How to Ace Your First Accounting Job

A recent study of 2,200 CFOs by the global financial recruiting firm Robert Half found that 54% said newly hired accountants have less than three months to prove they are a good fit for the position. Don’t let this stress you; rather, it should motivate you to jump into the position with both feet and show them you have what it takes.

Employers are not looking for perfection. They know we are all growing and learning, especially in the field of accounting. But what do they want to see? They want to see that you are quickly catching on, that you have the accounting skills and the interpersonal skills needed, and that you are open to direction. Use the following five elements to guide you to success. 

Show critical accounting skills

Demonstrate the skills that all good accountants have: accuracy, attention to detail, critical analytical skills, and computational accuracy. You will also want to demonstrate an awareness of compliance issues, knowledge of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), and the critical importance and value of the various financial reports – not just how to generate them. 

Demonstrate a good work ethic

Employers want to see that you’re eager to work and willing to take on new challenges. Arrive early and ready to work. Stay OFF social media during work hours! Demonstrate good time management skills. 

Don’t be afraid to ask good questions, but write down the answers so you don’t have to ask again. In the beginning, request weekly check-ins with your immediate superior to get feedback and help prioritizing areas where you need to grow.

Employers will want to see you have the ability to take on more than one project at a time but recognize your limits in the beginning. You’re still learning, so don’t allow yourself to be overloaded and therefore do poor work. Communicate that you want to make sure you can complete your current project on time and accurately before taking on another project. 

Be prepared to work longer hours during the “busy season.” Be willing to pitch in wherever help is needed to make things easier for senior staff members. Your help will be appreciated and remembered. 

Master the arts of communication and interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills include a firm handshake, looking people in the eye, listening attentively, and responding intelligently. It means knowing how to create positive work relationships with colleagues, build friendships, network successfully, and develop professional ties. It means picking up the company culture and internalizing it. 

As accountants, we spend most of our time with numbers. But those numbers represent real people and real people’s lives, so keeping that in mind helps us strengthen bonds with our clients. As accountants, we also often work as a team to complete larger projects, with the need to tap into the expertise of others. You will want to demonstrate these skills to your employers. 

The ability to communicate complex financial information is a valuable skill among accountants. Cultivate the ability to clearly explain accounting information to non-accountants, as well as to present detailed reports to experts in the field, in both written and oral form. 

Have basic technological skills

Nowadays every young accountant should be proficient in Microsoft Excel, including formulas, sorting, and filtering. Familiarity with advanced features such as pivot tables, VLOOKUP, and what-if scenarios is a powerful plus. 

While your company will train you on its own systems of choice, you should come into the position with at least some experience with ERP software such as Oracle; business analytics and reporting software; tax preparation software; and data query skills such as SQL. 

No, your employer is not expecting you to be an IT expert. But familiarity with the uses and functions of these programs and some experience will make it easier for you to learn the systems your employer uses. 

Be a sponge

In the field of accounting, we are always learning. PSTAP offers online and in-person courses throughout the year to help you grow in your accounting career, prepare for the CPA exam, and/or complete your CPE requirements. But your employer will want to see that you have an attitude of constant learning. Are you effectively and quickly learning their training programs? Asking good questions? Showing eagerness to learn new things and looking at opportunities to grow? This is what your employer wants to see. 

You can take your accounting career in almost any direction you choose – the sky’s the limit. And by remembering and applying these five elements, you will shine in the first 90 days in your new position and be set for a long and successful career.