Careers

AI Extra

Sometimes being brilliant at your job isn't enough. You have to make yourself stand out in a different way, but how?WORDS BY SINEAD SMITH, Director for Newly Qualified Accountants at ACCPROIn the April 2020 issue of Extra, I broke down the three Ps that contribute to the perfect CV: presentation, prediction and personalisation. Now, with exam season just behind us and thoughts turning to life beyond the training contract, there is merit in expanding upon that third P –  personalization – and how it can be leveraged to elevate your job application and set you apart from the 1400+ other Chartered Accountants Ireland students who will receive FAE results this year. Distinguish yourselfThink about your office, your team, your intake. How many of those other soon-to-be qualified ACAs share your professional story and have a CV that will mirror yours? I would hazard a guess that it is a vast majority. Taking that realisation and further building on the sentiment posited in the April issue that your CV serves as a first introduction to you, it stands to reason that you would want to differentiate yourself as much as possible from your peers.When you sit down to write your CV, you should ask yourself two questions: “Who am I?” and “What is the story I want to tell?”.  That story can be professionally oriented but, it should also be personal in a way that sparks the interest of a hiring manager or recruiter and gives them a full picture of who you are and what you bring to the table.Achievements and awardsIn Ireland, we are conditioned to value our academic achievements above almost any others. This even extends to some employers who will ask, at interview, about Leaving Cert points despite the fact that you have achieved so much more academically and professionally since you were 18. By all means, note your Leaving Cert points if they were particularly good and definitely note any results and impressive rankings for your degree, masters or postgrad but, don’t forget about professional achievements either. Professional achievements aren't always exam-based and it is those that aren’t that will add interest to your CV. These can include a strong internal rating from your firm’s assessment system, any in-house awards you have received or being selected for a big secondment or project. However, it is worth remembering that most people reading your CV, won’t understand the significance of a “1 rating” or the Star Award so, do briefly qualify what that means and why it is noteworthy e.g. “Achieved a consistent 1 out of 5 rating, with 1 being the highest possible rating. This is only awarded to a small number each year.” ExtracurricularsCompanies aren’t interested in simply hiring number-crunching robots when they need an accountant. They are usually looking for a diversity of professional experience and personal interests that will enrich the existing team and add value to the company. Consider this a, within reason, carte blanche opportunity to put a unique spin on the story your application tells.Think about what you do in your spare time. Perhaps you volunteer every weekend with Dogs Trust or provide tutoring to students at your old school. Maybe you are an advocate for a cause and chair meetings or organise events. These are all relevant points of interest and show you to be dynamic and multi-faceted.However, your extracurricular interests don’t have to be altruistic. Your hobbies can convey a message so, think about how you like to unwind. Sports are a great way to demonstrate commitment, teamwork and drive. Yoga, meditation and mindfulness all suggest that you actively try to manage stress levels. Podcasting, blogging or freelance journalism show that you put effort in to becoming a subject matter expert. Toastmasters or debate suggests strong communication and presentation skills.Unique hobbies can also be endearing. In the April article, I mentioned jigsaw puzzles, mid-80s British sitcoms and agility training and I can now add calligraphy, geocaching, foraging and fermentation to the list of hobbies that sparked conversation in the office! Similarly, if you have hobbies that are relevant to the company you are applying for, detail them e.g. playing video games (gaming company), cooking (restaurant chain), coding (software company).In-person Personalisation can extend to your in-person interaction also. When preparing for an interview, check out the LinkedIn profiles of those you are meeting and don’t be afraid to reference it in conversation. Saying something like “Mary, I noticed on LinkedIn that you recently joined the company, how have you found the transition from practice to industry?” will show a huge amount of diligence and thoughtfulness and will instantly make your interview memorable. The takeaway here is that, when writing your CV and preparing for interviews, put some thought into it before you put pen to paper. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you are more than your exam results and that recruiters and companies want to speak with people who are multi-dimensional. 

