Critical Success Factors

Gina Deveney
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Many accounting graduates are finding it difficult to launch strong, successful careers, despite all the reports of how much demand there is for accounting majors. There are several common mistakes new graduates make, as well as some critical success strategies to overcoming these mistakes and starting a successful career.

There are several obstacles that make it tough for new graduates to make it through the post-graduation recruitment process, say experts. One of the main hindrances is trying to fit in with the rest of the crowd, says Julie Stanbridge of Ernst & Young. One of the most important success strategies new graduates can adopt is to set themselves apart from their peers, either through their accomplishments, their interests or their personality. Employers don't want cookie-cutter candidates. Other mistakes that can get candidates passed over for a job include a lack of enthusiasm for business, a lack of problem-solving skills and low self-awareness.

While there is a plethora of potential mistakes a new accounting graduate can make, there are several additional success strategies they can utilize to get ahead of the crowd. Networking is one of the most important skills any new accountant can master, says Mark Swatkins, talent development specialist at Grant Thornton. Networking is about more than building relationships; it's also about keeping those relationships warm and maintaining a rapport, especially with people that share the same industry or who can offer valuable professional advice throughout your career.

Another success strategy for new accountants is to locate a mentor at work, advises Ben Wilson of Kaplan. This person can help guide you and teach you the values your particular employer likes, and can help put you at ease in work situations.

Another strategy for success on the job is taking it slow. This may seem counterintuitive, considering the fierce competition in the job market. While it's tempting to prove your competence to you new employer by volunteering for every available project, doing so can backfire — leaving you with a gigantic workload and the potential for burnout. Once your foot is in the door, focus on the learning process, and take things one day at a time. You'll get more confident in your skills and abilities with each passing day, so consider this a marathon, not a sprint.

Yet another success strategy is to stay up-to-date on changes in financial law. Accounting processes are constantly changing, and it is crucial to keep up, especially during tax season. Take some time each week to review trade publications, professional blogs and magazines, and relevant court cases or legal propositions to remain in the know.

As a recent graduate of any program, it's perfectly normal to make a few mistakes and stumble a bit. The important thing to keep in mind is to learn from every mistake and gather as much information as you can on the job. Each misstep is an opportunity to grow stronger and more confident in future decisions. Keeping these critical success strategies in mind along the way is essential to growing as an accountant.


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