As an accounting professional, you know that a typical year sees periods of intensive workloads evened out by periods of significant downtime. After particularly busy times of the year, you may be tempted to take your foot off the brake and coast for a bit. While this is completely understandable, this is actually the perfect time to strengthen your accounting skills in order to further your career development!
“Whether or not you’re fresh in your accounting career or you have many years of experience under your belt, you should always be looking for ways to improve your skillset ” says Eric Barth, a Director within The Execu|Search Group’s Accounting/Finance division. “If you are currently experiencing a downturn in work and have some extra time on your hands due to current world events, now is the perfect time to kick your professional development into gear. From online courses to study materials, there are a ton of career resources at your disposal. You just need to be proactive about utilizing them.”
If you’re looking to further your career development this year, here are three accounting skills you can focus on:
Microsoft Excel proficiency
No matter what stage of your accounting career you’re in, having an understanding of Microsoft Excel is critical to your long term success. In fact, this is a proficiency that most employers will specifically look for, and even test, during the hiring process. “If you aren’t already proficient in VLOOKUP and Pivot Tables, you could be limiting the number of opportunities available to you,” warns Eric. “A period of downtime would be the perfect opportunity to strengthen a skill that would ultimately make you a more efficient, and thus more sought-out, employee.”
Accounting certifications are key if you’re looking to make strides in your accounting career. Why? Not only do they demonstrate a level of expertise in your field, but they also show an employer that you’re driven and committed to your career and future professional opportunities. “If you have some extra time available and you don’t already have a certification, now is the perfect time to start pursuing one,” explains Eric. “However, if you do already have one, slower times of the year are a good opportunity to make sure it’s still in good standing. For example, if you have a CPA, you should use this time to get continuing education (CPE) credits in order to keep up with new accounting laws and updates.”
Technical accounting programs
As technology and accounting continue to converge, many firms want to see that you have some level of knowledge and experience with accounting-specific programs. While program proficiency is certainly important, you also want to use a discerning eye when choosing which accounting program you want to focus on most. “Since there are numerous accounting programs out there, you should figure out which program makes the most sense for you to become an expert in,” advises Eric. “For example, if you’re looking to specifically work for a smaller-sized firm, you should look to strengthen your knowledge of QuickBooks. However, if what you’re looking for is a specific type of role like an analyst, then what you should really work on strengthening is aptitude with a program like Hyperion.”