Sep 01, 2020
AI Extra

We all like to feel valued at work and know that what we are doing matters. Showing appreciation is a great way to convey this to others. Often, people will be unaware of how to best express appreciation to their colleagues. Charlotte Keating provides some simple ways of how you can enhance your connection with the team, even when you can’t physically be in the office.Stephen Covey said in his bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival; to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.”Sometimes, a simple ‘thank you’ is not enough.It’s good to be aware that we all have different ways of receiving appreciation. What makes one member of the team feel appreciated may not necessarily make another feel valued in the same way. According to research by Dr Gary Chapman and Dr Paul White in their book The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, we all have a primary language of appreciation. Even though we can accept appreciation in other ways, we will not feel fully valued at work unless it is communicated in our primary language. This means that the intended message may get lost in translation and not have the result the sender anticipated.The five languages of appreciationKnowledge of these five languages can make you aware of your own appreciation preference while also helping you advise which methods of appreciation your colleagues may respond to best.1. Words of affirmationThis is verbal praise which makes others feel validated. It is the most common primary language of appreciation in the workplace.Ways to express words of affirmation to a colleagueSometimes, a quick “thank you” in person or by email is sufficient; however, it’s best to be specific and to use the person’s name, e.g.: “Sarah, I just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate you being such an organised person. It’s been especially helpful during this crisis knowing that there is a structure in place.” It’s worth remembering that some prefer to be acknowledged in private (in person or via a call/email or a handwritten card), while others like public praise (which could be done from a distance though cc’ing relevant individuals or thanking them on a group video call).2. Quality timeHere you are spending time with your colleagues and giving them your undivided attention – even just a few minutes during the day to discuss their progress on a project, allow them to vent frustrations or seek advice. It is possible to spend quality time remotely – and it is important for one's mental health to do so when physically working away from others.How to spend quality time with a colleagueSchedule a video call with them, even if it is just to have a quick, non-work related chat to catch-up. Avoid distractions during the call. Keep all of the team appraised of relevant matters, particularly when the casual interactions of a shared work environment are not possible. Organise a video quiz with the team, or online after-work drinks Using the “breakout room” function provided by some video conferencing platforms like Zoom is a great way to split up a larger group, making it easier to have more manageable conversations that everyone can participate in.Have a virtual check-in during the day, just as you might stop by their desk to say a quick hello.3. Acts of serviceWhile we all have our own roles and tasks to complete, working collaboratively and helping out colleagues is a great way to show that we value them.How you can show appreciation by helping out a colleagueOne of the main requests in an office is for support with technology, and you may still be able to provide remote assistance to colleagues having technical issues, e.g. helping with video call accessibility.Simply ask, “is there anything I can help with?” and reassure them that you can spare the time if you have it.Clarify what area they need help in and how to go about the task before starting it.Schedule calls at a time of day that works best for them.4. Tangible giftsGive a thoughtful gift to a colleague. The material value is not important, only the thought that goes into the gift.How to give gifts to show appreciation Personalise it – gift them a voucher for their favourite restaurant.Keep it simple – arrange for nice coffee beans to be delivered to their door or, if you’re in the office, drop a cup of coffee to their desk.Send a “certificate of appreciation” via email or post. There are various templates available online.5. Physical touchThis relates to appropriate, professional physical contact. Personal boundaries are incredibly important here. Naturally, this is the least common language of appreciation in the workplace.Ways to use physical touch to show appreciationA firm handshake, a high-five to celebrate a win or an appropriate hug.It is clearly impossible to handshake when social distancing. Virtual high-fives through screens or using appropriate emojis can get the same message of respect, appreciation, support and encouragement across to team members. Determining your colleagues’ appreciation languageBefore you move forward with applying any of these appreciation languages, you should figure out a colleague’s preference first.Observe how they show appreciation to others. Often how a person expresses appreciation reflects their preferred way of receiving it; andListen to their main concerns, complaints and requests, which can provide clues as to what feedback or assistance they require. Contributing to others’ wellbeingAnyone can make a positive contribution to the team through expressing appreciation, no matter what their role is. While it’s great to get encouraging feedback from a supervisor, peer support is so important, now more than ever, to keep motivation levels up. It’s not just about recognising results, it’s about recognising people and what we value about them. Feeling genuinely appreciated boosts morale and well-being. It’s not our job to make others happy, but it’s important to remember that when we show regular, authentic appreciation, it raises not only the self-esteem of others but also our own.Charlotte Keating FCA is a qualified life and business coach and founder of Act On It Coaching.

