A career in finance and accounting, especially at the beginning, can be very competitive, but it can often be very lucrative and enjoyable. Within the accounting and finance industry career development and growth is seen as an essential to ensure you can climb the career ladder the quickest way possible.

To avoid becoming the “errand runner”, Dan Brown, Manager for Walters People part-quality finance recruitment, offers some strategic tips if you’re looking to develop your finance career and to reach senior positions early on. Here we offer advice on how to successfully develop your finance career.

Take advantage of development opportunities  

Once you’ve achieved your degree in finance, its important to maintain your development by pro-actively taking advantage of the various career development opportunities available to you as a junior. Being exposed from a junior level to the various meetings and conversations had by more senior colleagues can provide huge benefits as you begin to climb the career ladder.

Regular catch-ups with line managers on a monthly or quarterly basis can help define clear objectives throughout the year, ensuring your keep on track and the opportunity to take on more responsibility. You will often find that more senior and experienced colleagues will often like to share their learnings and advice to training finance professionals, so you can often learn a lot with this hands-on experience.

It is also expected, but not compulsory, across the industry for graduates to pursue professional qualifications; at some levels this is mandatory but at others it is optional. In the early stages of your career it is important to be pro-active and actively seek out and attend the events and seminars carried out by finance and accounting professional body to help build your technical understanding, soft skills and build up a strong professional network you can later leverage on in your career. A candidate actively studying will be more desirable to a hiring manager looking to recruit and build their finance function. If you start to specialise within a particular industry you will begin to build up a strong transferable skill set, making you highly desirable to a competitor and putting you in a very strong position early on in your finance career which will later benefit you in salary and promotional negotiations.

Don’t lose momentum

After graduating, it's easy to become overwhelmed and maybe confused about the particular career pathways you would like to pursue, but as a graduate or trainee finance professional its important not to lose momentum. This is a common challenge we come across in junior finance and accounting professionals.

Keeping the intensity and progression within a department and not allowing yourself to plateau within the position is vital if you want to achieve career progression early on. It’s very easy to become content in a role and/or in a department, however it’s important to drive your progression pro-actively, especially if the aim is to become qualified and reach the senior positions such as a financial controller or chief operating officer roles by your early thirties.

Focus on developing your soft skills

Soft skills are just as important to a hiring manager as the more technical abilities you cover off in your CV or cover letter. Often, at first stage interviews, a hiring manager want to see more of your personality, your cultural fit and overall how you handle yourself under pressure and how you think on your feet.

Key traits we look for in candidates that we often see great success in are how personable they are, whether or not they are reliable, a team player and whether they are a business partner. These key traits can provide real steeping stones for those looking for success early on in their careers. Getting involved in the social aspects of the job can also provide career dividends. Get to know your team and others in your office by socialising and relaxing with your colleagues, you can often pick up invaluable advice from senior colleagues that may come up over drinks or dinner and the opportunity to network with key business stakeholders.

Soft skills are just as important to a hiring manager as the more technical abilities you cover off in your CV or cover letter.

Don’t be afraid to muck-in

At a junior level, you’ll probably be expected to get your hands dirty and be involved in the less ‘glamorous’ tasks. Hiring managers often look for candidates who are not afraid to get involved and looks for employees who want to work for the brand, and not just be there for the salary and benefits. Companies want to embed a desirable culture and once you find the right fit it can hopefully be a position for the foreseeable future, rather than the short-term.

Hiring managers also look for your achievements in your CV alongside your responsibilities. They want to know what types of projects you’ve been exposed to and how you have really had an impact on change within previous experience. 

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