Beyond Basic Bookkeeping: What Your Job As An Accountant Really Entails

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It’s a common misconception that Accounting is all about crunching numbers and reapplying the same rules over and over again.

While these types of tasks do apply from time to time, an Accountant’s job involves so much more than that. If you’re currently working towards a career in Accounting, you should be prepared to take on tasks that require a lot of critical thinking, communication skills, and even some creativity. It can be a challenging job – one that requires you to solve problems where there’s no exact answer – but that’s what makes it so egg-citing.

Here are some of the key tasks you can expect in an Accounting role!

Analyzing Trends

Accounting students are trained to analyze financial statements in school. However, it’s not enough to produce the correct numbers – you need to know what they mean. As an Accountant, it’s your job to figure out what those numbers are trying to tell you. Finding the positive and negative trends and implementing them in short-term and long-term strategies is crucial in order to bolster your company’s performance.

Skills You Need: Trend analysis requires a great deal of critical thinking. The numbers won’t explicitly tell you what you should do – you’ll have to figure out whether the strategies previously implemented by the company were effective or not, as well as how they can be improved. Practice improving your critical thinking skills by looking for trends in your school work. For instance, if you’re assigned to calculate a set of financial ratios, contemplate what those numbers could potentially mean, even if it’s not part of the assignment.

Creativity also plays a big role in trend analysis. Be prepared to come up with plans that are both unique and accomplish company goals. In other words, if your analysis reveals a strategy will put your company at a disadvantage, be proactive in seeking a solution based on a realistic assessment of the real numbers. When comparing the consequences of losses and gain, it’s important to be realistic and balance your priorities. An idea may be out of the box and unique, but if the chances of it working are uncertain at best and the cost is pricey, it might not be such a good idea afterall.

Consulting Executives

Many Senior Accountants work closely with corporate executives, keeping them up-to-date on their company’s financial position. Even at the entry level, it’s important to develop these skills to show that you can take on these responsibilities in the future. As a young professional looking to advance your career, you want your supervisors to see you as a prime candidate for promotion.

When consulting with executives, you must be able to communicate financial information clearly and concisely to other professionals with different backgrounds. Know how to simplify and explain your information when you enter these conversations. In addition, it’s important to provide executives with all the necessary information they need in order to make sound and informed decisions.

Skills You Need: To develop this valuable career skill, work on developing solid communication skills throughout your academic and early professional career. To start, identify some areas in your communication skills that you’d like to develop and come up with a strategy to improve them. For example, if you know that you tend to speak too fast or too quietly in a presentation, record yourself when you’re practicing and listen to yourself present. It will help you hear yourself the way your audience would so you can make adjustments.

Creating Budgets

Accountants are responsible for putting together a master budget that takes all of a company’s departments into consideration, such as Operations, Production, and Research & Development. This will require you to communicate extensively with other sectors in the organization and determine their estimated expenses – which in turn, will help you create the budget. This task also involves forecasting sales projections, determining the amount of company resources available, and then distributing those resources.

Skills You Need: You’ll require excellent problem solving skills for this challenging task. You may run into issues, such as a shortage of company resources or certain demands from different departments. Problem solving skills can’t be developed overnight, so it’s important that you work on it as early as you can. In a school setting, many opportunities will arise where you can practice using good judgement to overcome challenging obstacles. However, a natural ability to adhere to excellent work ethics can also influence how quickly you can pick up this skill and to what extent.

Overall, having the ability to see the larger picture – maybe much larger than you’re used to – will help you create effective budgets. You’ll need to be able to track where the activities of each department fits into the long-term goals the company is striving towards, and mould the budget to help those plans move forward smoothly.

Managing Employees

Managerial responsibilities may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Accounting. However, if you’re looking to advance your career into a leadership role in the future, then you should definitely consider adding these skills to your arsenal now. As you become more experienced in your role, supervising employees, reviewing their performances, and helping them improve will become your new responsibilities.

Skills You Need: Here’s where good leadership skills come in handy. While you’re a student, you should pursue any opportunity available to take on a leadership position. For instance, if you have a school group project where each member has a certain role, consider taking charge as project leader. Developing this crucial skill will be very helpful in the long run.

Want to know more? Check out our Accounting Career Guide!

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