How to Stand Out in the Finance & Accounting World

by David Sprinkle

Building a career in finance and accounting requires a blend of ambition, strong technical skills, and willingness to put in the work to achieve your career goals. Corporate finance professionals need to listen and absorb constructive criticism, be diligent in their work, and embrace a life-long learning mentality to get ahead. While that sounds like a lot of work in the present, in the long run, the juice is well worth the squeeze.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into how you can stand out from the pack and advance your career.


Strong Technical Skills

There are many industries where business acumen and transferable skills alone can qualify you for advancement. In accounting and finance, that is not the case. With so many strict processes and standards, professionals must be able to prove that they possess technical skills to be effective in their role.

You can be the most collaborative, career-focused, and engaging corporate accountant in the world, but if you can’t efficiently navigate a P&L sheet, you won’t last long in the accounting world. This is especially true with regard to Microsoft Excel proficiency.

Microsoft Excel is the industry standard software for the finance and accounting industries. It’s essential for professionals in both fields to have a mastery level of the software to perform their job at a high level, and to one day advance their career.

Think you’re already a master of Excel? Chances are you’re not. The software is periodically being updated and advanced. Corporate finance professionals should commit time to regularly improve their understanding of the full range of capabilities Excel offers.


Excellent Interpersonal Communication Skills

If you want to move up in the industry, you’re going to need to be able to communicate your technical prowess to others. Gone are the days where corporate finance professionals would sit in isolation in their cubicle all day. In today’s corporate environment, communication and collaboration are key. In introvert-heavy fields such as finance and accounting, developing and improving your soft skills will set you apart from those that are less adept at engaging and communicating.

The soft skills you cultivate will need to extend beyond your ability to communicate and collaborate with your team department. It might be simple for you to talk with others in the industry or instruct co-workers with heightened finance knowledge. But, to be promoted into management positions, you’ll also need to be able to communicate your expertise with clients and coworkers who have minimal financial or accounting skills. Meaning, you should be able to explain complicated accounting processes and financial jargon in a manner that is understandable for the less informed.


Business Acumen

Those that want to accelerate their career in the sector must also be business savvy. Being able to see beyond your particular role, and department will distinguish you from others.

Understanding how your organization’s market operates and being able to identify opportunities for growth is a massive tool to advance your career. Companies and firms want to promote people who demonstrate business acumen, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a passion for helping the organization succeed.

For those in the corporate accounting world, it will benefit you to demonstrate an understanding of finance in addition to your accounting knowledge, and vice versa for corporate finance professionals.


Desire to Learn

The people you work with and work for are tremendous assets in your career journey. In many cases, your superiors will hold jobs that you hope to one day fill. Whether your goal is to one day become a controller or a CFO, absorb as much of their wisdom as you can. As your career moves forward, you will be able to draw on their knowledge to help you troubleshoot problems.

You’ll also want to take note of the style of leadership you receive. The finance and accounting career path will eventually require leading a team of individuals and as you’re making your way through the ranks, take note of the leadership styles you want to emulate—and the ones you want to avoid.


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