Regardless of your specialty, there are certain traits successful accounting and finance professionals share. (Fortunately, constantly burning the midnight oil doesn’t need to be one of them.)
Working long hours is commonplace for many finance professionals. But is this the best way to impress management and set the stage for career advancement? Most CFOs don’t think so.
In a recent Robert Half survey, only 7 percent of CFOs cited working long hours as a top success strategy. If a 50- or 60-hour workweek is unlikely to put you on the fast track to a promotion, what will?
Here are four top attributes employers prize, as well as tips for integrating them into your career:
- Commitment to ongoing development
Finance executives want to hire staff who are eager to expand their expertise. New technology and analytics are reshaping the industry. Companies can either keep up with the evolution or get left behind, which means they need intellectually curious employees enthusiastic to stay ahead of the curve.
Career tip: Embrace lifelong learning. Take advantage of all the trainings, conferences and brown-bag sessions your employer offers and you can access on your own. Your commitment to professional development will help make you a top-notch finance professional and impress your manager.
- Strong soft skills
You can be the best financial analyst and still see your career stalled if you can’t explain what the numbers mean to stakeholders and executives. Additionally, many organizations are increasingly relying on interdepartmental collaboration, requiring the ability to convey technical information and concepts to colleagues outside of finance.
Proficiency in this area will help you become more influential at your company. Research from Robert Half Management Resources found most CFOs have expanded their responsibilities beyond accounting and finance in recent years, and departments across organizations increasingly are looking to their financial colleagues for strategic guidance. Well-honed nontechnical skills will help you collaborate successfully, provide the insights the business needs and boost your professional visibility.
Career tip: Build a robust set of soft skills, including:
- Communication: As finance professionals take on more prominent roles, they must be able to communicate their perspectives and ideas to wide range of audiences. More specifically, they need to be strong public speakers and writers, able to effectively share their messages through diverse types of communication.
- Listening: Make eye contact and focus on what others are saying, not the next point you want to make. In meetings and conference calls, avoid the temptation to multitask.
- Collaboration: Team players go further within a company. Work on building consensus from the group, getting buy-in from colleagues and stepping up to offer assistance.
- Problem solving: Unlike some abilities that can be learned in school or seminars, professionals often must develop and sharpen their problem-solving skills on their own over time. Brainstorm with others to clarify problems, think strategically and come up with solutions.
- Openness to change
New regulatory compliance mandates, industry-shifting technologies, mergers and other forces are constantly changing the business world. Employers seek professionals who can help the organization navigate periods of transition and use change as an opportunity to prepare the company for greater success.
Career tip: Boost your career by remaining open to different business and workplace practices and realities, and help others make the transition. Even though new structures and routines can be stressful, the finance professional who thrives is the one who adjusts to them successfully.
Regardless of their rank in the organization, professionals are looking for individuals who conduct themselves with integrity. This is the leadership trait CFOs, and workers in general, value most, according to Robert Half Management Resources research. Professionals who exhibit this quality maximize the contributions of their teams and build goodwill for their organizations.
Career tip: Act with integrity. No matter your position, you can establish yourself and be seen as a leader in your organization by carrying yourself the proper way. Lead by example, follow through on your commitments, and treat everyone with respect. In the process, you’ll enhance your marketability and grow your career.
Tim Hird is the executive director of Robert Half Management Resources.•