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Developing a Global Mindset

As business becomes more international, you’ll be able to take advantage of opportunities if you cultivate a wide-angle view of your business. Learn how to broaden your knowledge and sharpen your global accounting skills.

April 16, 2009
from Accountemps

The recent G8 Summit of the leaders of the world’s top 20 largest economies reflected the growing interconnectedness and global nature of business. Take a moment to think about the reach of your firm’s major business clients. How many are multinational corporations? In how many countries do they operate? Where are their products manufactured and sold, or where are their services marketed? Does your firm’s roster include any foreign clients in the United States? 

Nowadays, it’s not necessary to travel abroad to experience other cultures. The globalization of business has opened borders between countries and dramatically broadened the scope of trade. Even if your own firm is local, you may have U.S.-based clients with an international presence or foreign clients that operate satellite offices in North America.

As a result, your career success may well depend on your ability to develop a global mindset. A global perspective will enable you to better serve international clients and put you in good stead to take advantage of a wider variety of employment opportunities in the future. 

Client Service With an International Flair

In January of this year, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed that U.S. issuers adopt International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) instead of the generally accepted accounting principles in the United States (U.S. GAAP). Last year, the SEC began permitting foreign issuers to file financial statements using IFRS without reconciling them to U.S. GAAP. More than 100 countries, including the European Union nations, Russia and Australia, already permit or require IFRS reporting. The SEC supports the convergence of U.S. GAAP and IFRS so that ultimately, a single, high-quality set of standards for accounting will develop.

In a Robert Half survey of 1,400 U.S. chief financial officers (CFOs), 71 percent of respondents said international experience will be necessary for accounting and finance professionals five years from now. Consider the skill set required to meet these new demands. Employers seek CPAs who can add value in a globalized, increasingly interrelated business environment. To be able to serve and advise your clients in financial reporting and governance, your baseline skill set will have to include exposure to other countries’ tax, compliance, legal and regulatory issues and solid knowledge of IFRS. If you are bilingual, you’ll have a competitive advantage in the job market, particularly among the largest firms.

To develop global accounting skills, pursue traditional or online classes, attend seminars or workshops or take advantage of special training offered by your company. If possible, volunteer for projects that will place you in foreign offices or bring you into contact with accounting and finance professionals from other cultures.

‘Soft Skills’ Essential to Global Mindset

When you engage in global-level client service, you must be able to keep track of regulations and filing requirements in multiple locations, coordinate delivery of services across time zones and continents and respond promptly to your clients’ requests for reports, advice and data. Strong soft skills such as good time- and task-management and the ability to communicate clearly to a diverse (and possible geographically dispersed) client base are therefore an increasingly important component of the global mindset.

Global awareness also encompasses versatility, cultural sensitivity and the ability to work with accounting professionals from other cultures. Keep in mind that while there may be a move toward convergence of accounting standards, there is not a “universal” way to conduct business. Other cultures have their own unique ways of doing business, and the more you can modify your own approach to align with that of your international clients and colleagues, the smoother and more successful your interactions will be.

It’s natural to be most comfortable with what is familiar, but this can lead to the tendency to view one’s own cultural etiquette as the norm. That’s why it’s critical to keep an open mind when interacting with people of diverse backgrounds. Your clients will appreciate your efforts to better understand them and are likely to be more helpful and cooperative as a result.  

The best way to quickly develop a global mindset is to think beyond your habitual mental borders and boundaries. As business becomes more and more international, you’ll be able to take advantage of emerging opportunities if you cultivate a wide-angle view of your business. Make the most of every opportunity to broaden your knowledge base and sharpen your global accounting skills.

For more career advice, listen to Robert Half’s podcast series, The Management Minute, at www.rhi.com/podcast.

Accountemps is one of the world’s first and largest temporary staffing services specializing in the placement of accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. The company has more than 360 offices throughout North America, Europe, the Asia-Pacific region and offers online job search services at www.accountemps.com.