Sep 01, 2020
Careers

The pandemic has changed how we work, meet up with friends and see family. It has also changed the recruitment process. Here is all you need to know about remote job interviews. Words by Sinead Smith, Director for Newly Qualified Accountants at ACCPRO The new normal? The now normal? Whatever it is that we are calling it, there isn't one area of our lives that has remained untouched by COVID-19. We have been asked to bend but not break, pivot but not fall and nothing has required more reactivity, proactivity and creativity than our approach to work.  Technology made it possible for businesses to respond quickly and effectively when the call to batten down the hatches came through in mid-March. Zoom, the popular video conferencing software, reported a 50% growth to 500 million users in April 2020 while Microsoft Teams experienced a 70% jump to 75 million daily users in the same month. These apps have allowed our businesses to stay open, our clients to feel engaged and our teams to remain collaborative. Crucially, they have also made it possible for companies to continue to interview, hire and onboard talent remotely.  The setup Technology is great until it’s not. How many times has your WiFi dropped during a Netflix binge or your phone died mid-call? Now imagine those things happening during a remote interview – stressful, to say the least! However, there are some things that you can do before your interview to futureproof yourself against the frustration of frozen video or patchy audio.  Make sure that you have access to a strong WiFi connection. You can test your WiFi capabilities using a tool like Ookla. If it suggests a problem, reboot your router and try again. Sit as close to the router as is reasonable while ensuring that your background is appropriate (more on this below). If your house historically has poor phone signal, don’t hope for the best at this important moment. Get out in the car and drive to somewhere that will allow you to take the call uninterrupted or use a landline if you have one. Test the software or app beforehand with a friend – make sure you know how to access the video, that your webcam is working and that you have any dial-in information to-hand. Place your phone on silent and turn off any notifications that may have audible alerts.  Setting up for a remote interview is also about the aesthetics of the space around you. Consider what is in the background of your picture. Ideally, sit against a blank wall but, if that is not possible, ensure that what is behind you is neat and orderly. You should sit facing a window or suitable light source – don't allow yourself to be backlit as it will cast you in shadow. Try to avoid echoey rooms and make sure that anyone else in the house understands to stay quiet.  The conduct  A common refrain from both candidates and clients has been that video interviews have dismantled some of the more uptight elements of the traditional interview process. Gone is the stock artwork, the straight-backed chairs and vast boardroom tables. In their stead are squishy sofas, fridge magnets, family photographs and a more relaxed atmosphere. Getting that glimpse into the humanity, the personality and the identity of whom you are speaking with engenders a sense of ease and relatability. Having that visual reminder of this shared experience – the very reason you are interviewing from your home – can bypass some of the more conventional interview speak and lead to more open, fruitful conversations.  However, be warned: don’t allow a shared taste in IKEA armchairs to blind you to the fact that you are still interviewing. You are still being assessed. You are still expected to perform and to sell your experience. Likewise, the client is still expected to properly inform you about the company, the culture and the role.  Be professional but, don’t be afraid to be friendly – you already know at least one thing you have in common with your interviewer so don’t be afraid to ask after them and how they’ve found the transition from work to home. It will help break the ice. Dress professionally – don't be tempted to be all “business on the top, pyjamas on the bottom” just because you are sitting down. Dress as you would for any interview. Give good listening cues and posture – nod, smile, sit up straight and try to maintain eye contact. Speak clearly and be aware of any delays, static or patchy connections that may impact communication. The follow-up As with any interview, the follow-up is key so, don’t allow yourself to be lulled into a different mindset just because it wasn’t an in-person meeting. If you are represented by a recruitment consultant, provide feedback on how you felt it went and your interest levels. This will allow them to revert to the client for reciprocal feedback and keep the process moving. If you have applied directly for a role, it is a nice touch to drop a polite email the next day to HR or the Hiring Manager and thank them for their time, reiterate your interest and ask for feedback. 

