Choosing the right career path can be difficult. Not only does it come down to skills, interests and industry growth, the right career should also be chosen based on your natural traits.
Alexandra Keleti is entering the accounting field, getting her Master of Accounting degree from the University of Kansas. Based on her experience entering the workforce, there are certain personal characteristics that can help you go much further as an accountant.
Top Traits for a Successful Career in Accounting
While many people believe you need to like numbers to be an accountant, there is much more involved. Accounting isn’t just a simple numbers game, says Alexandra Keleti. Of course, numbers are used and knowledge of math is required, but there are many other personal characteristics that can help accountants be more successful in doing their jobs.
It isn’t just math, says Alexandra Keleti, but the problem of budgeting, tracking, planning, forecasting and reporting. Accountants need to be good at seeing potential challenges and navigating them. It often takes a problem-solving approach to find the best solution for tricky issues like taxes, audits and complex customer transactions.
Highly Skilled at Communication
The job of the accountant almost always includes talking to upper management, team members or industry peers about findings, strategies and positioning. These are complex issues that need to be boiled down into simple explanations, Alexandra Keleti says. Even if it takes you hours, days or weeks to work through a problem, you have to be able to explain it succinctly in minutes to the key stakeholders. Explanations have to be clear and informative at all times.
Enjoys Group Projects
Accountants have to work with others, so they need to be team players. It helps if you naturally like group projects because you will continually be working with other people in your department, other departments or upper management. Most of the time, accountants aren’t running a one-man-show, so they need to be able to work with other people—doing their part of the job and staying in contact with their team until the task is completed.
Focused and Dedicated
Staring at numbers on a screen all day can be daunting for many people. Accountants need to be able to focus and stay focused. In many aspects of the job, it takes searching until an answer is found. Answers aren’t always right in front of your face, and you need to stay on-task until you are sure you have the right problem and a workable solution.
Great with First Impressions
An accountant might be an introvert, but they have to be skilled at meeting new people. Accountants should also be natural explorers and take joy in discovering new things. Eventually, this trait will translate into learning the ins and outs of a new client’s business or a new problem.
Reliable Intuitive Instincts
Do you have that gut instinct that tells you when something is off? This can be a really helpful trait for an accountant. You will want to have a feel for where things are heading so you can help your company make smart financial choices or adapt quickly in the face of imminent change. Companies across all industries need to be agile and the financial departments need to help lead that approach.
When you are dealing with numbers as an accountant, you can’t afford to make mistakes. You will have to be naturally organized to handle a companies books or be trusted to run an audit. Alexandra Keleti says organizational skills can be learned if they aren’t your top strength, but they are a crucial part of the job.
Proficient in Tech
You should take an interest in the newest tools for bookkeeping and accounting. Too many in the finance industry are slow to embrace change, but digital migration is hitting every industry in full force. With the newest tech and software, accountants have better control over tracking, organizing and reporting crucial financial data.
Willing to Teach
You will be surrounded by people who may not understand the same financial concepts as you. Keleti explains that being able to teach others is an important part of the job description for an accountant. If you are good at helping other people learn, then you may be better suited to helping others learn about finances. This might include teaching people what to hold on to for tax time or how to enter a complex transaction in the bookkeeping software.
A Natural Referee
There will typically be a lot of tough calls that come down to expert opinion. You might be better at your job if you naturally play the role of referee. If you tend to help your friends or family make decisions by hearing both sides and making the tiebreaker call, then you are a natural referee.