two co-workers having a casual discussion about goals

Should the opportunity present itself, consider getting a mentor within your organization.

Accounting | Education

Get exposure to the right people and 4 other proactive strategies for career advancement

In an era of doing-it-yourself PD, these are the essential steps for any ambitious employee to get ahead—and stay ahead

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Historically, workers have depended on their employers for professional development, with clear pathways to promotion through skills development and leadership training. But in an increasingly turbulent corporate environment, many workers—wittingly or unwittingly—are being left behind. Here are five proactive strategies every financial professional can employ to take control of their own career path.

1. Be Clear on Measurement

Often, such metrics will show up in your job description (if you have one) or your annual job evaluations (if your company does those). But if you’re still scratching your head as to what’s really important, don’t hesitate to ask your boss—or better yet, take your boss’s boss out for coffee to discuss what’s of strategic importance and where things are heading for the firm. Should the opportunity present itself, also consider getting a mentor within the organization: he or she can help guide you on what’s critical and what’s not. After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.

2. Become an Expert

Once you’ve figured out the path the organization is taking, you need to make sure you’ve got all the requisite tools that allow you to get there smoothly. Whether it’s AI, blockchain, the Internet of things or cloud-based tools, make sure you’re ahead of the curve—not lagging behind your peers. If your employer won’t help, take control of your own PD: sign up for courses on the relevant skills development or technology; attend conferences and symposiums; read the literature; and network with the right people. Luckily for you, as a CPA, your professional association can help you there.

3. Get Exposure to the Right People

Getting face-time with the C-suite isn’t always easy. In addition to setting an informal coffee date to get strategic insights from leadership (see tip #1), which shows initiative, you also should look for any opportunities to volunteer for corporate projects, charity endeavors, or other cross-functional groupings that put you in the spotlight. Remember: it doesn’t always have to be work-related to have an impact on your work and your future within the organization.

4. Show a Willingness to Learn

When you do get in front of the right people, make sure to ask for feedback on what you’re doing—but don’t make “the ask” too personal or involved. Whether it’s a presentation or a report that you have to deliver—or perhaps it’s a meeting that you chair—leave time at the end for comments and questions. What worked and what didn’t? Where is there room for improvement? Your boss and other C-suite types may not be great about providing formalized feedback, but everybody has an opinion: ask and you shall receive.

5. Document, Document, Document

One of the major failings of organizations as it concerns their employees’ professional development is a lack of documentation: what people are doing well, what their accomplishments are, and what they’ve learned. If your boss or HR representative won’t do it, make sure you develop a file of “wins”: date and describe major milestones achieved, courses taken, conferences attended. Back it up with receipts, photos, and other ephemera to show that you were there and fully engaged. And journal the experience: If journalling works for Oprah, it can work for you.