After 4 decades of working, I believe that I have some useful thoughts to share with young Accountants to help in their career advancement. Hence this article.
We are all knowledge workers. When I conduct interviews for fresh Chartered Accountants, one of the questions I ask is “What is your favorite subject in CA Curriculum?” Based on response, I choose further questions to get an idea on the depth of candidate’s knowledge in the specified area. If the interview is with an experienced candidate I extend it further by asking if there have been any original contributions from him / her in the specified areas that added value to their employers in the form of Cost Reduction, Process Improvements, strengthening Controls or in reducing manual efforts.
Sometimes I ask freshers, if there were any subjects which they did not like much. Intent is to ensure that they are not placed in any role where such a subject is important. It is not possible for one to be proficient in all the subjects in equal measure. Even after writing the exams, waiting for results, or after qualifying and exploring career avenues, you could do an introspection, identify the subjects where you were not comfortable, and study them from knowledge perspective. In all probability, with no examination pressure, you may enjoy learning those subjects, which will enhance your overall confidence.
Have a View – Express it
Next to knowledge, communication skills are important. If you need to improve your spoken English, simply read any leading new paper, daily for half an hour, loud enough for you to clearly hear your voice. Over a period of time, this will smoothen your spoken language. If you need to improve your written communication, which would be usually the case for students who had studied in regional vernacular, one simple way is to pick up a story in their mother tongue, translate it into English, and request anyone proficient in the language to spot mistakes and correct them. Repeating this exercise for some time can definitely help.
More important than the spoken and written language is to know what to speak. There is lot of information in the environment, to which you are exposed. If you develop the habit of having a view on every topic you come across, whether professional, personal or political subjects, you are better prepared to respond, when you are required to. Of course you need to use your discretion in choosing your responses. Another important aspect of communication you need to develop over a period of time is your presentation skills.
Choosing from the Opportunities
General tendency is to grab the first opportunity that comes your way, and if there is a choice, to go with the one which gives higher pay. Money is important, but there may be other rewards for a professional, which may be equally or more important than money.
Continuing with the firm where you had your “articles” is quite common. This could help in a quick start. But it is important to gain awareness of what kind of opportunities are available, to set your career goals, based on well informed decisional thinking. We could broadly review them as pursuing Professional Practice or Employment in Industry. Both the avenues offer great opportunities for career advancement.
Even if you intend pursuing professional practice independently, it is desirable to work in a firm of repute for some time to get exposure to good practices at work. With innovative business models,going global, increasing compliance requirements, dependence on technology in conduct of business, risk exposure and unconventional methods of wealth creation, opportunities in professional practice have significantly increased. Illustrative list of such areas, including conventional lines of practice are mentioned below.
Assurance Services like Statutory Audits, Tax Audits, IPO Support Services, IFRS
Risk Advisory Services like Internal Audit, Management Audit, Operational and Financial risk Assessment and Mitigation Plans
Domestic Taxation covering Direct Taxes like Corporate Tax and Personal Tax, Indirect Taxes like Excise, VAT, Service Tax and GST
Global Taxation involving International Taxes, Transfer Pricing
Business Advisory Services like Performance Improvement, Process Improvements, Working Capital Control, Cost Reduction, Project Cost Monitoring,Management Reporting
Virtual CFO Services which include accounting services, compliances, financial reporting, analytical reports.
The Companies Act 2013, has made appointment of Internal Auditor mandatory for certain categories of companies. It also introduced many stipulations relating to Internal Financial Controls. These two areas have thus become important in professional practice. Pending legislation on introduction of GST to replace other indirect taxes across the country, when becomes law, is expected to offer great opportunities to accounting professionals.
Employment in Industry
When you are looking for employment in Industry, one of the questions to ask is whether you should prefer a small organization or a large organization. In a small organization, you may get a chance to handle substantial part of F&A function quite early. But, being small, such organizations may not have proper processes, systems and controls in place. While discharging your functional responsibilities, you need to simultaneously put efforts on developing processes and controls.
If you get any opportunity join a large organization, you need to know about Corporate Governance and Ethical Practices of the organization. Information available in the public domain and the company’s website would provide adequate guidance. You need to know about the Role you are likely to be in, and processes with which you would be associated. Possible processes are Revenue, Procurement of Goods and Services, Accounts Payable, Taxation, Treasury, Cash, Employee Expense Reimbursements, Payroll, Fixed Assets, Period End Procedures, Financial Reporting, Budgeting and Management Reporting.
The role you are offered could be “knowledge based” or “skill based”. In the processes listed above, Taxation, Financial Reporting, Budgeting and Management Reporting are examples of knowledge based roles. Others are mostly skill based roles. In job evaluation, knowledge based roles are placed one step higher than skill based roles. However growth in career depends upon competencies achieved by you, in the discharge of responsibilities entrusted to you.
When do you change your job?
In my first job, as a young CA, I was not happy with my boss. He was giving direct instructions to staff reporting to me. I wanted to quit my job. My father said “where is the guarantee that you will not face similar boss in your new employment? Learn to live with bosses. But change your job for betterment”. Over a period of time I realized that betterment could be, besides monetary gains, in better organizations and in better roles in which I excelled.
Attitude, Integrity and Competence
Here it is appropriate for me say a few words on the traits which have a bearing on career advancement.
Attitude can be Negative, positive or Proactive. Negative attitude could stem from past failures. Best way to overcome such an attitude is to challenge your assumptions. Positive attitude is generally associated with optimism. Such people co-operate well at work. Most desirable is Proactive attitude which prompts us to take responsibility for results.
Integrity is of 3 kinds. Financial Integrity is one where we do not touch a rupee that does not belong to us. By Professional Integrity, we refer to the ethical and professional standards which we are expected to maintain as members of the Institute. As children of God we need to be fair to all fellow human beings. I call it Personal Integrity.
Once again Competence is of 3 kinds. As members of the Accounting Profession, we need to display good level of Technical Competence. By Managerial Competence I refer to Planning, Organizing, Coordinating and Controlling which are four components of Managements. The third competence, according to me is Commercial Competence, which is the ability to translate operations into money, and to understand the bottom line impact.
Developing Application Skills
Without losing sight of fundamentals, relating concepts to situations on the ground helps you to be successful as a professional. At the bottom of this article, you will find the link to my earlier 18 articles published in CAclubindia. All my articles are based on my actual work experiences. Please take time to read them. To strengthening your Commercial Competence mentioned in the above paragraph, please read my book “Translating Operations into Money – Cases in Business Management” available for online purchase through Amazon.in and Flipkart. Once again it is a collection of my work experiences, narrated as stories. You may visit www.operationstomoney.com to know about my book and for a free download of a chapter from the book.
I hope I have shared useful information which could help you in your career planning. Thank you for your attention and all the best.
Tulasi S Sastri