The Skills You Need for a Career in Accounting
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with students at Lincoln High School in Lake City, Minnesota about accounting careers. I have enjoyed meeting with students since my elementary school days when I taught model rocketry building. The students were interested in knowing what skills were needed to be successful in accounting. I explained that skills in communication, organization and time management, and technology are essential in working as a public accountant.
Of course, it is critical to understand accounting in order to be a successful accountant, but for many reasons, it is equally as important to be able to communicate both in writing and verbally. Proficient communication skills allow accountants to explain complex concepts and tax information to their clients and other team members in a relatable and understandable way.
It is important to communicate with clients in a professional manner. Make eye contact, understand their point of view, give credible responses, be friendly, display confidence, and clearly communicate the solution. As you speak with your client, ask them questions. Their answers will allow you to dig deeper and offer solutions to their problems, allowing you to recommend and provide useful services.
Communication also includes computer and keyboarding (the act of typing and navigating a keyboard) skills. This consists of entering data, word processing, writing emails, creating and editing spreadsheets, and doing tax prep. This is the most important skill I learned to prepare myself for work in public accounting. I used this skill to prepare this blog, and I utilize keyboarding everyday on the job. My ability to type quickly and accurately allows me to perform my job both swiftly and efficiently.
Organization and Time Management
As an accountant, I manage a lot of responsibility, which means I also find myself busy. This is where organization and time management skills are very useful and necessary – both of which are useful skills for a career in accounting. Developing a system to keep track of important dates, deadlines, and transactions keep me on track. Tools such as organization apps, planners, calendars and other tools are very helpful. Good time management skills go together with strong organizational capabilities. A system for managing your workload is only effective if you also know how to budget your time. It is important to understand how to work within deadlines and continually re-prioritize your to-do list. Doing this allows me to keep my day productive and manage competing priorities.
Due to advances in technology, public accounting is going to change dramatically in the next five to ten years. These technology changes include artificial intelligence (AI) and Blockchain. Public accounting firms are investing millions of dollars on software and training for the new skills needed to provide services to businesses and clients.
AI is the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages. AI also opens the door to a new kind of accountant. The modern accountant does much more than crunch numbers. In fact, in the future, AI might do most of the number-crunching.
Instead, accountants are moving toward a model of value-added opportunities to offer clients, such as strategy and advisory services.
Blockchain has the potential to further enhance the accounting industry by reducing the costs of maintaining and reconciling ledgers and providing absolute certainty over the ownership and history of assets. The benefits of Blockchain technology include reducing errors, increasing efficiency, reducing costs, reducing fraud, and reducing time.
My experience meeting with these high school students was awesome! I loved the interaction with them as they were well prepared with questions and feedback. It was nice to see that so many students were very interested to know what they can do now to develop the skills needed for a career as an accountant, in order to prepare for a future career in the industry.