It’s predicted that the demand for accountants will only increase as we measure and control an increasing volume and complexity of business activities. It’s also predicted that there will be fierce competition to attract the right talent, as the supply of candidates with the skills required for the future, become harder for organisations to source. Accountants are no strangers to change, having already adapted to the consolidation of functions, compliance and technology as examples. The difference though is that rapid change over the next twenty years may alter how we live, travel, communicate and work, and much of it may not even be thought of yet.
So, what does the future look like as an accountant and what do the futurists say? Ross Dawson, a recognised futurist believes that due to several broader trends, the skills that will be highly valued for accountants will fit into three categories; expertise, relationships and creativity. Essentially, you need to be great at one or more of these three and your expertise will need to be world class to work in a globalised economy. The ability to build and develop networks and relationships, will be a vital skill to assist organisations to connect and individuals to collaborate. Creativity for an accountant will be key for innovation and problem-solving.
Sometimes discussions about the future seem abstract and too big to contemplate. Even though what the future holds is unclear, here are five steps you can take to future proof yourself.
1. Do a Review
What industry do you work in? Is it changing, growing, stagnating or shrinking? Do you need to transition to a new industry? What is your job function? Is some or all of it repetitive? If it is, it may be at risk of being automated or processed elsewhere. Does your role add value to the business and its performance? If not, what direction do you want to move towards, what projects could you get involved in?
2. Look to the Future
Do you know where you want to be in five, 10 or 15 years? If you have an idea of where you’d like to be in the future, whether that is to change careers, run a side business, work remotely or retire, what can you start doing now to turn that possibility into a reality? “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year but underestimate what they can do in ten years.” – Bill Gates
3. Never Stop Learning
Training and upskilling can take many forms; formal education, short courses, online tutorials, on the job practice, self-teaching and mentoring. But if we also embrace lifelong learning in all its forms, we can and need to stay relevant at any age. With technology and the Internet of Things evolving at a rapid rate, sometimes it’s hard to keep up. But what should you learn? Develop the skills required for the job you want next, as well as developing in the areas of expertise, relationships and creativity.
4. Know When to Move On
Has it been long enough, has it been too long? Only a few decades ago, ten years’ tenure equated to loyalty and two years was job-hopping. Now ten years can be judged as institutionalised and two years as ‘normal’. There is no hard rule but instead of judging how many years of service, focus on showing continuous learning, creating improvements, delivering projects, skill development and progression. More importantly, if you’ve learnt all you can or your goals no longer align with your employer’s, recognise when it’s time to move on.
5. Look at the Bigger Picture
Due to the increasing cost of living and trends in society, what we do for work and how much we earn has absorbed a disproportionate amount of our focus and energy. That is okay when life is coasting along but when there is change and uncertainty, we need stronger foundations to build resilience through uncertainty. Research has found there are four elements to healthy and productive living as we age, of which work is just one. As we live longer, we need to invest time and energy into all four elements;
- Work and a sense of purpose
- Financial security and wealth
- Health & wellbeing including mental wellbeing, nutrition and physical activity
- Lifestyle created through community, contribution and connection
Change is for certain and all change is uncertain. We need to embrace it and not hide away. Risk takers in business create simple daily habits that create certainty and control while the rest of their day is in chaos. They also make plans, recognise what and where they need to develop, invest in themselves and keep one eye on the future. If you can find certainty in the things you can control, make plans and then act, you may just see the opportunity in all this change.
Andrea Warr is the Co-founder of WiserLife Pty Ltd providing personalised transition and wellbeing programs for employees to facilitate healthy and productive living. www.wiserlife.com.au
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Learn more about how to improve your value for employers at Upskilling In Accounting – Career Insights From CPA Congress Attendees.