Let Your Skills Shine

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Recently, as I was looking for information for a different topic, I ran across an advertisement to fill accounting openings at Chevron. The thing that struck me about the ad was the list of non-accounting skills. In addition to having a couple of lines about applicants needing basic accounting skills, the ad mentioned working in teams, analysis,  problem solving, reporting, leadership, communication, and the use of sophisticated technology. Sometimes it is difficult for me to convince my students that as important as it is to study for and pass the credential exams, accounting is about much more than proving your knowledge of debits, credits, valuation criteria and financial statements.

I’m sure spending some time perusing the job qualifications for most entry level business jobs will convince you that this list of skills is neither unique nor unusual. I often talk to students about how to best present themselves to potential employers as individuals who possess the broad range of interpersonal and technical skills the employer wants.  Many times the student has worked hard at their academic subjects and developed a transcript that reflects their mastery of the academic subjects the employer demands. Some of the communication skills an employer demands may also be evidenced on that transcript. However, many of the teamwork and leaderships skills so valuable to an employer are not reflected in a record of academic accomplishments.

The stock advice for students is to become involved in extra-curricular activities that highlight their leadership and teamwork skills. Unfortunately, to some students this is heard as “join a club.” Much more than belonging to an organization, it means being able to tell the employer exactly what you DID as a member that demonstrates your involvement. The employer wants to know what activities you organized, what projects you led a team to accomplish, how you contributed to the success of an activity. Ideally, you will be able to name offices you held, and discuss the accomplishments that were extraordinary under your leadership.

The response I sometimes get when I talk about these things is that there is no time for these activities. Many students have jobs that are necessary to support themselves while in college and work a significant number of hours during the week. By the time they attend class, do assignments and study, there is little time for clubs and activities. My advice is to make time for extracurricular activities if at all possible, but if you just cannot devote significant time to them, there are other viable ways to demonstrate your leadership and teamwork. Volunteer for activities at work and in your classes that demonstrate these qualities. Keep a diary of any leadership activities you perform at work, initiatives you took, special work or class projects you lead and the outcomes. Try to demonstrate how the activities you undertake in other areas of your life highlight the characteristics employers value and always be sure you make it known the extent that you supported yourself during college.

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