As some of the world’s top athletes compete in PyeongChang, there’s no doubt their audience will imagine what it takes to make it to that level. It’s a long and arduous path and it certainly takes an enormous amount of physical ability. But maybe you can take some lessons from these committed athletes and apply them to your own career in accounting and finance.
Pick a specialty
Whether their specialty is skiing, skating, ice hockey or another sport entirely, most competitors are excellent all-around athletes. And while there are a handful of exceptions, most of them stick to one sport when it comes to competing.
Why? Well, most elite athletes play their sport for a decade or more before competing on the worldwide stage. It takes passion and focus to become the best, and these athletes know that spreading themselves too thin may make them a jack of all trades and master of none.
There are dozens of sports in the games, and there are many accounting and finance specialties you can focus on: audit, tax, government, forensic accounting, credit, cost accounting, payroll and more. Choosing a specialty gives you the opportunity to specialize in the kind of work you really love to do, develop a depth of knowledge and experience and perform with excellence.
Prepare for long-term training
As you can imagine, elite athletes don’t stop training once they meet their initial goals. They know that continuing to compete and win gold medals requires training for hundreds, perhaps even thousands of hours per year.
Your training schedule won’t be quite so rigorous but completing your degree or earning your initial job qualifications is not the end of training and development. Accounting and finance have new and changing principles and standards and the technology you use to do your job is always evolving. To stay up to date, you’ll need to take continuing education courses.
The good news is that training doesn’t have to be dull. There are a number of ways you can maintain and grow your professional competence, from unstructured on-the-job training to reading books, taking workshops or seminars and attending conferences. The more you learn, the more you increase your value to your company and future employers.
Get a coach
Most gold medalists will tell you that coaching is one of the most important factors for success. A coach helps them train effectively, teaches new tactics and strategies, and guides them through levels of competitions. In your career, your coach is more likely to go by the name ‘mentor.’ Mentors offer advice, direction and help you link to a broader network of contacts.
Your employer may have a mentoring program, but if they don’t, seek a mentor in an accounting professor, a local business leader or through a professional association. Once you find that person, make sure you respect their time and work to foster the relationship. Act on their advice. You don’t have to do everything you’re told, but when a mentor takes time to share their knowledge, you should carefully consider their words and show gratitude.
Becoming a gold medalist in your career isn’t too different from competing in the winter games. You’ll need to work hard to get there, overcome obstacles, and beat out fierce competition to stay on top. Embrace the lessons you learn along the way. Those may be more valuable than any gold medal.
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