You’ve probably seen the stereotypical accountant in movies or TV shows: uptight, focused on numbers, few social skills, structured to the point of rigidity. But accountants are so much more. Accountants fill a wide range of roles in a variety of industries, but most of them have certain traits in common that go far beyond the number-crunching cliche.
Personable and friendly, yet focused
Nobody wants to be seen as just a number or a file. For accountants, it’s not enough to have a knack for figures. Accountants need to work well with co-workers, clients, shareholders, and regulatory authorities.
Accountants proactively support the goals of their clients and the organizations they work with, all while interpreting complicated industry concepts and turning them into useful ideas – a role that requires serious communication skills.
Accountants deal with a lot of information that is confidential in nature. From salary information to social security numbers to sensitive financial data, accountants are ethically bound to keep sensitive information secure. Beyond the ethical requirements, having integrity just makes good business sense, since accountants who develop a reputation for trustworthiness are in greater demand.
Being an accountant requires more than just a firm grasp of the basics. The accounting world is one of constant change, from generally accepted accounting principles to tax laws and technology.
Accountants stay abreast of those changes by attending conferences, taking continuing education courses, and adapting to new technology including cloud computing, advances in tax software, and ever-present cybersecurity challenges.
Accounting is a deadline-driven profession, whether you’re dealing with tax due dates, financial statement deadlines, or closing a year-end. Staying on top of all of the data that an accountant deals with on a daily basis requires excellent organizational skills and a healthy dose of conscientiousness.
Accountants practice due diligence during audits, while preparing tax returns, and when making recommendations on mergers and acquisitions. Honest mistakes can and do happen, but good accountants know how to own up to their mistakes and work hard to make sure they aren’t a frequent occurrence.
People tend to think of accountants as strictly left-brained creatures, but accountants have a creative side, too! Real-world accounting issues are rarely as straightforward as textbook scenarios. Accountants use the right side of their brains to come up with fresh ideas and strategies to solve dilemmas.
A good accountant doesn’t compromise on standards but knows how to develop creative ways to test controls, audit financial statements, or use information to make better decisions.
Good under pressure
Whether it’s those pesky deadlines or clients who need an answer NOW, accountants are good under pressure. They juggle multiple projects, clients, budgets, and deadlines without losing their cool or getting sloppy with the numbers.
A good accountant engages in planning and time management to mitigate emergencies, but when a stressful situation arises, accountants can be relied on to keep their cool, think rationally, and respond to the situation at a heightened pace.
The accounting profession involves a lot more than just crunching numbers. Technical skills are obviously critical, but in this ever-evolving field, accountants rise to demands that go far beyond the figures. To find out what to pay your accountants, check out our salary guide.