4 key guidelines for young accountants

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Entering the workforce for the first time is challenging in and of itself. From acclimating to your company’s culture and learning the ins and outs of the organization to understanding your responsibilities and how your role fits into the strategic vision of the business — it can be daunting, even under the best of circumstances. Now, add in the backdrop of a global pandemic, economic turmoil and social unrest, and an already milestone-level experience becomes inherently more complicated. I may be biased, but if anyone can rise to meet this challenge, it’s accountants.

Financial reporting is crucial, especially during times of uncertainty, because of the role it plays in the operation of global economies. Businesses and participants in the marketplace rely on credible, quality financials to make more informed, better decisions. And it’s accountants who shoulder the responsibility of bringing the ideals of trust and decision-useful information to life in society.

The work we do is important, no question about it. While that may seem like a lot of pressure, new accountants just starting out in this field should seize this opportunity to make a real difference.

Here are four key guidelines and many lessons that I’ve picked up along the way that I hope are helpful for new accountants navigating the working world amid today’s unprecedented challenges.

Adopt a people-first mindset

At PwC, our people are central to our purpose: to build trust in society and solve important problems. As the leader of our assurance practice, I know that investing in our people and in the tools they need to be successful is invaluable and helps further drive the quality of our work. But even for a new accountant, the importance of investing in the people around you and building strong relationships cannot be overlooked.

Wes Bricker, vice chair and U.S. and Mexico assurance leader at PwC, speaking at PwC's Immersive Experience event

Also, understand that accounting is a people-focused profession. Yes, accountants are number-crunchers, but we don’t work alone. Building strong relationships with all your stakeholders is paramount. Practice mutual respect, with everyone at all times. Treat all your colleagues with the same respect — no kissing up and punching down. A people-focused mindset can help you both personally and professionally, and it will aid in the quality and integrity of your work.

Seek out learning opportunities

Your education doesn’t end when you graduate. In fact, some of the most important learnings of your career happen on the job. At PwC, our accountants work closely in teams to foster a continuous learning environment. These teams learn from each other and grow together, and this harmony is what fuels the quality of our work. Embrace the idea that your first few years in practice are a finishing school. Be open to learn from more senior accountants. On-the-job counsel from others can teach you things you won’t be able to learn elsewhere. Watch, listen and absorb. Leverage your teammates and seek their advice on practice and career issues. When the time comes, you will offer guidance in return. Learning is an ongoing experience.

Use technology to your advantage

In today’s remote working world, staying connected is vital. It’s not easy to develop relationships virtually or understand your company’s culture when you haven’t set foot in the office. And still, we must build trust and deliver quality insights — these circumstances don’t change our mission and our purpose. If anything, they make it more critical. That’s why embracing digital technology across all fronts is more important now than ever.

If using technology comes easy to you, teach those who might not be as adept. The practical application of AI and machine learning can help make once time-consuming tasks faster and easier. Become an advocate for efficiency and lead by example. Technology can only take you so far. It’s what you do with it that makes the difference. You need to be agile and well-rounded.

Stay flexible and open to any learning opportunities, whatever shape they come in. To be ready and relevant for whatever the future brings will take new knowledge and faster synthesis of experience as we together keep a high level of quality in our work.

Hold true to your purpose

Don’t lose sight of the purpose of accounting. Respect the privilege and power of accounting. Honor commitments and deadlines. Have integrity. Be ethical. Tell the truth always. Practice objectivity and professional skepticism. Be a steward of accountability. Remember that trust is foundational to quality financial reporting; it underpins the entire financial ecosystem.

Financial reporting is the backbone of our capital markets. As a new accountant, setting yourself up for success amid uncertainty may seem like an uphill battle, but it’s really a pivotal opportunity. By establishing strong relationships, seeking out guidance and new learning opportunities and utilizing the technologies at your disposal, you will be better equipped to deliver the caliber of work society depends on. You may not ever know what tomorrow will bring, but no matter the circumstances, you can account for it.

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Career advancement Practice management Collaboration Coronavirus PwC Wesley Bricker Work from home