In our recent webinar ‘The future role of the Accountant’, Walters People specialists Jens Spittael, Antje Mentens and Kevin Blockx gave an insight in the latest trends on the job market for accounting professionals. We were not able to answer all questions that were asked, but this article gives an answer to 7 questions our participants had.
Which skills should I further develop and what is the best way to do it?
Jens: “The kind of skills that need to be developed, are of course different from one person to another, and also depends on the type of role and seniority you have. I think it’s important to see learning and developing of skills as a continuous process. People often ask me, what is the best Excel or SAP course you know? There is no such thing as ‘the best course’, it’s important to regularly follow update courses about new features. To give more personal advice, we prefer to plan a personal conversation with candidates asking this question, so we can define a career plan together.”
How can I, as a Junior Accountant, make my CV stand out when applying for a starter-level job?
Antje: “I understand why this questions is asked, because when you are applying as a junior accountant, you have no or little work experience. To start, it is important to have a clear and structured CV, preferably on 1 page so it is easily to read. Also, a picture of yourself can help people remember your resume better. Next, adding previous internships or relevant student jobs in for example accounting, are a valuable asset, so make sure you mention this on your CV as well. A short motivational text about your personality is something that can be of added value as well. As we mentioned during the presentation, soft skills are very important."
When you present yourself in 3-4 phrases on your CV, you will be remembered better than when you don’t have this on your resume.
What is the importance of flexibility in the job of an accountant, and what is the impact of Covid-19 on this?
Jens: “It is true that flexible work hours and a good work-life balance have been highly valued until now and we've seen that in our salary surveys we did in the past few years as well. In our webinar we talked about what accounting professionals value the most in their employer. We could see that flexible work arrangements were still important, but tumbled down to place 5 or 6. We believe this is a result of the higher number of people working from home. Due to this new way of working, it became easier to switch between professional and personal life. For example, doing some sports during lunchtime became easier when you are working at home and not in the office. Also arrangements for your children like bringing them to school was easier in general. Do not forget that in the periods last year you were allowed to go to the office, there was less traffic on the road, meaning your travel time decreased which again made it easier to get on time at your job and combine this with your personal life before or after work hours. So to conclude, for many of the accounting professionals it was possible last year to receive more flexibility in their job, which made it more normal and obvious when thinking about your current job and what you value the most.
Is an accounting firm the best option to start my career in accounting?
Kevin: “There is no such thing as the best option, but starting your career in a fiduciary or accounting firm is definitely a strong start that will allow you to develop quickly. As a junior accountant, you will be the right hand of a more senior accountant and carry out multiple operational tasks, prepare the VAT return and the annual accounts. Within an accounting firm, you will learn a lot in a very short period of time. Compared to joining the finance team of some large organisations as a graduate, we see that the range of tasks can be more limited there, as each team member often has his own set of responsibilities and tasks. So if you plan to evolve quickly in your career, a job in an accounting firm after graduating can be an interesting option, yes”.
How do I know if I have a competitive salary in my job as an Accountant?
Kevin: “There are different levels in accounting, but I will try to give a standard overview. Graduates who enter the job market as junior accountant can count on an average salary of 2,000-2,300 EUR gross per month. As an assistant accountant AR/AP in the finance team of a larger organisation, your salary will be between 2,200-3000 EUR after a few years of experience. Working as a general ledger accountant comes with more responsibilities, and that’s also reflected in the salary. A G/L accountant with more than 6 years of experience can expect a monthly gross salary of 3,000-3,800 EUR. As a senior or chief accountant, you act as the right hand of the management team, and that’s also visible in the salary: 3,500-4,000 EUR, often accompanied by a company car.
Professionals like AP/AR/GL team leaders and supervisors are more specialised, have management experience and supervise a team, resulting in a gross monthly salary of up to 5,000 EUR. But to benchmark your own salary, or to find out how much you could earn in your first job in accounting, do check our digital salary survey.”
Should I look for a permanent or a temporary job when I graduate?
Antje: “This is a question we regularly receive from students who are about to enter the job market for the first time. Very often we see they prefer the option of a permanent contract because of the job security it brings, but a temporary job also brings a lot of advantages. Think for example about the flexibility, and the opportunity you’ll have to get to know the ins and outs of multiple organisations in a relatively short period of time. Doing multiple temporary accounting jobs will learn you a lot and help you discover what you like and dislike doing. Defining this, will help you advance in your personal career development plan.”
How do I negotiate a salary raise during the Corona-pandemic?
Jens: “The timing isn’t ideal of course, and our survey also revealed that in the past few months, the majority of people did not ask for a salary increase, because the impact of Covid-19 was high in their sector, or colleagues were made redundant. Before going to your manager to ask for a salary raise, take some time to get prepared and ask yourself these questions: how is the company’s performance during this pandemic, what have I accomplished in the past year, have I taken on more responsibilities?
Once you’ve decided to ask the question, make sure you can demonstrate proof of your accomplishments and that you know you’re worth on the market. Schedule a meeting with your manager at a time you know suits him or her best. If a face-to-face meeting is not an option, do schedule a video call rather than a telephone call, so you can see your manager’s response and pay attention to body language and facial expressions. Bring the subject gently, show your enthusiasm to work for the organisation and what role you’ve played so far by giving some examples. Make sure your manager understands exactly what you want and why you ask. You might receive some questions, and an answer might be given later, as they might need to speak to HR or higher management first.
If the answer to your question is negative, don’t feel too discouraged. No can also mean ‘not yet’, especially in these difficult times. Discuss a timeline to follow-up and what else you can do to get the salary raise you are hoping for.“