The world of work continues to change with explosive speed, and this rings true for CAs(SA) too. There are several important skills you will need to hone in order to ensure you stay relevant.
“These changes have culminated in increased expectations of professional accountants, in that they now not only have to serve the needs of investors and creditors, but also to meet the information needs of many other users of financial and non-financial information,” notes Professor Karin Barac, a professor in Auditing in the School of Accounting Sciences at UNISA.
So what exactly are these skills that you need then? According to Professor Barac, the most critical skills that every young CA (SA) should have are:
Communication and interpersonal skills: It should come as no surprise that strong verbal and written communication skills are an essential part of being a CA (SA). “An accounting practitioner must be able to prepare reports on what work has been done and what results were obtained, request information verbally, and read and evaluate the quality of the work of those under his or her supervision,” Barac says. “Individuals entering the accounting profession should therefore have the skills necessary to convey and exchange information within a meaningful context and with appropriate delivery (AICPA 2005). They should have the ability to listen, deliver influential presentations and produce examples of effective business writing.” You therefore need to work on honing your communications skills as far as you can – when writing professional emails, think over your wording carefully and be sure to proofread your email before hitting the send button, for instance.
Analytical and problem-solving skills: Strategic thinking is perhaps one of the most important skills in a CAs(SA) arsenal, so it is important that you focus on honing these skills from early on in your career. These broadly include:
· The capacity for inquiry, research, abstract logical thinking, inductive and deductive reasoning and critical analysis
· The ability to identify problems and solve unstructured problems in unfamiliar settings and to apply problem-solving skills in a consultative process
· The ability to select and assign priorities with restricted resources and to organise work to meet tight deadlines
· The ability to adapt to change
· The ability to apply accounting knowledge in solving real-world problems.
IT capabilities: In the ever-evolving world of information technology, no CA(SA) can be relevant without having extensive IT capabilities. “Knowledge of basic technology not only makes entry-level accounting trainees ‘creative’ in the workplace, but also helps them to adapt to the new environment faster,” confirms Professor Barac. “Current entry level accounting trainees have been found to have received more exposure to IT in their tertiary training than their seniors, which suggests that educators have modified accounting curricula by incorporating more exposure to IT.” This is a good start, but you can play your part by keeping up to date with changes in technology to make sure you’re ahead of the curve.
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