Auditing your skillset
As organisations emerge from the pandemic, there is a real opportunity for individuals to embrace new skills to make the most of a candidate-driven job market. Auditing your skillset will help you work out where your expertise can take you next, and identify the areas in which you can improve.
How do you know what skills you need to support your employer, advise clients or progress along your chosen career path?
‘Self-awareness and a readiness to develop new skills are the primary ingredients when it comes to understanding what skills you are missing,’ says Dannielle Haig, principal business psychologist at DH Consulting.
While a willingness and ability to knuckle down and learn will be familiar to most ACCA members, constructive self-criticism is not easy.
‘Humans aren’t very accurate at self-evaluation,’ Haig says. ‘We have many biases at play that skew our perceptions of ourselves and our place in the world around us. Think about that incredibly capable person you know who has no confidence or understanding of their talent; it works vice versa, too.’
There are several self-evaluation tools to help you decide on your next move.
SWOT analysis allows you to look internally and externally, by documenting your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. ‘Your strengths and weaknesses relate to you internally, whereas opportunities and threats relate to the role and environment you are in and how that will impact you,’ says Emily Button-Lynham, founder and director at Emily Button Creative, who offers career coaching for women to make the most of their options.
‘Once you’ve listed these, it’s important to work out which weaknesses you need to work on and turn into opportunities, based on your career goals. Successful people focus on levelling up their strengths and understanding their USPs, as these set them apart from the crowd and are the core things people think about them.’
Haig recommends a 360-degree review, in which you receive honest feedback from peers, seniors and your direct reports. ‘This is a very useful exercise when it comes to understanding how you are perceived by others and provides you with a better-rounded understanding of yourself,’ she says.
Identify super strengths
Button-Lynham suggests seeking feedback pertaining to your strengths to see how they compare to your SWOT, and highlighting the top three. ‘Those are your super strengths, which you should focus on taking to the next level through further practice and development,’ she says.
Word of warning
When building your target skills list, keep it purposeful and concrete, being careful to avoid woolly and vague buzz phrases, such as ‘be more authentic’ or ‘learn to leverage’. Contrast these with ones that sound buzzy but are actually real and often of the moment – for example, ‘how to manage in a hybrid work environment’. The key to any of these phrases is to split them into achievable fragments.
Real skills might include learning programming language like Python or SQL, using data visualisation software or developing your understanding of US GAAP. Soft skills are real, too, but be specific. Good communication and leadership are greatly in demand, but ask yourself what they mean and break them down into learnable areas – for example, presenting, writing, negotiating, listening or delegating.
Learn new skills
You can also seek out support via your workplace, which can be a hotbed of resources. Find a mentor or be one for a younger professional (knowledge flows up as well as down a hierarchy); shadow people with skills you’d like to develop; apply for secondments; or organise to attend courses that will benefit the business.
Stay ahead of the tech curve
Not all advances in technology will be relevant to you now, but sooner or later they more than likely will be, so it’s worth getting up to speed.
ACCA has a wealth of resources, from professional courses to certificates in areas as diverse as digital finance, fintech, sustainability and data analytics. For the certificates, see ACCA Learning.
ABD articles offer insights into how emerging tech trends might impact you, your employer or clients – especially from a compliance and tax perspective. Take a look at features on blockchain, cryptocurrencies and NFTs, or non-fungible tokens.
This exercise will, Button-Lynham suggests, help you to understand where you would benefit from improving. ‘You have to have a clear understanding of the role and industry you are looking to move into,’ she says. ‘Doing research on roles that interest you and looking through job descriptions allows you to have a better understanding of what key skills and experience that role requires.
‘You can then look at your SWOT and understand where you have gaps in skills and experience, and create a development plan with actions to how you will close the gap. I advise clients to break things down into tiny chunks and incorporate that into their weekly to-dos, to ensure they are making progress on their goals.’
Springboard+ accounting courses
For individuals looking for a career change, or those wanting to bring in new talent to address skills shortages in accounting, there are heavily subsidised courses available.
ACCA Ireland and two tuition providers – Professional Accountancy Training (PAT) and the Accountancy School – are delivering two qualifications under the Springboard+ initiative, boosting employers’ learning and development budgets.
The qualifications are the diploma in accounting and business, which is 100%-funded, and the advanced diploma in accounting and business, which is 90%-funded. In both cases, ACCA registration, annual membership and exam fees are also covered.
This article was first published in AB magazine July 2022