Achieve ‘the perfect blend’ of soft skills

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With expectations on accountants constantly shifting, it is important to have a wide range of soft skills at your disposal to complement your technical skills in order to have a better chance to succeed.

Excellent technical skills and qualifications are a given in talented finance professionals. It is the ability to influence and interact at the highest levels – both within the finance function and the wider business – that counts.

  1. Communication skills are key – and, in particular, the ability to explain financial information in a clear and simple format to clients or others in the business (see also ‘Writing skills for a changing world’). It is unsurprising that an ability to influence at board level and presentation/communication skills are among the top skills that are needed to be developed.
    Working on your ability to communicate will, without question, give you an edge over the competition during a job application process.
  2. In addition to being able to express yourself, can you empathise with supervisors and your fellow employees? Are you sensitive to social cues? Listening to others is essential both within a company and in terms of working with clients.
  3. Team work, skills in influencing others and innovation are also attributes held by the highest performing accountants. The ability to work in a team is an indispensable ability no matter where you work. Being a team player improves the efficiency of the entire team and the team’s ability to work together to solve problems. In fact, this is one of the primary soft skills potential employers look for in future employees.
  4. Finance professionals are facing major challenges such as managing increased reporting demands and heavier workloads, plus the need to implement change such as new systems and processes. Therefore, can you plan your work schedule in a way that enables you to make the best use of your time? Whether this is a skill you are learning or improving, the ability to organise your schedule and your team’s schedule will vastly improve your chances of being offered a job.
    After all, being able to prioritise means you will always be doing precisely the task that is most important to the team at the company.
  5. Another important soft skill is the ability to think analytically. Taking an objective view helps you sort out problems and discard ineffective methods.
    Working on this soft skill will further increase your attractiveness to your employers, and if you take a position in management your team will greatly appreciate your ability to dispassionately assess any given situation.

‘The key is to building these soft skills is to choose one, think about where you would like to be in 12 months’ time, and then set milestones for each quarter,’ says Lorraine Twist, a director at Michael Page Finance.

‘An example of a target you may set yourself is to develop your communication skills, and successfully present key financial information to the business at the end of the quarter. Those who challenge and develop are always successful.’

Helping you to deliver effectively in the workplace

Check out ACCA’s range of Professional Skills modules, which are designed to help you develop skills in communications, team working and relationship building.

The modules are optional but will support your achievement of the performance objectives for the practical experience requirement (PER).

Access the modules through the student virtual learning centre.

This article was first published in Student Accountant

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