Kickstarting your finance career: the skills you need
If you're interested in a finance career, sharp business acumen and attention to detail are must haves. After all, you are conducting transactions using other people’s money so integrity and having a focus on the needs of the client or customer is vitally important. You also need to have a strong interest and competency in data analysis and how you can use technology to leverage data to produce reports and metrics that deliver. Let’s take a look at what else can help you in the workplace.
Have the right qualifications
Finance is a highly regulated industry, now more than ever. Work experience and great interpersonal skills can only deliver for you in your finance career if they are blended with the right qualifications and formal accreditations, such as those from a recognised chartered accountancy or taxation institute. If you have the right undergraduate degree, your employer will likely support you as you study for those all-important formal qualifications.
You can have all the formal qualifications available, but unless you’re the sort of person that people want to work with, you’re unlikely to have a career that you will enjoy. Careers in finance are very often team based, so hiding in a cubicle, poring over spreadsheets, is really not an option. In finance, whether it’s finalising a set of accounts, working on a transaction or advising a client, you will need communication and interpersonal skills that deliver. This means building relationships, offering assistance and asking for it and being friendly and approachable. You need to be able to represent yourself and your employer in the best possible manner.
Solve a problem
No two sets of accounts look the same, a tax audit varies massively from case to case. A career in finance will mean you are constantly exposed to different situations, different sets of data and clients with differing demands and requirements. Everything you do needs to be solution led-whether that’s bringing an account review to closure or advising a client on the best way of reconciling a tax query, you need to make sure that you can deliver an outcome that will not make more work for a colleague or a client. Be friendly, be focused and get the problem solved.
Be a technophile
In your finance career, technology is not only your friend, but also your partner. You need to embrace it, because it will be at the centre of everything you do, using standard and bespoke packages that are designed to streamline processes and increase productivity. While it’s the employer’s responsibility to provide you with the right software and the right training, it’s your responsibility to make sure that you apply that training correctly and keep your skills up to date and identify any gaps that you can then resolve through further training. There are plenty of online training aids to assist with most packages so do what you can before being exposed to new software to give yourself a head start.
Think creatively and don’t be afraid to innovate
Finance may not be the first career you think of when you think of innovation or creative thinking. But no other sector is literally at the centre of how all other sectors operate to the extent that finance is. Clients in different sectors will have different requirements and you will need to think on your feet to adapt to queries and situations that are presented by different clients.
Don’t assume there is only one way of doing things in terms of productivity or processes. If you see a new way that will benefit your productivity, that of your team and the goals of the overall project, then don’t be afraid to suggest it to your manager. Just make sure you don’t step on someone else’s toes when doing it. Make sure you have written down how and why it will work and what the process would be.
Linking in with communication and interpersonal skills, having a dynamic and enthusiastic personality means that you will help others and go the extra mile to help the team out and get the job done. This doesn’t mean being taken for granted in your work, but at early parts of your career you do need to display that you are willing to put the work in order to prove you have the right work ethic to match your qualifications.