Jun 30, 2020
Careers

Pandemic or not, brushing up your CV's presentation can mean the difference between an interview and a long-term job search. Sinead Smith outlines three things you can do to make sure your post-qualification CV gets you noticed. With an almost blanket adoption of technologies like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype as interviewing tools, this pandemic doesn’t mean that your post-qualification plans need to go on hold. Companies are still recruiting and, for many of you, it may be time to start crafting your first professional CV. With almost 10 years’ experience representing newly qualified ACAs, I'm sharing three components that contribute to the creation of the perfect CV.Presentation A 2012 Business Insider piece reported on a study that found those recruiting for a role spend, on average, just six seconds looking at a CV. The study found that they “will look at your name, current title and company, current position start and end dates, previous title and company, previous position start and end dates, and education.” Questionably short time period aside, the message is clear: your CV needs to make an instant impact and those eight markers should jump off the page to anyone reviewing it. You can achieve this by: choosing a single, clear font for the entire document. Typically, sans-serif fonts like Calibri and Arial look best.  only printing in black. You may think that a dash of red here and a highlight of yellow there draws attention but, conversely, it distracts the eye. Bold, italics and underline are much less aggressive ways to convey emphasis. using headings to denote the end of one section and the start of the next. This will help a recruiter or prospective employer easily navigate through your CV, quickly finding the information required. employing even line spacing and bullet points throughout to clearly present a lot of information. Prediction When you are writing your CV, you should be trying to predict what they need to know and eliminating any questions along the way. A hiring manager doesn’t know you beyond what you have included on the page, so it is crucial your CV accurately tells your story. Here are some things to consider:  Address any gaps in education or employment. Perhaps you began your career as an engineer before pivoting into accountancy, resulting in a two-month period where you weren’t working. Or maybe you decided to travel for three months after college. Rather than conceal it (never do this) or leave it open to interpretation, get ahead of the inevitable question by addressing it. It can be as simple as a line that reads:February 2018 – April 2018: Awaiting commencement of training contract. Highlight academic or professional achievements. Not only do strong Leaving Cert points or a high-performance rating satisfy the hiring criteria of many large companies, but it is also an easy way to demonstrate your calibre.  Detail your client portfolio. Unless otherwise instructed, there are no mitigating factors that prevent you from naming your most relevant or well-known clients. This is what prospective employers want to know and it demonstrates the complexity of your experience.Personalisation Personalising your CV should be considered to have two distinct purposes. First, it should tell the recipient something about you. Second, it should be tailored to reflect the role to which you are applying. Some nice touches include:  A section about your interests and hobbies – this is where you can really add some colour to your CV. Consider what pastime makes you so uniquely you and share that in your CV. Oftentimes, these hobbies will form the basis of interview questions and provide an opportunity to find common ground with the hiring team. Some great examples I have encountered are jigsaws (he used them to connect with a younger sibling), mid-80s British sitcoms (he was an expert on the escapades of Del Boy and Rodney) and agility training (she and her dog showed at international competitions). However, do be mindful of including interests that may prejudice someone against you – gambling and hunting, for example, have caused issues previously. Research the company and read the job spec carefully. What experience makes you relevant for this role? Perhaps you are applying to a retail company and two of your clients were retail giants – they should be right up the top of your client list, quietly showing the company that you understand their business. Maybe they mention a reporting standard in the job spec – provide more detail about where you encountered same. CV writing could be considered an art form and can take some time to master but, learning how to tell your professional story clearly and succinctly will see you well-positioned when the time comes to enter the market as a newly qualified ACA.Sinead Smith is the Director of Newly Qualified Accountants at ACCPRO.

