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Top 5 Soft Skills Required by Professional Accountants

 |  5 Min Read

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the accounting field is growing; With more than 96,000 new accounting and auditing jobs expected to be created by 2030,1, it’s essential to have a leading professional edge in this competitive field.

A portfolio of soft skills may be what you need to set you apart from other professionals in the field. Soft skills enable people to effectively communicate, appreciate and work with people in various firms and professional settings.

If you’ve worked for a few years in the accounting industry, you’ve probably noticed that successful people at the office know more than technical accounting skills. Instead, they know the skills accountants need to perform their duties, succeed and move up.

They also have the professional qualities required to lead a meeting, put clients at ease, persuade people and make themselves heard and ultimately appreciated. In addition, they write and send purposeful emails or memos (the kind that people read) and deliver strong presentations.

Chances are, you likely admire these people who invested a lot of time developing soft practical skills. Accounting soft skills like communication or critical thinking can take average and competent accountants and transform them into stellar performers. Developing these skills takes time, so they’re often the focus of graduate programs and later personal development workshops.

Here’s an overview of soft skills for accountants:

1. Writing and Oral Communications Skills

English class may not have been your favorite. Nevertheless, writing skills that convey intelligence are required for success in today’s communication-intensive workplace and are transferable in nearly every industry. The effectiveness of words is not measured by volume – less is more. Emails can be shorter, more robust, and more direct and engaging presentations. When you get to the point in your writing, you’ll find it positively influences your speaking.

2. Critical Thinking Skills

Susan Wolcott, CPA and Ph.D. wrote in the Journal of Accountancy that critical thinking skills are essential for accountants.2 Think of it this way: What do you see when looking at a spreadsheet? Just a series of numbers, or a more profound story inside?

Spotting patterns and trends, testing information, or coming up with a coherent strategy to solve complex problems is critical thinking. For example, developing a long-term financial plan for a client requires critical thinking. This is a soft skill you can develop over time through experience and actively seeking information about how others do what you do. Try to think outside the box when you encounter a problem. Rather than doing the first thing that comes to mind, search for a creative solution. You may have thought of the best answer, but you’ll never know until you explore.

3. Persuasion Skills

According to the HR services organization Excelforce, building consensus is key to successful leadership.3 You must be adept at persuasion, whether you’re on a management track at work or preparing to sit for your CPA exam for the first time. This isn’t about always being right or being a salesperson. Instead, think of influence as an interpersonal skill required to gain trust and build relationships.

Accountants need to persuade their clients through their relationships and expertise. Good managers influence team members to work together to achieve a goal. Persuasion is about your self-confidence and ability to analyze a situation and formulate a plan.

4. Technology/Computer Skills

Knowing the laws and how to pull insightful data out of a balance sheet are critical to an accountant’s success. However, advancing your career will be challenging if you can’t use the software and other tools necessary to do your job.

Think about the people in your office. The chances are good that the employees who are comfortable with technology, embrace change, and constantly look for better tools appear to be more confident in the workplace. Training, whether at home or through a structured program, can help give you the technical know-how you deserve regarding professional software.

5. Leadership Skills

Soft skills for the accounting industry come down to this collective term – leadership. This quality is not just about being an effective boss or a trusted advocate; it’s about earning respect through effort. Good leaders practice effective communication; they think about their audience and how their words are interpreted. They are also big-picture strategic and think about the long-term. It’s crucial to balance quick wins while maintaining the patience to wait for rewards down the line.

Leaders are valued by supervisors, coworkers, and clients alike. To develop your soft leadership skills, consider taking management courses, getting a mentor, or making it a life priority this year until it’s second nature.

Take the Next Step in Your Accounting Career

As you look at your career three, five, or even ten years from now, you’ll quickly comprehend how valuable these soft skills are for your professional success. By strengthening your skills, practicing better communication, and strengthening your critical thinking process, you’ll become a trusted advisor, a confident colleague, and a well-rounded accountant (and person).

Quality soft skills are just as critical as the fundamental skills mastered in your undergraduate program. So leap and devote the time to building your professional resume with the online Master of Accountancy (MAcc) from The University of Scranton.

Request more information to get started today.

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