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Career Strategy: Diversify Your Accounting Skills

COVID-19 changed everything, and especially job prospects as nearly 40 million Americans have reentered the job market.

Given so much uncertainty, you may have given up on long-term career planning — but you shouldn’t. There are still opportunities build your resume and position yourself to take advantage of upcoming trends.

          Try a company in the process of a merger … to get some consulting or even long-term experience.

You can use this time to diversify your skillset.

To find out how accounting professionals can do that in the current environment, we spoke with Aston Carter Recruiting Lead Travis Crow.

Lean Into Current Needs

If you’re currently employed, consider volunteering for tasks to gain new skills and showcase your versatility. Look for projects that will help you gain process overhaul experience. Workflow changes and leaner operations have given companies reason to value workers who can help streamline operations and update processes.

“Companies are doing things in ways they never have before,” says Crow, “so being flexible and tapping into the full breadth of your professional experience will help you get through difficult times like this.”

If you’re searching for a new position, highlight your flexibility and process overhaul experience in your resume and LinkedIn profile.

Anticipate Future Trends Now

Lots of accounting projects are on hold for now — but will probably surge as the economy picks up.  

“I’ve heard from several employers that planned enterprise software implementations have now been pushed out to later on, probably 2021,” says Crow. “But that just means it’s coming as a future wave.”

In normal times, accounting professionals often gain exposure to these projects as subject matter experts who help technical teams understand business needs and workflows.  But with many projects on hiatus, you’ll have to work harder to gain software installation experience.

However, you can anticipate the coming need for consultants by working in any situation that involves integrating multiple software systems or improving how one system is used.

Mergers and acquisitions are likely to pick up in the coming months. While few companies have directly announced plans for merger activity, the economy is unlikely to endure this much turmoil without major restructuring.

“If you’re a candidate,” says Crow, “you can try land with a company in the process of a merger, for example the Sprint/T-Mobile M&A project, to get some consulting or even long-term experience.”

To diversify your skillset for future surges, prioritize any position or project that lets you sharpen your integration skills. Look for opportunities related to audits, reporting, forecasting, managing complex systems and adjusting to new accounting cycles.

Broaden Your Knowledge Base

Even if you can’t hit every skill you want to develop in a professional setting, it’s great time to lean on your network and other resources to build confidence in a broader range of finance and accounting skills. Pick people’s brains about their experiences with process overhauls, ERP implementations and M&A activity.

“It may be hard to pick up on skills such as software implementation before the fact, but you can always lean on resources for learning and knowledge about unfamiliar processes,” says Crow. “And you can network with people who’ve been through it.”

Ask a friend or professional contact for a software walkthrough. Look into online tutorials on unfamiliar reporting or forecasting tasks. Mention these activities in job interviews and application materials.

The employment landscape is shifting rapidly for finance and accounting professionals, so regular check-ins with key allies can provide key information.

Be a Hero Somewhere

The job market is almost completely different now than it was in the early months of 2020. So everybody needs to modify expectations for job searches and career development paths.

The new normal may include title and pay setbacks, increased workloads or less efficient delivery timelines due to new circumstances, such as working from home with children.

But the universal nature of these challenges makes this a great time to accelerate skill development.

“I just encourage people to be aggressive and flexible,” says Crow. “Go for a position that doesn’t necessarily check off every box on your wish list, and then see what you can take on when you get there.”

The fact is, if a company is hiring right now, they really need you. And with smaller staffs, willing volunteers are likely to take on projects outside their immediate roles — a terrific way to gain exposure to new knowledge domains.

Taking on that extra responsibility will not only make you a hero to your current employer, it’ll help you build a portfolio of skills and projects that will fast-track your career growth.

If you need a job but lack options in line with your career trajectory, consider your next move strategic: accepting a full-time or contract position that’s a step down — but gives you the opportunity to pick up marketable skills like M&A expertise, ERP implementations and process overhauls — can help you fast-track your career when the market heats up.

And one final tip from Travis Crow: Remember you’re not alone, and this is temporary.

“I’ll be frank and admit the job market is tough right now,” says Crow. “But things are going to turn around. Already, we’ve seen hiring freezes slowly lifting, and budget approvals for select projects are starting back up.”

Looking for opportunities near you? Find accounting jobs.

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