want to revisit your resume and LinkedIn profile and put some focus on your soft skills in addition to your technical capabilities and experience.
Soft skills are not only desired by employers looking to hire, but they will open many doors in your profession. Soft skills are transferable, lead to growth, and help you become well-rounded in your career.
Important soft skills for accounting and finance professionals
It’s not just the technical skills that matter to grow in your career. You also need to cultivate soft skills such as communication, leadership and problem-solving abilities.
Finance and accounting departments work with every department to plan the budget and keep department spending on track. These professionals play a crucial role in the company and are expected to be able to collaborate and work with employees in other departments. They also should work well on team projects such as planning budgets, cash flow projections and other business spending strategies.
One helpful tip to practice is to prepare your questions and conversations before meetings. Try to speak up during meetings and encourage the team to engage with one another when it comes to sharing ideas and insights.
Don’t assume everyone in your organization understands projections and other accounting and finance documents that are presented to them. It’s important for accounting and finance professionals to have good communication skills – both written and verbal. Professionals need to be able to share their findings and other information effectively so that everyone understands the information. They should also be able to answer questions efficiently and explain the information in a way that can help unfamiliar employees understand and grasp the concepts.
You can improve on your communication skills by asking for feedback from the team after presentations or big meetings to ensure everyone was able to understand and keep up with what you were presenting. You can also send a team-wide survey related to communication within the team and find areas of improvement for the future.
The finance and accounting department is constantly working on analysis and finding solutions to make sure that budgets, payroll, cash-flow and other strategy-related tasks are on track. Having strong critical thinking skills is necessary for professionals to make important decisions – decisions that could impact the financial stability of the company. The economy is constantly changing, and this department may need to make quick decisions to keep the company fiscally sound. This could include changing projections, analyzing the market, or reallocation of costs.
To help you focus on your critical thinking skills, it could be a good idea to ask questions about what you are analyzing and focus on coming up with informed solutions before making decisions.
Employers want accounting and finance professionals to be able to take charge and lead when it comes to crucial financial decisions. In the accounting and finance department, your role will include overseeing many projects and perhaps managing budgets for certain departments. It’s important to managers to also see that you can come up with fresh ideas, thoughtful solutions, and mentor new members as they join the team.
A good tip is to speak up during meetings when you have ideas or solutions. You are constantly learning, and it’s important to take initiative when you can with projects and tasks you are confident in. This will show your team that you can take charge when needed and that you are ready for a challenge.
Empathy is one of the strongest soft skills that is important in any role or career path you choose. This is because having empathy shows that you understand the needs and wants of others, are aware of their thoughts and feelings and you care. Empathy is in fact a vital leadership competency. While finance and accounting roles are number- focused, it is still important to empathize with your colleagues, employees and customers to build trust. Today those who are more “individual focused” and are able to work well with people from different teams, departments, cultures and backgrounds generally make for more successful leaders.
Focus on being more understanding of other’s points of view and what their situation might be. Just because you are working on numbers doesn’t mean you need to be detached from understanding your teammates and customers on a more personal level.
With the ever-changing business economy, there will come a time when you need to make tough decisions. Sometimes these decisions might have negative consequences. Therefore, it’s important to stay resilient and focus on how you can learn from your mistakes to do better in the future. In this profession you need to be able to work under high-pressure situations and be confident in your delivery and decision making.
A helpful tip is to focus on thinking about the big picture and be thoughtful about what you are analyzing. You need to prove that you are an asset to the team, and this comes from working on your ability to adapt and be flexible to the evolving business landscape.
Every workplace is different, and it’s important that you can adapt to your workplace to collaborate successfully with your coworkers. Take the time to invest in improving your soft skills by listening to feedback from coworkers and focusing on activities that enable you to focus on your soft skills.