Accounting Students and Graduates Key Employability Skills

Let's talk accounting and the skills you need when you are ready to enter into the accounting industry. You got here, to this article, because you're gearing up to become a professional in this field, right? Getting yourself ready for accounting employment after graduation takes much more than sitting through lectures and memorising formulas. 

The real learning happens out there, out of the class room. While you're still in university, you've got opportunities to dive into real-world experiences like volunteering, part-time work, capstone projects or internships. Putting your academic learning to practice is where you'll really start to shine and pick up the skills employers are after. 

According to a recent study on accounting graduates’ employability, the most sought-after skills in the accounting profession are not just about crunching numbers. Here's what you need to focus on to stand out to potential future employers:

1. Information Technology (IT) Skills

Employers are after tech-savvy accounting graduates who know how to handle accounting software and spreadsheets with confidence and ease. As automation takes over routine tasks, your ability to analyse data and use advanced software is significant. To develop your skills, you could take courses on accounting software like Xero or Excel, and train yourself to use data analysis tools.

You could also do volunteering with an organisation where you could use your accounting skills. Doing an accounting internship during your degree is a sure way to get practical experience in using accounting software and build your industry-relevant IT skills. 

2. Interpersonal Skills

Being an accountant is much more than working alone with numbers; it's about working with people too. Key interpersonal skills for accounting graduates include communication, teamwork and negotiation skills. These are skills that you really need to practice to master. You can practice all these skills sets during your time at university when you do group work with your peers. 

An internship in accounting is a fantastic way for you to be immersed in real accounting tasks and an environment where you can practice and improve your interpersonal skills. 

Here’s a brief description of the interpersonal skills you should focus on: 

• Communication Skills

Having communication skills means you are able to convery complex information to others clearly and effectively. This includes the ability to speak and write well and also the ability to listen to others, such as colleagues and clients, and understand what they say and need. 

• Teamwork Skills

Employers value graduate accountants who know how to work well in teams. To be attractive to potential employers and to be successful in the accounting industry, you need to be able to collaborate effectively, and build strong relationships within your team and with clients.

• Negotiation Skills

Whether you're discussing terms with a client or settling internal disputes, negotiation skills are vital. Learn to find common ground and achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.

3. Personal Skills

Your personal traits play a central part in your employability as a future accounting graduate. Having a positive and flexible attitude is much appreciated by employers in the accounting industry. Problems and unexpected situations arise in any professional setting; it’s unavoidable. Hence problem-solving is another personal skill that employers seek in their new graduate recruits. 

What does it mean have a positive and adaptable attitude?

The practical business world is dynamic, and your ability to stay positive and adapt to change will set you apart. Employers value accounting graduates who can thrive under pressure and navigate through challenges with a can-do attitude.

Problem-solving, what does it mean in practice?

Analytical thinking and problem-solving are at the heart of accounting and relate to a positive and adaptable “can do” attitude.  Problem-solving is about being able to handle tricky situations and find solutions to problems. 

You need to be able to analyse the problem, think of ways to fix it and then pick the best option and action it. It’s a good idea to practice your problem solving skills before you graduate. As always, internships are a great way to expose yourself to problem solving situations. 

How Accounting Graduates Can Develop Employability Skills

While technical knowledge is important, the study on accounting graduates’ employability found that it’s the soft skills that truly make a difference to your employability. To practice those skills and prepare yourself for the professional accounting world:

Engage in internships to get practical experience and observe how professionals use these skills in real-world scenarios.

Participate in group projects and be sure to take every opportunity to work in teams during your studies. Teamwork is a good way to hone your communication, negotiation and other interpersonal skills. 

• Seek feedback and be ready to apply it. If you do an internship, always ask for feedback from supervisors and/or mentors and peers on how you come across and how you could improve your interpersonal interactions.

Conclusion

The accounting field is much more than numbers and working on data by yourself. To develop yourself into a sought-after accounting professional, you need a blend of technical and soft skills. To gain the skills employers are looking for in new accounting graduates, focus on developing your IT capabilities, work on your communication and teamwork, and maintain a positive and adaptable mindset. Equip yourself with these skills, and you'll be well on your way to a successful accounting career.

Want to learn more about the skills employers seek in new graduates? Have a look at the article "What Employers Look For in New Graduates"