Getting a job is one thing and climbing the corporate ladder is another ballgame. It takes talent, strategy and hard work.
It is common to find folks who have occupied the same position (at inflation revised pay) for over five to 10 years! That is called career stagnation. You risk being vulnerable to your current employer as your transfer price (extra pay to leave your current job) lowers due to real or perceived limited experience. I know you could have been a recipient of lousy advice that the longer you stay on your job the better for. Well, you were misled. You are not growing any younger. Career planning involves documenting a clear personal strategy that outlines your preferred choices to excel.
As an accountant, you chose to succeed as the best, ethical and trusted accountant there is. Of course, success is not complete unless there is financial independence, with good health and social respect. You want to have enough money to pay for your basics or one’s needs (food, clothing, shelter and health care). And as an accountant, it is a great profession, of course you must meet your wants (goods or services that are not necessary but that we desire or wish for). If you want a holiday trip, go have it. As an accountant you should be in position to enjoy it!
After qualifying as an Accountant, you must find a good job or be self-employed. Remember, your actions after attaining your Certified Public Accountant certificate, is informed by your personal career strategy. The ideal starting point is working in a credible audit firm or an established business. If you work in a small startup, you must ensure that there is a senior person with strong leadership and financial experience to nature you. With the Accountants Act now in force, it is important to ensure you keep in good books with the Institute of Certified Public Accountant and specifically read the Today’s Accountant, which contains news and great information about developments in the accountancy profession as well as interviews and articles from senior professionals and accountants that are outstanding in the country. This will give you an intellectual firepower in your primary field of accounting as well as expand your thinking to critical areas like strategy, risk management, governance, systems and process and sustainability.
During your first job as an accountant, you want to ensure you make the most of it. below are the three secrets of your career progression as an accountant just after graduation. Once you master those three things, you will set a strong foundation for your success later as an executive or a self-employed running your own audit or consulting firm. If you do not get proper experience after your graduation, you risk stagnating your career as you lack critical skills and hands-on insights to provide pragmatic advise to your clients and seniors.
The three secrets for your career progression as an accountant are (i) Training, (ii) Exposure or Travel and (iii) Networking
Does your job provide you with opportunities to gain new technical and life skills? Every business is now driven by technology. Without adequate on-job training, you risk being obsolete. In addition to specific work skills, you must attain general skills. It is good to learn about your company’s bespoke technologies, policies and processes, etc. However, such training won’t make you special or improve your transfer price (the price another company interested in employing you would pay for you to move from your current job).
Your accountant job should give you critical skills like leadership, communication and general ICT security awareness. Note that success in your career should error on being externally driven than internal. I mean, your employer’s major competitors should know of your existence in terms the business they lose due to your brilliance for example as a top cost accountant whose pricing is very competitive or marketing team leader. You see, many accountants think they are just ‘accountants’. That is wrong. You must ensure your do all your accounting responsibilities plus be available to fix other gaps in the organization like reporting, business strategy facilitation and support in investment appraisal especially for any new projects. I am telling you that go to the projects office and tell them that in case they have a new project and they would like help or support in undertaking new project appraisal to make a business case, they should not hesitate to give you a shout. That is how you will set yourself above the rest. While other ‘accountants’ are busy counting the beans, for you are measuring them in kilograms. You are looking at the big picture. And guess what. You will become a game changer!
Tip: check your corporate strategy and see which product or department is identified as high growth or cash cow. Ensure you are in that department or are available to the team members in that department to help them in any way they feel they need an extra hand. And such opportunities are always there. Unfortunately, only those accountants, who seek them out, find them. For example, if you work in a bank, being in on-line and mobile banking department is a good bet. Banks are being threatened by new technologies like mobile money, m- banking and e-banking. They are looking at integration. How is your current job helping your employer fix their worries and future growth priority areas? They want clear business case of the best alternatives to invest. If you are in audit, which skills are you gaining beyond the traditional to ensure you can provide assurance in such new areas? Keep being relevant. Check out on my personal website, www.mustaphamugisa.com . I am an accountant, but I developed it myself. I had to ask “if I can pass the tough exams to becoming an accountant, how can I fail to gain basic, but practical computer skills’ to grow? The Ugandan market, like any other, no longer needs qualifications or papers. It needs people with pragmatic skills that can easily be applied to solve problems at the work place.
If the company is not training you, do it as a hobby to learn both new developments in the accountancy profession, and other professions. Skills like report writing, designing, strategic planning, public speaking and effective communication are gold. It is so painful to find an accountant aged 28 years and do not know how to drive a car for example. It costs just Ugx. 200,000 to gain those skills. Yet you find this person drinks a soda or a bottle of beer twice a week at a cost of over Ugx.300,000 monthly! So why not prioritize? If you managed to pay for your accountancy certificate, why not sacrifice further to gain the key skills or ‘the oil’ of career success? The choice is yours.
Exposure or travel
They say, seeing is believing. And they are right. By far, the best education is when you travel and see how others do it.
Before my first visit to Kampala city, a neighbor who had just returned to the village for New Year’s holidays told us a story of “a door which opens itself when you get in front of it.” I was the first to tell him off to stop lying. Considering the underdevelopment in our village, I could not visualize a thing like that. I said “do you mean there is magic in Kampala to that extent?”
You can imagine how my minds were ‘opened up’ a year later when I visited the city for the first time and went in front of a door that indeed opened itself for me! I was surprised and almost ran away thinking it was a magician wanting to swallow me. Exposure is the best teacher. It made me believe that everything is possible.
So, how is your current job giving you opportunities to travel the world to see and believe? As an accountant, and now practicing computer security expert, I have travelled and seen how what many think is impossible is possible with technology and good leadership. I know how easy it is to hack into most of the corporate systems remotely which their CEO’s or IT folks have convinced themselves that is impossible. I have seen how someone can take over your emails, read them before they arrive in your in box and decide which ones you can receive! The point is your job should give you an opportunity to travel to other countries and companies to study or benchmark.
This will increase your exposure, expand your networks and give you more opportunities to show case your talent. If you don’t see travel opportunities coming your way in your current job at least once within three years of working, seek advice from your supervisor. Get off your chair and seek for the opportunities to travel!
And lastly, network.
Does your job give you opportunities to meet new people? Networking is about expanding your social circles. As Charlie Tremendous Jones once said “you will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” And guess what, he is damn right.
Identify the places where your company’s and competitors top honchos retreat, and be there. Let them see your face often. People give opportunities to people whom they know and can trust.
In my next issue, I will show you how to exploit the opportunities in the accountancy profession once you get them. There are folks who are always travelling but don’t know what to do when they are out there. Also know how to make the most of your training and gaining from your networks. You may find my book on Amazon.com, Your Three Keys to a Worry Free Life, a great resource. Alternatively, for a copy of the book or comments on this article, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0712311084 to get the book that will change your life for the better. Wish you success in your accountancy career. To be continued.