Certifying Your Soft Skills
Hypothetical certifications that would boost your credentials.
September 20, 2007
You’re justifiably proud of your certified public accountant (CPA) designation; you worked hard for it, and it gives proof of your solid understanding of broad accounting principles and financial reporting. Certifications like the “CPA” on your resume show your skills to prospective employers and assure the company of your value and readiness for higher-level assignments.
But in today’s competitive world, success in the accounting profession depends on more than technical know-how. Soft skills like communication, collaboration and big-picture thinking are just as critical to an accountant’s career. In fact, the deciding factor in promotion to the top levels commonly is evidence of these abilities. Wouldn’t it be helpful if you could work toward certification in these skills to demonstrate your mastery of them? Here are some additional certifications that could boost your credentials — if they existed.
Accredited Clear Communicator (ACC)
The certification of accredited clear communicator (ACC) would demonstrate the ability to explain financial information in plain terms to managers in other departments. People who don’t spend their days working with government regulations, financial reporting rules, treasury management techniques and tax laws may find such procedures complex and difficult to grasp. But these concepts have an impact on all areas of business, and accountants are increasingly called upon to present them to diverse audiences.
Holders of the ACC certification will have studied jargon translation, acronym avoidance, explanation of arcane concepts and similar skills. They learn to speak and write with their audience in mind, helping the listener understand what data mean and why they are important.
ACC-accredited professionals also will have demonstrated the ability to listen and focus on understanding what others are saying. By putting others’ concerns in the context of what you know, you not only establish rapport and gain trust, you give your contacts confidence that you seriously consider their concerns.
Certified Team Player (CTP)
Companywide cross-functional teams are more important to business than ever. Today’s accounting professionals work closely not only with colleagues from different business areas but often with individuals from other parts of the world. A good indication of a professional adept at working with others would be the designation of certified team player (CTP). Holders of this credential will have mastered the skills of collaboration, diplomacy and negotiation. They will have studied harmony creation, conflict resolution, tact and keeping their own ego in check.
Furthermore, the CTP holder would practice going the extra mile to ensure group success. Professionals with this designation understand that pursuing their own agenda while ignoring others’ points of view fails to enhance their reputation, whereas the accomplishments of the entire team burnish the reputation of everyone who contributes.
Chartered Big-Picture Synthesizer (CBPS)
Accounting professionals participate in decisions affecting more than their own department. They’re called upon to contribute to strategic financial decisions involving the company’s position in its industry and in the entire economy. To aid in these decisions, practitioners must understand not just corporate financial performance but its relationship to the wider market.
Holders of the chartered big-picture synthesizer (CBPS) certification will have gained a broad understanding of economic issues and market forces. These valuable specialists will have mastered data analysis and problem solving. They would specialize in synthesizing data and finding connections between disparate facts, piecing together a meaningful, holistic picture. The CBPS holders will contribute to strategic business decisions such as entering mergers and acquisitions or expanding into a new product line.
Lifelong Learning Specialist (LLS)
Accountants face the continual challenge of keeping up with new regulations and evolving accounting standards. Anyone entering the accounting field needs intellectual curiosity and the ability to master changing developments in order to continue adding value for their clients and employers.
Professionals with the lifelong learning specialist (LLS) certification will have mastered the art of continuing to acquire expertise, investing time in broadening their skills to prepare themselves for the future. They will have honed their intellectual curiosity and the ability to expand their knowledge of accounting and finance for the duration of their careers.
These “certifications” are hypothetical, of course, but the skills they require are real. If they existed like the more traditional certifications, they would require periodic practice and continuing education to maintain them. Professionals holding these designations will practice continuous improvement in the abilities they have learned and strive to reach the next level in performance.
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