As forces like automation, globalisation and flexibility continue to change and shape the way we work, the role of an accountant is adaptable and has essential skills relevant to the changing times.
Notably, accounting increasingly provides the opportunity to develop a range of skills relevant to numerous job clusters. Clusters are groups of jobs that require similar skill sets, and they encourage a shift in how we view work. Viewing jobs in clusters enables people to move through their careers in non-linear and more exciting ways. It also helps people future-proof their careers, helping young people see the opportunities inherent in a changing world of work.
So, here are five valuable skills you might be surprised to get from being an accountant. Prepare to have your eyes opened!
Accounting and technology are two industries that go hand-in-hand. As an occupation inherently involving numbers and information management, accounting has always involved interaction with some form of IT or technology system.
Over time, technology has greatly changed the way accountants do their job. Familiarity with the latest and most relevant industry technology is key to an accountant’s job and provides ample opportunity to develop digital literacy. With over half of Australian workers being required to use, configure or build digital systems in the next three years, the opportunities provided by accounting to develop digital literacy in a practical context is huge.
Working as an accountant provides the opportunity to support and help other people, despite there being an emphasis on crunching numbers and filing paperwork. Whether through supporting large organisations with their corporate responsibility plans, or helping customers to develop their financial literacy skills and embrace good money management, people skills are a key part of work as an accountant
Take Bonnie Rubenstein, Chartered Accountant and lecturer, for example, who majored in accounting and psychology at university. Bonnie knows that the job is more than just working with calculators and interpersonal skills are just as important. She says that, “the skills that I learned in psychology really help me in today’s context.”
With client-facing and people-focused jobs come ample opportunities to develop communication skills across a range of environments. An accountant’s job isn’t just to provide financial analysis, in fact, the most important part of their job is to communicate their insights and findings to colleagues, clients and customers. And just to really emphasise the importance of communication skills for accountants, their audiences can range from an organisation’s financially-savvy CFO, to everyday folk with minimal financial knowledge. As Chartered Accountant Selwyn Greenburg explains, “clients do come in, we have meetings, we have technical discussion groups…it can be a very busy day and is very challenging.”
On any given day, an accountant might be based at their home office, working onsite with clients, or in meetings at their employer’s office. This means an accountant’s job involves adaptability in where they work, how they adapt to different environments and who they work with—sometimes all at once!
As Bonnie says, “Accountants don’t just sit at their desks, they move around, we go to clients, clients come to us. It’s a mobile workforce.”
Adaptability is an increasingly attractive skill for employers and employees who have it and can articulate how they develop and use it, keep themselves relevant in a changing world of work. With 30% of Australian workers already participating in flexible working arrangements, involving multiple jobs and employers, the need for adaptability and the capacity to work with a range of people and positions is paramount.
While there are predictions that automation will change and eliminate a whole range of employment opportunities, experts still find that smart machines will struggle to automate problem-solving. And particularly those problems that are deeply intertwined with people, and the way they run their businesses and lives. As such, the ability to solve problems with creativity and emotional intelligence is increasingly in demand by employers.
A nexus between traditional mathematical problem-solving and people-focused solutions means that accounting provides a perfect platform to develop problem-solving.
So, the next time someone mentions they are an accountant, think twice before jumping to an image of them trapped behind a desk, calculator and computer. They may just be the most skilled person in the room! And, they’re likely aware that by continually updating and adapting their skills to the changing tasks of the role, they are future-proofing themselves for what the future of accounting holds.