What soft skills will I need as a trainee accountant?
Soft skills probably aren’t the first thing that pops into your head when you think about the kinds of skills you’ll need as a trainee accountant. Ability in maths and logic is obvious; but when it comes to soft skills we’re talking about the way you interact with colleagues and clients, and the way you manage your time—the bits that make you a well-rounded and great professional!
It will, naturally, take some time to hone these skills. It’s hard to learn something like negotiation, for example, until you’ve had a fair crack at it in practice and made some mistakes to learn from along the way. Those who have learned the hard way: we salute you!
There are a handful of soft skills, though, that applicants for trainee accountant positions, school leavers, and graduates alike will have to demonstrate an aptitude for.
Soft skills for trainee accountants
Here are some skills you will have to consider if you’re interested in this career. As you take a little read through, consider some examples from work and activities you’ve done inside and outside of school up until now that you could use as solid examples of each skill in a finance job application or interview.
There will be times when you will work on your own as a trainee accountant, but the majority of the time trainee accountants work as part of a team. Therefore, the recruiters are going to be on the lookout for evidence of this soft skill from the very beginning: in the examples you provide in your written application through to evidence of it in assessment centre exercises and how you present your examples in the interview phase.
Accountancy often involves explaining complex information to business leaders—for example, managers or board members—who don’t have a background in accountancy themselves. It’s necessary for trainee accountants to be able to explain accounting concepts and their findings to their clients in matters such as audit findings or tax returns in a quick and effective way that puts them completely in the picture. This is not always an easy feat!
Ability to build rapport
Each time you work on a new project you are likely to work with new colleagues and with representatives of different departments in the firm too—not to mention a brand new set of clients! If you’re working in audit, you will have to get used to working face-to-face with new clients from a completely different industry to the next.
Trainee accountants need to be able to build rapport quickly so that they can get on with the job in hand, meet their deadlines and create a lasting business relationship with the client.
You’ll be thrown in at the deep end at the start, working on real projects, so it’s important to have self-confidence! You don’t have to go about this alone; colleagues are always on hand to answer questions and give you a boost. The trick is to not be afraid to ask questions or to go out of your comfort zone. Trainee accountants who show some guts will make a great impression on senior colleagues, and you could find yourself taking on work that’s beyond your level at an early stage with more responsibility.
Trainee accountants are expected to study for a professional qualification alongside their full-time work. With this in mind, strong time management skills are essential. You’ll need to find the right work-life balance, whilst fitting in some serious study time for your professional qualification. It’s possibly one of the toughest things to get the knack of—but one of the most worthwhile when you do!