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Are You Ready to Move Your Career Forward?

As the economy and the jobs market improves, are you prepared for opportunities?

February 3, 2011
Sponsored by Robert Half Finance & Accounting

As businesses start to expand again and more opportunities emerge for financial professionals, this may be an opportune time to think about advancing in your career. Are you doing all you can to position yourself for that next move whether at your current employer or at another organization?

While being great at what you do no doubt boosts your prospects, that's not all on which your success will depend. You need to understand your professional objectives and have a plan for achieving them. You also need to be proactive in standing out to management and others in your field.

The more people recognize the value you bring to an organization, the greater your chances of being promoted or recommended for other opportunities. Here are some key steps to consider:

Know Where You're Headed

It's true that employers have the upper hand in determining the career paths of their employees. After all, they want to manage talent in ways they feel are best for the business. But you can also influence those decisions by setting concrete goals for yourself and sharing them with your supervisor. The most successful companies are also interested in doing what they can to accommodate the career preferences of their top performers.

Professional objectives can target specific moves upward (an assistant controller who says, "I'd like to make controller before the end of next year") or involve a change in career direction ("I like tax work but want experience in the compliance area"). Often, the best job move isn't one that's the next rung up the career ladder, but rather a lateral change. You might focus on shifting into a similar role in another department rather than pursuing an executive position, for example.

If you're having trouble deciding where you'd really like to go, try to envision the aspects of your work that you enjoy most. For instance, do you get more satisfaction from managing and leading projects or from performing daily accounting work? What have been some of your most rewarding assignments in recent years? Writing down your motivators can help you narrow your objectives.

Be Honest About Your Skills

Once you've identified your goals, take a candid look at your abilities and potential. Do you have the right skills today to achieve your career objectives?

Think about weaknesses that might prevent you from reaching your goal. Perhaps you excel in preparing financial reports but dread having to share your findings in formal presentations.

Re-read previous performance reviews for insights about your skill set. Also ask trusted colleagues or advisors for feedback about your strengths and weaknesses. Often, others view what we perceive to be assets or liabilities differently. You might think that you are a horrible project manager when others feel the opposite, for instance.

Once you know what might hold you back from job advancement, create a plan of action. Investigate classes, mentoring programs and seminars that will give you the expertise you need to move forward in your career.

Network Your Way Toward Your Goals

Working at building up your network increases the number of people who are aware of your abilities and expertise. Take advantage of accounting and finance associations such as the AICPA to meet others and highlight your expertise outside of your immediate company. In a survey by Robert Half, almost one in three (28%) of chief financial officers polled said staying connected through professional groups is the best way for accounting and finance managers to enhance their visibility. Active participation on social media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter came in a close second, with 22 percent of the response.

Make a sustained effort to stay in touch with new acquaintances and also those already within your circle of contacts. You'll nurture your base of connections, making it easier to ask for help when you do need professional assistance.

Voice Your Ideas

Look for opportunities to showcase your knowledge and stand out from the crowd. Before attending meetings, review the agenda and consider what you might contribute to the discussion. Aim to be an active participant.

Outside of work, consider writing articles for association newsletters and speaking before business groups. You'll help to develop a reputation as an expert in your field.

To the extent possible, don't sit on the sidelines and let others determine your career path. Take the initiative to achieve your goals, even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new. You'll help to make your professional dreams a reality.

Founded in 1948, Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a division of Robert Half International, is one of the world's first and largest specialized financial recruitment service. The company has more than 360 locations throughout North America, South America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region and offers online job search services at www.roberthalffinance.com.