May 01, 2020
Careers

In the last issue, Sinead Smith discussed how the decision of whether to stay in practice or move externally can feel like an existential tug-of-war. But, what if you are considering another path entirely – a path which takes your professional career overseas?  After spending the best part of four years learning your craft and feeling chained to the routines of work, study and exams, the lure of pastures new may be too strong to ignore. This is a path well worn by those who have gone before you and, today, with over 4,000 Irish ACAs working abroad, there is a wealth of support and guidance available to ascertain whether going global is the best decision for you and your career.  Logistically speaking Before the seed of travel takes full root and your mind becomes an endlessly enticing slideshow of tropical sunsets and bustling metropolises, it is important to consider the logistics of working overseas.  In some cases, where you want to work may be largely influenced by where you can work. Chartered Accountants in Ireland benefit from mutual reciprocity agreements with many worldwide professional bodies. The respective Institutes of Australia and New Zealand, as well as Canada and the UK, consider your qualification to be on a par with their own, offering Institute members a seamless transition to those local markets. Working in the USA is also a reality, provided that Institute members meet specific entry criteria and pass the IQEX exam.  Within Europe, the Institute’s compliance with the Common Content Project (CCP) provides qualified members with audit rights in other countries, subject to passing local taxation and legal exam. You may also be eligible for local membership rights, depending on the country.  If your grá for travel draws you to other corners of the world, you will need to further research your eligibility to practice locally as an accountant and what hoops you may need to jump through in order to be compliant.  Other pertinent logistic considerations include:  Access to work visas – Will a company sponsor or support your application and, if not, how much time/money do you need to go through the appropriate channels directly? Safety issues – Does the country or city you are considering have any extraordinary safety concerns? Is there a local Irish attaché should you need consular assistance? Is compound living the norm for expats? Motivating factors When the Irish economy was struggling, many young professionals found themselves lured overseas by the prospect of secure employment and higher salaries. Now, with Irish unemployment at its lowest rate ever, and multinational corporations clamouring to join our marketplace, it’s important – leaving aside just a simple desire for a change of scenery – to consider what is motivating you to look for employment abroad. For instance, the market for newly qualified ACAs in 2020 Ireland is booming. There is a huge variety of career paths available to satisfy every professional preference and starting basic salaries are at the highest they have been since pre-recessionary times. Taking advantage of this prosperous and varied local market and establishing yourself as a newly qualified accountant may work out better in the longer term when it comes to progression, earning potential and networking. Conversely, overseas experience can also prove invaluable when considering longer-term career development. Larger markets can offer accountants access to more complex capital markets and a diversity of experience that may be hard to find locally. Cultural differences in business can result in a deeper understanding of how to be an effective influencer and exact change and add value in even the most diverse of working environments. All these skills are of utmost value and will be looked favourably upon when re-entering the Irish market.  Finding your tribe In last year’s edition of Abroad, Irish Chartered Accountants around the world shared the realities of what it is like to move, live and work overseas. We learned that in Japan, business etiquette is much less flexible than in Europe; in Singapore, there are quotas for expat hires as companies are required to favour local candidates; and, in the US, there is less of a sense of urgency in business than one might expect.  Each hotspot profiled offered up its own unique merits and challenges but, from Abu Dhabi to Ho Chi Minh and from Spain to Saudi, a shared importance was placed on networking.  Whether for professional purposes or personal satisfaction, it is vital to make connections very early on. Join the local Chamber of Commerce, link up with a local Chartered Accountants Ireland district society or find a sports team nearby. Try not to limit your networking to other Irish expats but seize this as an opportunity to diversify your world view and your professional connections – you never know what might come of it! 

