How to step up and maximise your opportunities

As a newly qualified accountant, how can you ensure that you make the most of
the opportunities that come your way? There are two sides to this coin, the
first is knowing yourself and the second is finding an organisation that is able
to sponsor and develop your talent. As part of our research with talented
individuals we have identified six areas as the key indicators to maximizing
your talent potential.

Identify your vision and ambition
If you don’t know where you want to go, how will you know when you have got
there? In accountancy, it is very easy to join a firm when you qualify and still
be there when you retire. We are not saying that this is a bad career choice but
if you are ambitious and you want to become a partner, or you want to look more
creatively at how to use your skills; it is important to regularly take time to
reflect. You also need to make sure that you have a very clear agenda for how to
achieve your goals.

Develop a clear set of skills
Knowing your strengths is a critical part of building confidence. Making a list
of your strengths is an important first step in building your potential. Most
successful people have one, or more of the following attributes: self belief,
personal presence, wisdom, ability to persuade others, status and respect.
Self-confidence is developed over time from a heightened awareness of your own
abilities and competence through handling real issues and challenges. By looking
for opportunities to continually build your knowledge and broaden your
experience you will be building a solid foundation from which all development
can grow.

Personal drive and determination
Any change requires effort from the individual. Of course, it is possible to sit
back and let it happen, but those who have the personal commitment and drive
will find change more fulfiling. This is because they have a level of control by
being able to negotiate how it happens. Getting yourself in shape physically and
mentally can be an important part of your preparation. Think about the ways you
handle challenging situations. Do you prepare effectively for them? Do you
assess your own capabilities? Do you contact colleagues and other team members
who have relevant expertise? Are you willing to ask for help?

Influence and control network
Most successful people have a very effective sponsor network. There may be one
or two people who you know that have a special ability to inspire you and help
you progress your career. Giving an impression of quiet confidence can encourage
others to support you. Do you have a network of people who can stimulate,
energise and encourage you? How active is your network, how often do you review
your contacts? Identify any gaps, or opportunities for extending your network;
include people in and outside of work.

Knowledge and performance
One of the very real challenges for talented individuals is understanding their
own potential. In our work as talent coaches, one of the key reasons why
talented people under-perform is often due to a lack of recognition from
themselves or others about how talented they really are. Some of the people that
we interviewed in our research also felt that they were talent capped, either by
the people around them, or their organisation. We all need feedback, it helps us
to grow and develop, but we also need to find the right people to give it to us.
Others can help you grow, but you should be in charge of your own destiny.

Continuous learning
How prepared are you to accept the need to change? Once you have received
feedback, you should be proactive in doing things differently. Before starting
on the journey to achieve your ambition it is often helpful to identify what is
important to you; particularly if your ambitions are particularly challenging,
or will involve you in making personal sacrifices. Harvey Rose FCA, suggests
that core skills that are sought out in a partner include: being technically
sound, pro-activity in practice management duties and responsibility, positive
attitude, desire and ambition, decisive, team player, conscientious and an
ability to create business.

In our experience companies that have succeeded in attracting, engaging and
retaining talent have done so because of its wide commitment to development.
Many of the organisation’s top management have invested considerable amounts of
time in mentoring, talented employees both formally and informally. What you
should look for in an organisation depends on the person, but having senior
people showing an interest in ideas and personal development is a very important
factor in why talented people stay with an organisation.

Kaye Thorne is associate partner, Emergent Edge and the co-author of The
Essential Guide to Managing Talent, published by Kogan Page

What to look for…

Here are some indicators that you should be looking for:

1. Is there a definable organizational brand?

2. Does the organisation actively demonstrate its values in the way that they
conduct their business?

3. Does this equally apply in the way that they handle their people? Is there
an environment, which attracts potential employees to want to come and work for
them, which also encourages and develops diversity?

4. Is there a clear strategy for developing talent? Are they committed to
identifying and recognising talent at all levels in the organisation?

5. Do they have an infrastructure that allows individuals freedom to
innovate, generate ideas and receive feedback?

6. Do they provide learning and development, which is focused, innovative and

7. Is there a coaching and learning culture? Do they give honest, open and
supportive feedback on performance?

8. Do they embrace change, work flexibly, recognise and reward individual
contribution? How do they recognise and reward exceptional performance?

9. Do they seek to be leading edge and an organisation that others benchmark

10. Have they implemented a process of continuous improvement and

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