Monday 24 November 2014

The benefits of on-the-job networking

Most job-networking advice follows the same script: hit the pavement, connect with industry peers on social media, get yourself known. But what can you do to advance your career without jumping ship.
Here are five tips on how to get all the benefits of networking without leaving your current company.

1. Join company clubs and groups

If you work for a mid-sized or larger firm, it’s likely they have clubs and groups that bring people together from different areas to share knowledge, skills and experience. Do they have meet-ups and team sports outside of work? This can be a good way to have fun while getting to know your colleagues better.

2. Polish your skills

One of the best ways to gain a competitive edge within your own company is to join a group or association. Workshops, seminars and conferences can give you a bird’s-eye view of industry trends and best practices. If the extra skills and knowledge you gain can benefit the company, your employer might even be prepared to pay for the cost of membership.

3. Volunteer

This is another good way to broaden your horizons – and career options – without joining the throng of job hunters. Unpaid or pro-bono work can show that you are sensitive to social causes while also raising your profile with colleagues and managers. If you can get them to join in as well, it can be a good way to bond with them.

4. Nurture relationships

Everyone wants to carve out a great career path, but some forget this can only be achieved by doing the right thing by their colleagues and the company. Getting ahead in your career depends very much on the relationships you build along the way. Polish your listening skills, look for opportunities to make other people’s jobs easier and provide a helping hand whenever possible. It will pay dividends later.

5. Be thankful

A quick ‘thank you’ email takes only a few seconds and shows the recipient you appreciate what they did for you. Other small gestures – such as treating a colleague to lunch or bringing a cake to the office – might seem a little cheesy, but they can go a long way towards making you a valued and well-liked person around the office.

Also keep in mind that hiring and training a new employee is expensive, and most companies are willing to invest heavily in retaining their best staff. If you can give them reason to do so, the rewards can be great.

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Wednesday 19 November 2014

Five early career milestones to hit

It’s never too early to start identifying or striving to reach career milestones. Here are five classic career goals you should aim to achieve during your first few years as a graduate.

1. Get really good at what you do

It doesn’t matter which tax courses you’ve completed at university or how much you think you know, as a new employee you’ll quickly become aware of just how much you need to learn. Seize every opportunity you can to broaden your knowledge, including gaining insight from bosses and colleagues, as well as sharpening your skills from the taxation education your employer offers. One day you’ll wake up and think to yourself, “You know, I’m now actually pretty good at my job.”

2. Get that first promotion (and the second and third)

No matter how minor it is, that first title bump creates the momentum that will hopefully push you all the way to the top of the tax industry. Don’t waste a minute starting your ascent up the ladder.

3. Work overseas

Take advantage of being young – and relatively commitment free if you’re working for a firm that offers overseas postings. Aside from the excitement of living somewhere such as New York or London, you’ll develop a new maturity and a broader, well-rounded outlook on life and work.

4. Manage others

Once you’ve learnt how to manage yourself, you’ll face the much more complicated task of managing others, which, depending on how good you are at it, can be either incredibly frustrating or wildly rewarding. Remember that if you’re good at managing yourself and your workload, you can always rely on having a job. But if you have the far rarer skill of also being good at managing others, you can rely on having a highly paid and high-powered executive position.

5. Add to your qualifications and expand your skill set

After spending almost a couple of decades in full-time education, it can be tempting to take a long sabbatical from study and focus on gaining real-world experience. However, you’re unlikely to reach many of the future milestones if you don’t expand your skill set, either by undertaking further tax training in the form of a CTA1, CTA2A, CTA2BCTA3, Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law or Master of Taxation, or by pursuing qualifications in complementary fields, such as people management.

In today’s crowded workforce, you need to demonstrate you’re a go-getter from the get-go. While you don’t need to adopt all the milestones suggested above, you should have a clear set of goals you’re actively working towards if you want to reach your full potential.

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Monday 17 November 2014

Landing that graduate position

So you’re hunting for that elusive graduate position, wondering what employers in the tax industry want and how can you impress them. Here are three pieces of advice, plus some career words of wisdom straight from the horse’s mouth.

1. Having a good personality matters

If you’ve managed to graduate with your degree firmly in hand, you’re probably more than up to the technical side of the job. What employers will be keen to establish is whether you’ll be a good cultural fit. Try to establish a good rapport with them and let your personality shine through.

2. Don’t place too much emphasis on your tax education

Trust us, your employer understands you only completed one or two tax courses and have largely forgotten what you learnt. There’s no need to talk up your skill set given they’ll be enrolling you in taxation education if they decide to hire you.

3. Exaggeration is acceptable – lying isn’t

Interviewers expect you to talk yourself up – it demonstrates you’re keen to get the position – but they won’t appreciate being seriously misled. Make sure you don’t cross the line by pretending to have a Master of Taxation when you actually don’t.

Here’s what two respected tax professionals look for in their job applicants.

