Advice & insights: masterclasses from industry leaders

Essential Skills for Career Advancement in Accounting and Finance With Melanie Coeshott

Melanie Coeshott

Melanie Coeshott

Melanie Coeshott

Key Takeaways

  • Actively seek opportunities to learn how to navigate change and uncertainty in your field. Embrace new challenges as a chance to grow.
  • Regularly practice and refine your communication skills. Engage in active listening and ask insightful questions to build stronger relationships.
  • Identify and develop key human skills like empathy and teamwork that complement technological advancements in your work.
  • Continuously assess your skillset to ensure a healthy balance between technical proficiency and soft skills. Take courses or seek mentorship to fill any gaps.
  • Proactively research and learn about emerging financial technologies. Consider online courses or workshops to stay ahead of industry trends.
  • Learn to manage stress by setting clear personal and professional boundaries. Prioritize tasks based on their importance and urgency to improve efficiency.

Essential Skills for Career Advancement in Accounting and Finance

What are the keys to success for accountants and finance professionals in today’s fast-paced market? Melanie Coeshott offers her insights in a revealing Q&A session. Drawing from her wealth of experience in career coaching, Melanie discusses essential skills for career advancement, balancing technical know-how with interpersonal abilities, and strategies for adopting emerging financial technologies. She also touches on navigating workplace challenges and emphasizes the importance of continuous personal and professional development. For anyone looking to elevate their career in accounting and finance, Melanie’s practical advice is a must-read.

  • Navigating Change: The pace of change continues. Being able to cope with uncertainty and ambiguity, as well as to be able to embrace and navigate change are all valuable skills. This is even more important when we are responsible for other people.
  • Communication and Relationships: Being able to build and enhance relationships with other people, both internal and external to your organization. In addition, being able to communicate well across different situations and identifying the most appropriate method or channel is vital. And last but certainly not least, knowing when to be curious, to ask questions and to listen attentively, rather than always trying to be heard.
  • Being Human: And identifying the human skills that are useful now and that will continue to be useful and relevant in the future, working alongside AI and other technological developments.”

“Each role is different and will require a different balance, but every role will have opportunities for doing this. The balance won’t always be in equilibrium for each person or role but ensuring that the importance of both are well understood, that there is a balance and being intentional about this is key.

Furthermore, identifying which are the most important “essential skills” for you at this point in time (so much nicer a term than soft skills) and taking steps to learn and enhance these can make a big cumulative impact over time. The sooner you get started, the bigger the potential impact.”

“This is definitely the future and there will be many opportunities in this area. Some organizations are going to be leading the way and will already be seeking people with these skills. Other organizations will be much further behind the curve and probably don’t know what they need right now (probably still the majority).

Regardless of who you currently work for and their readiness, this is a great opportunity for you. There are lots of learning resources available for those that are interested, but you may need to do some research to identify the scope of what’s available and accessible to you, and of course what interests you. You may be able to get funding from your organization (always worth a try), but any investment you make in yourself in this area is liking to pay dividends so it could well be worth starting sooner than later on this to reap the biggest benefits.”

Navigating Workplace Challenges in the Finance and Accounting Sector

  • Career Navigation: Making/taking time to focus on your career, understanding available options, getting promoted, being in the right place to be noticed for promotion or the right opportunities. Ultimately “No-one cares about your career as much as you do” was the best piece of career advice I ever received. We need to own our own careers!
  • Work Overload: This is a huge challenge and only seems to be going in one direction. While no one causes it, if we are shouldering additional work then we may be exacerbating the problem. Knowing what’s important to us and setting some reasonable boundaries are both important pieces of the puzzle. 
  • Managing Expectations: This may not sound like the most sexy topic but it cause a lot of challenges. Managing expectations up front (whether you are defining them for others or for yourself) can often save time and avoid the frustration and resentment that follow.”

“Understanding what’s important to you, reminding yourself of this often and using it as your guiding star to help you make decisions that are best for you.

Setting your own boundaries – this could be in terms of working hours or other things that you are willing to do or not do. Communicating these to others can be useful for accountability. A little flex around these can be useful, but be mindful of not continually abusing these.

Having a toolkit of simple tools techniques that are helpful to you, to use proactively or reactively e.g. taking regular breaks, physical exercise, good sleep habits etc. We can’t always control the outputs, but we can take responsibility for the inputs.”

“Whenever we’re dealing with people there are risks involved – boy are humans complex!

We can sometimes find ourselves tied up into some interesting relationships and situations, and not always ones that are positive or productive.

Do we even really know who we’re dealing with?

On the surface we may feel like we’re all too familiar with a certain character or personality, but we could only be scratching the surface at best.

Taking the time to better understand our stakeholders, to ask about their priorities, preferences and even their own frustrations can go a long way to creating positive relationships. This can be easier with new relationships, but it’s rarely too late to breathe some positive will and energy into an existing relationship.

It might feel awkward but this is our responsibility as much as the other person and making the first move can make a big positive difference all around.”

  • “Knowing what’s important to you.
  • Clarifying expectations.
  • Identifying the times of the day when you do your best work / worst work.
  • Setting and sticking to boundaries.
  • Be ready for some give & take – as long as its reciprocal.”

Enhancing Talent Management in Accountancy Firms

  • Flexibility: People like to feel that they’ve got some agency, even if they don’t use it. This can be in various dimensions including – where they work, when they work, what they work on, how they work and who they work with. These obviously aren’t free choices they can make every day – way too chaotic and disruptive – but knowing that they have some flexibility and can work in a way that gets the best out of them can go a long way.
  • Development and Growth Opportunities: Knowing that there is a “path to progression” and how this is possible. Individuals still need to own it and take action, but it can give hope and provide motivation.”

Given the challenges in retention, what are some key initiatives or practices that accountancy firms can implement to be seen as great employers and thus retain their valuable staff more effectively?

  • Building Trust with their Employees: Following through on things they promise etc. These don’t have to be big or impressive promises but need to be something of relevance or importance to the individuals. And of course following through on what’s been promised is paramount. 
  • Being Human / Treating People like Grown-Ups: This ties closely with the point above. Anyone working with you will be a grown up. Treat them like one. Be respectful, be kind, get to know them, catch them doing something right and recognize them for it. The trust and loyalty that can grow from these can be huge – and cost nothing.
  • Development and Growth Opportunities: As mentioned above – knowing that there is a “path to progression” and how this is possible. Individuals still need to own it and take action, but it can give hope and provide motivation.”
  • Be Present: Physically and mentally
  • Be Human: Be respectful and kind.”

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