Finance careers are changing rapidly. Here’s how to prepare.
The year is 2031. Most of us are still in the workforce, but the finance industry is dramatically different. Automation has replaced routine accounting processes like bookkeeping and reporting. Finance and accounting professionals are now key strategic advisors—using their combination of data analysis skills, technical know-how, and finance savvy to add value throughout the organization. It’s a great time to have a career in finance.
According to a Dell Technologies study, 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet.1 Luckily, experts predict the finance function will become more impactful and integrated throughout the business than ever before. While the evolution of finance and accounting careers is exciting, it’s also somewhat daunting. Case in point: Ernst & Young reports that eight out of 10 finance and accounting professionals aren’t ready to meet the demands of the jobs they’ll have in the next 10 years.2
Which begs the question: What can finance pros do today to be marketable in the future? Here are four ways to start.
1. Connect with cross-functional colleagues
In a fast-paced, data-rich world, innovative partnerships with other business functions will be key. Business leaders have taken note of the mounting research that indicates accuracy and efficiency increase when diverse teams tackle challenges (such as forecasting outcomes).3 So, you can expect cross-functional integration to be the norm in the future. Get ahead by building your network and collaboration skills now.
How to prepare:
- Raise your hand for (or start!) cross-functional projects—working with colleagues in sales, IT operations, and other functions will give you an edge and build your skillset as a trusted advisor to the business
- Reach out to people outside your business unit to learn more about their work and insights; if a PMO exists, look to be a stakeholder or owner in enterprise-wide projects
- Learn more about the Agile methodology or consider an agile finance course
2. Learn to love learning at work
In a study by WorkMatters, global leaders ranked “learning mindset” as one of the top attributes employees will need to succeed in the future.4 Why? The speed of change is transforming organizations into “learn-and-work” ecosystems—where on-the-job learning is constant and critical.
Important note: Prioritizing learning doesn’t mean you need a new degree. Deloitte, IBM, and Apple have announced they no longer require a college degree for every position. Even Google (a company that relied on degrees from specific, prestigious institutions), now recognizes that skills, leadership potential, and intellectual humility are better indicators of employee success than degrees.
How to prepare:
- Make learning new skills a career goal and part of your performance review
- Browse the robust learning library from LinkedIn Learning (which acquired Lynda.com) for courses about top accounting and finance trends
- Do independent research on trends, technology, and processes that interest you
3. Get geeky about data and technology
Finance and accounting professionals are quickly becoming the crucial, strategic link between the business and the data. Today, finance often reviews and reports on data. However, as traditional finance work is automated, organizations will increasingly depend on financial experts to provide foresight and insight—using data to provide advice on where to go next. Finally, as stewards of the data, the finance team will likely control data governance, working with data scientists and technologists to design, configure, and maintain systems.
How to prepare:
- Gain exposure to as much technology and systems as possible—evaluate new systems, review old systems, test upgrades, etc.
- Look for opportunities to learn about data management and data science online and in your organization
- Brush up on “customer service” and advisory skills to help you collaborate with business stakeholders
- Take your database managers out to lunch and learn about their work
4. Forge your own career path
In an age where versatility and skills acquisition is paramount, following the traditional career trajectory isn’t necessary to success. In reality, getting an MBA and climbing the corporate ladder might work against you.5 Instead, focus on cultivating a resume that demonstrates flexibility, proven talents, and success in a wide variety of challenging assignments. If you can’t get the variety and work experience you need at one company, don’t be afraid to move on.
How to prepare:
- Create a wish list for the kinds of projects you’d like on your resume and discuss it with your current boss
- Keep your resume updated with the work you’ve done and skills you’ve acquired
- Be open to moving to a new division or company to keep your career moving forward
- Consider contingent consulting work, where you can choose projects that interest you and get varied experience in a shorter amount of time (Shameless plug: Contact me at Salo to learn more)
The future starts now
Even if the predictions about the future job market aren’t entirely accurate (we can only try and predict the future after all), we can be certain that the workforce is going to significantly transform over the next decade—and, we’ll all be impacted by the shifting landscape. By acquiring new skills and experiences (like those mentioned above), you’ll be ready to meet whatever challenges the future workforce has in-store.
Want more insights about the future of finance roles? See part 2 of this series.