Author: Karl Smith, Senior Manager: Education, Training and Member Support at the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA)
The latest unemployment figures paint a rather concerning picture. The official unemployment rate for the first quarter increased slightly to 32.6%. However, it is now the highest since the first Quarterly Labour Force Survey was done in 2008.
Even more concerning is the unemployment rate according to the expanded definition of unemployment, which rose to 43.2% in the first quarter.
The accounting and finance profession has not been left unscathed by this rise in unemployment. All is not lost, and people who find themselves unemployed or looking for new opportunities can future-proof their career by increasing their own marketability.
The value proposition
Technology is reshaping the accounting and finance world. Key trends in technology means that tasks traditionally performed by accountants are increasingly automated.
Professional accountants need different skills to remain relevant and in demand. The Covid-19 pandemic caused a far more rapid increase in automation than we expected.
This has fundamentally changed the workplace. SAIPA members need to invest in themselves to meet the new job requirements brought about by technological disruption.
This includes critical skills such as analytical thinking and innovation, active learning, creativity and originality. Great accountants have the ability to make accurate assessments and sound judgements. Common sense remains a must-have skill.
Accounting requires a meticulous and detail-oriented eye. The accountant of the future can think critically, solve complex problems and have the ability to use data for strategic advice and decision-making.
Data impacts nearly every aspect of auditing, tax, accounting and advisory services. Therefor the ability to analyse data for better strategic business decisions is vital. As professionals, we have access to a goldmine of data. The ability to use that to the benefit of our clients is priceless.
Professional accountants are creators, enablers, preservers, and reporters of sustainable value for their organisations.
As creators of value, we need to take the lead in the design and implementation of strategies, policies, plans, structures, and governance measures.
As enablers of value, we need to inform and guide managerial and operational decision-making and strategy implementation through planning, monitoring, and improvement of processes.
As preservers of value, we need to guard against strategic, operational, and financial risks, and ensure regulatory compliance.
As reporters of value, we need to communicate transparently.
It is time to be bold. Advancing your career will require you to step up, take the lead and accept ownership of projects that are outside your regular tasks. You will not only gain new experiences, but it will show that you are able and willing to add value.
You can increase your visibility in the organisation by networking across different departments. This will offer you the opportunity to showcase your skills to a different group of people.
It is also time to be brave. Share your ideas and be ready to implement them when they find favour with the boss. Understand and analyse the workflows and processes of the company, then suggest innovative solutions to improve or streamline them.
In a sea of skilled people, you need to stand out. Valuable steps to get you on top include:
Never give up
It is quite normal to feel frustrated at your lack of job opportunities and may even consider transitioning to a different field. It will be desirable if you transition into a field in which you have some skills and experience.
More importantly, do not allow short term circumstances to force you into making decisions that may impact your career. Persist and invest in yourself. It will pay off. Finance and Accounting are critical to ensure the success of small and large businesses environment.
Remain relevant and stay on top of new developments. Demonstrate your skills and expertise, even if it means giving free advice or hosting a free talk or webinar. Write that thought-provoking article and present it to accounting and finance journals. Do not give up.
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