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10 Accounting Skills You Need
to Succeed on the Job
The accounting industry is expanding rapidly, with massive growth projected over the coming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecast that 142,400 new accounting and auditing jobs will be available by 2024, a growth rate of 11%.
If you're an aspiring accountant, or someone currently working as an accountant, this article will equip you with the skills and knowledge you need to be a part of this rapidly evolving profession.
In recent times, the job of an accountant has evolved from just crunching numbers and hard skills to a career requiring soft skills such as strategic thinking and business acumen.
This article outlines the most valuable skills you should seek to develop to succeed as an accountant.
These ten skills are just a few foundational ones that all accountants should master. Make a note of these points and see which ones resonate with you the most.
1. Effective Communication
In the pathway of learning accounting hard skills, most accountants don’t focus much on soft skills such as effective communication. But having good communication skills can help you achieve far more in your accounting career.
Can you effectively communicate with your co-workers and clients? Are there any areas that need work to improve on this skill set? Effective communication is a vital accounting skill required for success. It can be as simple as the ability to use email tools to improve virtual collaboration.
Especially if you’re a startup, you might have to handle a lot of different aspects of your work along with accounting, and good communication skills will help you in more ways than you think.
The ability to communicate well both in person and in writing will help you get new clients, be better at your job, work well with your colleagues, and ultimately advance professionally.
Additionally, well-developed interpersonal skills are helpful for networking. The first impression is often the one that counts. If you can express yourself freely when meeting new people and establish valuable relationships, you have a great advantage.
Your body language and visual communication play an important role as well. As you grow in your career as an accountant, you will regularly face situations where efficient communication can help you leave a lasting impression and help you professionally.
2. Knowledge of Math and Important Software
How well do you perform in math? This is an accounting skill that not many people would think of, but it can be vital to the job. You need to combine mathematical thinking with good IT management skills to effectively make use of the evolving needs in accounting.
For those who are aiming to become senior-level accountants, it is necessary to be proficient in calculus, probability, statistics, and statistical analysis.
Accountants need to be skilled in dealing with numbers to examine and interpret figures. Even if they use a computer to do the more complex calculation, the skill of understanding the basic principles based on which these tools are operating will take you a long way.
Each business process today functions smoothly with the integration of the right tools. You need to be proficient with the software and tools your organization and industry are using.
For example, integrating inventory management software with the accounting system ensures that every order, purchase, and business activity is captured in the accounting system. It removes the risks of human errors, resulting in more accurate financial reports.
Some of the essential software and programs an accountant needs to be proficient with are:
Microsoft Excel - for the good old traditional accounting
QuickBooks or QuickBooks competitors - for advanced and automated
QuickBooks is one of the top accounting software for small businesses. It is used to track expenses, payroll management, and other vital accounting processes.
It is pretty common to find a company using Quickbooks, and an accountant will probably end up working with it. You can compare QuickBooks Pro and premier to see the differences and how to use each version.
But, since many other alternatives to Quickbooks are surfacing very fast, it is necessary to adjust quickly or learn using more than one program. Your job might also require you to use invoice generator tools, so make sure you have a strong grasp of these as well.
3. Use Emotional intelligence in Your Line of Work
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own and others’ emotions and impact them positively. This particular ability can help an accountant to collaborate, influence, and build trust with colleagues and clients.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is becoming an essential skill. In fact, one study found that emotional intelligence is responsible for 58% of job performance, and that 90% of top performers have a high EQ.
An accountant with emotional intelligence can stand out from the crowd and attract new opportunities in his/her career.
Emotional intelligence includes the following abilities:
Self-awareness: The ability to understand oneself, including behavior and emotions.
Self-management and self-regulation: The ability to control emotions and responses.
Self-motivation: The ability to keep oneself motivated, and continuously perform, act, and move toward goals.
Empathy: The ability to feel others’ feelings and relate with them effectively.
4. Learn Persuasion skills
Persuasion is often thought of as the ability to convince others to do what we want. For an accountant, this particular skill can be the ability to gain trust and build a relationship.
Accounting is a highly trust-intensive job and you need to persuade your clients/employer to trust your skills and expertise. It is about self-confidence and the ability to analyze a situation and come up with a plan that people have trust in.
Persuasion can help an accountant in the follows ways:
Control your reputation
Enlist support for controversial decisions
Ensure that accountability is located appropriately
Build alliances that can help you
Help others appreciate your levels of performance
5. Have Great Negotiation Skills
Negotiation skills are vital for accountants. Most people may carry the wrong perception that accountants have to deal only with papers and numbers. While in reality, good negotiation skills help you at each step of the career.
Especially if you’re just starting out, good negotiation skills will help you capture the opportunities you deserve. Whether it is an external negotiation with potential clients or internally with co-workers, negotiation skills determine how successful your interactions with others are.
If you think of it, an accountant is negotiating all the time, for example discussing budgets or dealing with banks and clients’ payments. Good use of negotiation skills can secure some of the best long-term relationships.
