When we think of a stereotypical accountant, we think of a dull number-cruncher, don’t we? But accountants can no longer afford to be boring. Communication and people skills are a crucial part of accounts roles too.
In the not-so-distant past, accountants needed to be maths wizards, able to do more than just balance the books. Now, more and more accounts functions are being automated by computers – many tasks are little more than inputting numbers on Sage or an Excel spreadsheet, and financial algorithms are getting more and more advanced and complex to take as much of the guesswork out of prediction-making and planning as possible. You still need the maths skills to know whether or not all the programs have done what they’re supposed to, but fewer hours of the day are now spent pushing buttons on a calculator.
But, if you’re not particularly mathematical, all those numbers can be scary to think about. So for business owners, a good accountant makes sure they know what you’re talking about. Accounts and finance jobs are full of jargon; accountants need good people skills to translate all those abbreviations and codewords into a language the rest of us can understand. We joke in our office that with financial jobs, if you can understand the job description, you’re probably qualified for the job!
The modern accountant is really an advisor. Your task is to guide businesses and individuals to make sensible decisions about the finances. To do that successfully, you need to meet your clients face-to-face and build trust and rapport – the same aspects of building a strong working relationship that you’d expect from a salesperson. The UK employs more people in accounts and finance than any other profession, so if you fail to gain the trust of your clients, there’ll soon be a different accountant doing your job.
Of course, just as in any industry, for every extroverted accountant with fantastic people skills, there will be a stereotypical boring one as well. But don’t let stereotypes put you off a career – you might find more success if you can break the mould.