Mar 02, 2020
Careers

Deciding where you want to be post-qualification might seem like an overwhelming decision, but it doesn’t have to be. Sinead Smith explains. In the eight plus years that I have been in recruitment, my work has centred around people like you: Chartered Accountants Ireland students who are about to make the first big decision of their professional careers. This is always a time that is peppered with conflicting emotions. For some, apprehension over the exams is at the fore, while for others, it is the excitement of the finish line finally coming into view.  Regardless of which feeling is most prominent for you, a common thread that unites all soon-to-be-qualified Chartered Accountants is an understanding that whatever move is made at the end of a training contract will play a significant part in shaping career trajectory, progression opportunities and earning potential. This is apparent in the conversations that I have every exam season. Sure, these chats may start off tinged with a mild degree of panic but they quickly become about something much more important – taking control. You see, it is something of a misconception that the first big decision you will face as a Chartered Accountant will be about which role to accept. Rather, it is about what move makes the most sense for you, your interests and your ambitions. Knowledge is power The first and, oftentimes, most important question a newly qualified Chartered Accountant will have to ask themselves is whether they should stay with their training firm or make an external move. Some of you will know instinctively what makes sense for your career but most report feeling torn – whether that is out of a sense of loyalty, a fear of the unknown or a hesitancy to make the wrong decision. The easiest way to answer this dilemma is to arm yourself with knowledge. Briefly set any loyalties aside and consider what you want your career to look like in 10 years’ time and how you can achieve this. Look at potential career paths internally, read job specs for external roles, seek the counsel of trusted senior accountants who have been through this before or, indeed, recruitment consultants and the careers advisors within Chartered Accountants Ireland. You will likely find that the answer is clear after considering all angles and approaching the process methodically.  Whatever you decide, remember that there’s no shame in staying and there’s no disloyalty in leaving.Managing stress Chartered Accountants are some of the most sought after professionals in Ireland and, as a newly qualified ACA, you will be entering into a market that is very much weighted towards you with a large number of roles across a variety of disciplines and sectors available at the click of a mouse.  However, looking for a new role can become a full-time job in and of itself, and the failure to take full control of your recruitment process from the get-go can quickly begin to feel overwhelming. Get ahead of this by keeping close control of who has your CV and where and when it has been sent.  Start an Excel spreadsheet to track job applications, CV submissions and set follow-up reminders. Avoid registering with too many recruitment agencies initially. Limiting your involvement to two or three reputed agencies in the early stages ensures that you are covered on the market without losing track of your CV’s location. Get the most from those agencies that you do choose to work with – leverage them for market knowledge, ask for CV advice, offload the administrative/scheduling work. Begin with an open mind – you will find that you naturally gravitate towards some roles, companies and sectors more than others, and this will allow you to streamline your search and focus only on those opportunities that are viable.  Leveraging the knowledge pool Question everything. It might sound simplistic but asking questions of your peers and mentors, potential employers and recruitment consultants is the best way to feel like you are making a well-informed decision. Some good questions to ask your recruitment consultant or a potential employer include: Is there a policy of training and mentorship? How would you describe the corporate culture? Is there a strong precedence for progression? Do you have examples of people who have progressed? What could I expect from my first three months here? Similarly, you likely spend every day surrounded by more experienced accountants. Turn to them as impartial sources of advice and a means of gaining a good understanding of the market and what a potential move could mean for your career.Get ahead Whether you stay with your training firm or decide to take the leap, get ahead of yourself by getting into the right mindset from early on. Being able to identify and explain your motivations goes a long way towards seamlessly managing the transition from trainee accountant to newly qualified and will ensure that you are following the path best suited to you and your priorities.Sinead Smith is a Director of Newly Qualified Accountants at ACCPRO.

Jan 13, 2020