Developing good work habits for career success

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The great artist Savlador Dali once said: ‘Have no fear of perfection – you'll never reach it.’

It is true. While it may be a bit much to expect to become a perfect employee, there is no reason not to strive to be a perfectionist at work. A perfectionist is a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection.

In psychology terms, perfectionism is a personality trait characterised by ‘a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting high performance standards’.

Of course, being a healthy perfectionist also means resisting becoming overly critical or worrying too much about the concerns of evaluations and views of colleagues. But it will mean being willing to constantly improve your own skills sets.

Attention to detail

‘As a trainee accountant, your acute attention to detail and ability to perfect reconciling balance or purchase ledger sheets is invaluable, but with changing legislation and technology, you will need to continuously develop other skills too,’ Karen Young, director at Hays Accountancy & Finance.

‘Employers will not necessarily look for you to be 100% perfect in every single way, but they will be looking for your ability to continuously develop and show your drive to learn new skills and keep up to date’.

As a result, make sure you constantly take the time to reflect on your skills with your manager or colleagues, both of who can help you identify your strengths and plan for areas of improvement.

Peers and managers

‘As well as developing your professional skills through industry recognised qualifications and formal training, you can learn from your peers and managers too’ adds Young.

‘If you are working in a larger team, seek out opportunities to learn and shadow those with more experience, or just a different type of skill set. If your employer offers in-house training, take advantage of these opportunities available to you.

‘As you are learning, practice makes perfect, so be persistent and work on areas that you need to – for example, if you struggle getting to grips with the balance sheet, practise the skills and techniques you need to develop, as well as using the system and software you need to use as much as possible.’

Think outside your work environment

Don’t forget to also think outside of your day-to-day work environment to develop and hone your skills.

‘Do get involved in the wider industry community through online networks and events held by the ACCA, and make sure to read industry magazines to stay up to date with the latest sector developments,’ adds Young.

There is a raft of additional personal qualities to focus on, such as decision-making skills.

Daily considerations

If you want to progress your career, you must assess different options and choose the best course of action, often on a daily basis.

Company training programmes, executive development programs, and certification can often benefit managers or executives hoping to advance, as can membership of the relevant industry bodies.

Developing a strong foundation in the commercial workings of business is important as many large companies prefer trainees and accountants who can create value for the company and who understand the company’s financial drivers.


Typically, companies are looking for accountants who can develop a strategy and understand the commercial ramifications of business decisions.

Top executives need good problem-solving skills and the ability to recognise shortcomings and effectively carry out solutions. With this in mind, now is the time to consider and develop these skills.

Source: Hays

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