It has never been a better time to be an accounting professional—as firms prepare to implement the new tax code passed under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, there is an unprecedented level of hiring in the accounting industry. “And while public accounting firms are increasing hiring, they are still holding high standards for their new hires and looking for employees who can make an impact long-term,” says Michael Cooke, Executive Vice President at The Execu|Search Group.
While the stereotypical accounting professional is an introvert who sits behind a computer, succeeding in a public accounting firm requires more than having the technical skillset. In addition to that, there are several other soft skills firms look for to identify a new hire who could grow into a leadership role.
If you’re looking to take advantage of the increase in hiring, be sure to exhibit these other personal qualities to prove that you would be a valuable addition to the team:
As employers are looking to hire those who can make a long-term impact on the firm, this means that they are looking for a professional who has the potential to take on more responsibilities in the future. “Firms are looking for the next generation of leadership, and they want someone who not only cares about their individual success, but also has the drive to see the firm succeed as a whole,” says Michael. As a result, displaying autonomy in your work and showing that you take initiative can prove that you would one day be able to handle a leadership role.
Ability to develop new business
While accounting skills are a crucial part of your job, the key to becoming an indispensable employee lies in your ability to develop new business. “While it may not be in your job description, your employer will not be able to overlook your value when you’re increasing profits,” explains Michael. “This means that you should look for any opportunity to offer your firm’s services—even when it’s not an area of the business you don’t personally handle.” As a result, be sure that you listen to your clients to suggest other ways in which your firm can service them. Additionally, consulting a partner at the firm who has brought in a lot of business can give you guidance and show partners that you’re a driven employee.
Network to bring in new business
When you effectively network, you might be surprised to learn just how many people are in need of a new accounting firm. As you attend events and meet new people, be sure to mention what you do for a living; you never know what kind of accounting needs people may have. “Every business needs an accountant, so everyone you know is a potential source of business,” says Michael. “Also, make an effort to stay in touch with old friends, acquaintances and colleagues, as they may move into a role one day where they are in a decision-making capacity to bring on audit/tax or consulting work.”
Assertive communication skills
In addition to displaying other leadership skills, your ability to communicate effectively with clients and colleagues is critical to your longevity at the organization. “Not only does this include explaining your work clearly to clients, but it also includes effectively working with your team,” says Michael. “This could encompass everything from presenting your work to management, delegating tasks to a coworker, or training a new hire.”
Ability to solve problems with creative solutions
Most accounting professionals may be looking at black and white numbers most of the day, and as a result, running into a problem often involves a mathematical solution. However, as you move into a leadership role, the black and white solution may start to become greyer. “As a leader, the problems you must solve require more critical thinking and more creative solutions,” explains Michael. “As a result, accounting firms are looking for someone who doesn’t freeze under pressure and can think on their feet quickly.”