Here are some of the things that you can do with good negotiation skills:
- Increase the bottom line
- Build better relationships
- Resolve conflicts
- Enhance communication
6. Knowledge of Data Analysis and Interpretation Skills
Data analysis is the ability to read raw data and present it so that others can easily understand it. Using this, one can draw conclusions and make relevant business decisions.
Each business needs to make data-driven decisions, and it is where data analysis and interpretation skills come into play. Accountants need to work with data to make strategic business decisions and meet client’s demands.
Here are some essential things an accountant can do with data analysis:
Improve business performance: Accountants work in various industries, but each business needs to evaluate its performance and constantly improve it. Accountants can use data analysis to ensure a company is running well, meeting its targets, and constantly improving performance.
Manage risks: Accountants can read data to identify various risk points, and they can use predictive analysis to provide a company with a more clear future.
7. Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills
You might face new challenges and unexpected errors in your accounting career. Playing with numbers is not so easy, after all. Additionally, an accounting practice may focus more on advisory services for clients. This is why a problem-solving attitude is necessary to perform such a job.
Today’s businesses are looking for problem solvers and not only number-crunchers. They want to have people who can analyze different situations and interpret solutions for them.
Critical thinking is the ability to solve problems, add value to data, interpret trends within a business, and overall take a broader commercial outlook that benefits a company. An accountant with this skill can evaluate complicated situations, consider different options, and reach logical conclusions.
Critical thinking can come naturally to people, or it can be developed over time. Here some tips for developing critical thinking:
Take inputs: Try to question how and why you do things the way you used to do.
Look for opportunities: How can you grow and improve? Consider alternative solutions to solve the problem you encounter in your line of work.
Communication: Talk through your reasoning and conclusions with colleagues each time you can.
Independent mindset: Think outside the box and challenge the current state of affairs. Make well-thought-out decisions. A critical thinker should be logical as well as creative.
Knowledge: Improve your knowledge by keeping an open mind for new things. There is always something new to learn that can help to solve problems.
8. Leadership, Management, and Supervisory Abilities
As much as these qualities are self-explanatory, there’s a need to have them ingrained in your work right from the start. Even if you’re just starting your career in accounting, good leadership skills will put you in a position to grow.
Leadership involves a series of skills and qualities, such as:
Organization skills: An accountant needs to manage many tasks and responsibilities and have excellent team management skills. One has to set deadlines, follow them, and, if necessary, use software to manage different tasks like handling transactions, creating reports, and more.
Time-management skill: You need to know the most important things to do for every task in hand, prioritize tasks, and work accordingly.
Adaptability: Industries and technologies are changing and evolving. You have to be able to adapt quickly. An accountant handles different types of clients and accounts, and adaptability helps you make specific decisions for each of them.
Initiative: Part of leadership is to take the initiative and be able to work without supervision while at the same time show you can supervise other people. An accountant has to be able to work with a team and guide them on the way forward.
You might handle the complete finance and accounting department of your organization going forward. Strong leadership skills will prepare you for the journey.
9. Teamwork or Interpersonal Communication Skills (Especially with Clients)
Being an accountant is not anymore just about reporting and working independently on sheets. With businesses becoming more complex, the need to communicate with other accounting departments or even interact with clients to explain accounting insights is rising.
Today, businesses want a strong involvement of the accountant in business processes and decision-making. In fact, they are required to analyze raw data and advise a business decision. As an accountant, you must develop a set of skills that help you in better team management and collaboration like clear communication skills, empathy, and problem-solving.
But, above all, it is vital to work and collaborate with other people within and outside your organization. You have to understand business situations, understand the other party’s needs, and deliver on them. It may involve working with other departments and collaborating with new people on each task.
What are the common challenges of working with other departments? It involves a set of skills to deal with departments with different priorities, people with different personalities, and maybe deal with conflicts between people.
Part of developing a successful skill teamwork to establish and maintain a credible and trusting partnership with colleagues in other departments so that everyone can work on common goals.
10. Attention to Detail
As an accountant, you have a huge financial responsibility on your shoulder. Strong attention to detail will help you avoid mistakes and errors.
It minimizes errors in accounting which could lead to audits and investigations by government agencies. Even a tiny mistake can multiply and lead to significant consequences.
When there are many tasks at hand that you need to work on and even delegate, consider using task management software to effectively track work for your team and for yourself.
Attention to detail is not a natural skill for everyone; yet it is one of the most crucial skills to your success in accounting. The key is to stay as organized as possible.
You could use a note-taking app to help you remember tasks, remove distractions, and do one task at a time. Improving focus can help becoming more detail-oriented and avoid mistakes.
An accountant needs many skills to be successful. It is not just about numbers and correct report formats anymore.
It is necessary to have interpersonal skills such as communication and working with other people, leadership, and attention to detail.
The above points are the most important to focus on for a successful accounting career. Use these and climb the ladder of success in your accounting journey. Good luck!
About the Author
Monica a self-driven person and loves to spend her leisure time reading interesting books that come her way. She is passionate about writing and collecting new books. She believes in hard work and it is her persistence that keeps her doing better. She is a perfectionist and doesn’t let go off things that don’t appear perfect to her. She loves traveling whenever she needs time off of her busy schedule. Her favorite holiday destination is Hawaii.