Technology, outsourcing, transformational roles, evolving skills and soaring career aspirations suggest accounting professionals and the broader finance industry are undergoing a fundamental shift. The increasing demand for savvy accountants is leading to a recruitment – and retention – crisis for many organisations.
Despite this, the success rate that people experience when applying for advertised jobs and attempting a career change is, on average, very low. It's not your fault, it's the process. The recruitment process is arbitrary, subjective, and sometimes little more than a lottery.
So do something different. Take control of your own destiny. Be different, be proactive, know yourself, and know your market. Why rely wholly on a process that inevitably involves intensive competition and an unknown selection method?
Knowing yourself and what's out there will enable you to understand which employers and jobs will offer you the best fit. Identify the business skills sought by finance professionals across organisations – our research suggests roles are becoming much more strategic and central to business performance, and so softer skills and business awareness skills are critically important for accountants to develop.
The rising importance of fiscal information in decision support is elevating the role of the finance professional across organisations, and at senior levels these staff are much more actively engaged in strategic decisions. Such positions require greater level of commercial instinct and entrepreneurial flair, and it is becoming increasingly common for accountants to be taking roles outside of the traditional domain of finance.
Create a package
Think and act creatively and innovatively in the way you 'package' yourself – making sure to truly reflect the sort of image and presence you create. A CV is no longer restricted to hard-copy paper or a digital document. What about creating an impressive web presence?
Being proactive in this way impresses employers and will give you choice. You become the buyer not the seller, because all good employers want innovative, proactive, impressive people. So become one of these people.
Whatever you do, ensure you know yourself, honestly and objectively – especially all your skills and strengths that will be desirable to employers. Think deeply about your passions, your loves, what you enjoy – these are likely to be or relate to your key strengths and potential. Employers need people with more important and meaningful qualities, like creativity, humanity, determination, self-reliance, compassion, integrity, vision, ethics, and an awareness of the wider world.
List your strengths and dreams using this wider perspective. You will very quickly see a person emerging who is unique, and able to offer uniquely special qualities to all forward-thinking employers, and someone capable of adapting to change. You'll now perhaps begin to imagine all sorts of different types of work that will provide a better fit for what you can do, what you love, and the changes you want to make in your career.
Now use this new view of yourself to change or improve your resume. When you've thought carefully and decided where the best fit will be for you, be proactive not reactive.
Start making contact
Approach as many potential employers that you think will want what you can do. To identify 20 would be good, 50 or 100 is obviously better, provided the fit is good and the data is reliable. Marketing is a numbers game – hence the more the better.
Present yourself in your CV and covering letter in terms of what you can do for the organisation or business. This is crucial. It's essential to describe yourself in a way that is immediately and obviously appealing to the reader. You are managing your own personal marketing campaign and your destiny is in your own hands.
Remember, when your letter and CV arrives it is unique and relevant and it's selling you. It is not one of 100 other 'send and hope' applications for an advertised vacancy that has a very real chance of going to the internal candidate anyway.
Sooner or later you will be offered face to face time. Aim to get two or more meetings or interviews. It gives a big boost to your confidence knowing you've other options, and it has a very positive and helpful effect on the interviewer too. People want people who other people want.
All employers need good people, and when one comes along, many employers will try to find an opportunity, whether they are currently recruiting or not.
By being proactive and making your own opportunities will make the interview – and the whole process – much easier for you because you've controlled it. Moreover, you look like a great fit for the organisation, you've proved you can get things done, and you've avoided most, if not all, of the competition. And you'll have saved them the hassle of recruiting too.
Anyone can take this approach. All it needs is a bit of thought, research and preparation.