Daleen Van der Merwe, HR manager at DKM

“When employing graduates, we pay more attention to whether their attitudes and personality are such that they will fit into our existing team, rather than focusing just on their academic record. They need to be the type of person who is prepared to ask questions and be ready to learn. They also need to be comfortable with starting at the bottom and have realistic expectations.
“We’ve found that those who’ve done extra study, such as a Master of Taxation, straight after their undergraduate degree are overqualified and inexperienced. We prefer that people come to us and then do the CTA1 program while working here.”

Martin Booth, partner at Moore Stephens

“I used to focus heavily on the academic side, but then found that I also had to give thought to cultural fit – is the person going to have the ability to get along with other staff? Are you going to be confident putting them in front of clients? That said, you still need to have a fairly good CV behind you.
“If someone took the initiative and did the CTA1 at their own expense before applying for a job here, that would certainly be to their advantage. The issue many employers have with Gen Y is not so much a lack of skills as an attitude of entitlement. So someone who is going to invest their own time in broadening their skill set, either before or after being employed here, would always be looked favourably upon.”

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Thursday 13 November 2014

Getting the most out of your Gen Y colleagues

The common perception surrounding today’s graduates is that they are entitled, unmotivated individuals who know nothing of hard work. So how can you best work alongside the bright young things that are your Gen Y colleagues? Here are five quick tips on how to work productively with younger staff.

1. Treat them as people first

Senior staff may be content to quietly toil away at their desks all day, but young workers also want to work in a place where they can connect with others. Before asking whether that spreadsheet is ready first thing Monday morning, ask your Gen Y colleague about his or her weekend. Make it clear that you see them as real people, not just cogs in the corporate machine.

2. Challenge their skills

Young workers have oodles of energy, so don’t be afraid to use it! Despite the stereotype, Gen Yers are eager to learn. The best option is to give them stretch assignments that will challenge their skills, while still making sure they get support and recognition along the way. They are the leaders of tomorrow, so you will also be laying a solid foundation for their future.

3. Acknowledge their achievements

Another popular stereotype is that young people are self-absorbed. But weren’t most of us self-conscious and hungry for approval early in our own careers? Let them know you appreciate their contributions, however insignificant. If they feel valued, they will also feel more positive and motivated.

4. Be flexible

Your Gen Y colleagues grew up in a world that indulges them with an almost endless variety of ways to access information and complete a task. This doesn’t mean letting go of all structure, but you will get better results from your Gen Y workmates if you let their creativity and initiative flourish, just as long as they are clear on what they need to deliver. Give them space to work smarter, not harder, and they will be more productive and satisfied.

5. Be socially responsible

Generation Y is already rising through the ranks as the next wave of leaders and policymakers. They have grown up in an age of rapid social change and pressing environmental concerns, and they want to take a leading role in shaping their future. Jump on social media to discover which issues matter most to them. Make the workplace green – reduce paper usage, conserve energy and put in bike racks for staff who pedal to work.

Remember that Gen Yers really do want to make a contribution and forge a valuable, lasting career. Are you ready to offer the flexibility, support and recognition that will convince them to stay with you?

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If you are a tertiary education student, The Tax Institute can help you progress in your career journey.

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Monday 10 November 2014

Public or private: Which pathway are you suited to?

A key decision for accountants and tax advisors early in their careers is whether to choose corporate or public practice. Deciding between the two really comes down to what motivates you in the workplace and how well you think the two career types would suit your personality.

The people’s person

Public practice is arguably the more challenging of the two, offering you the chance to get to grips with lots of different companies, clients and business sectors. It’s a great opportunity to garner broad knowledge about the commercial world and international tax, in many cases requiring you to liaise with colleagues from other countries and jurisdictions.

The financial rewards can also be higher. The big firms are recruiting enthusiastically, which means opportunities to develop your career are in abundance, and there is usually a clear path for those determined to make partner.

However, public practice can be highly demanding, sometimes stressful and often requires periods when you work long hours and are travelling away from the office and from home.

Private preferred

Corporate practice offers the chance to learn about a business and an industry sector in greater depth. While the monetary rewards are not always as high as public practice, there is still scope for bonuses, share schemes and other perks.

A better work-life balance is one of them, not only due to the fact that you can typically expect to work more predictable, nine-to-five hours, but also because the more progressive companies will offer other benefits such as flexible working. There is also every chance that with such highly valued and specialised skills your job will be highly secure too.

Not everyone is suited to the corporate side. It can mean the professional challenges are less diverse and are often not fast-paced. A long tenure at one or two companies may not be for everyone either.

The opportunities for career advancement on the corporate side, however, are bright. For example, tax professionals are increasingly in demand at publicly quoted companies to help finance professionals with their reporting.

A background in accountancy is increasingly important in the boardroom as well. It means those looking for senior roles can expect to be considered for the top jobs – 95 per cent of Australian CFOs say this increases the likelihood of someone being appointed to the executive board.

No matter which accounting pathway you choose, hard work, further education, perseverance and dedication will see you thrive.

Give yourself the edge with free Student Membership

If you are a tertiary education student, The Tax Institute can help you progress in your career journey. 
Find out about Student Membership.