Best career development advice in 2021

These tips gleaned from FM articles can help accounting and finance professionals as they consider how to invigorate or transform their careers in 2022.

Whether it was adjusting to business upheaval, realising a need for more flexibility, or dealing with new family obligations, 2021 was a year of professional change and challenge for many. The uncertainty of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has caused some finance professionals to rethink or readjust their career trajectory.

The new landscape offers a wealth of career opportunity — and some challenges — for career-focused finance professionals.

To help finance professionals who hope to boost or shift their careers in the coming year, here is part one of our curated list of the best career development advice published in FM magazine in 2021.

Focus on upskilling

Learning new skills and putting effort into career development can offer a new sense of purpose in an accounting or finance professional's role, said Kevin Roeder, vice-president of recruiting at LaSalle Network, as he explained ways to fall in love with your career again.

Roeder wrote: "Taking the initiative to learn more and grow a skillset can help find success in a position and improve job satisfaction. We also encourage talent to continue investing in their development by seeking additional certifications or skills training not only to remain a competitive professional, but because it can also improve their work's efficacy and help them achieve career growth and fulfilment.

"Another way to invest in career development is by joining professional organisations not only to connect with and learn from other professionals in the industry but also because these organisations and associations also provide access to webinars, networking events, and more."

From "3 Ways to Fall In Love With Your Job Again", by Kevin Roeder, 2 July 2021

Look for balance in skills and expertise

Sameer Joneja, head of finance operations and transformation for the Absa Group in Johannesburg, considers perseverance, vulnerability, and tech savvy as essential to success, and as he said in a July interview, it's important for accounting and finance professionals to keep up with the changing world of business.

"If I were starting my career in 2021, I would be fully glued to the fact that the trajectory within the finance function and the larger business has shifted," Joneja said. "Technology has become highly integral in the way we do business, and it has become the life and blood for any finance professional and part of the DNA for every finance function.

"As a finance professional, it is imperative to stay close to the changes from a statutory and regulatory standpoint. In addition, it is important for both new entrants to the profession as well as experienced cadre to build their expertise on the available technological platforms and their passion for digital. This doesn't mean accountants need to become technology specialists themselves. However, having an understanding would be key to embracing as well as leading the change."

From "Banking Finance Leader: A Skills Balance Is Key in 2021", by Drew Adamek, 23 June 2021.

Ask for specific help

Before you approach someone for assistance, it's worth taking some time to figure out exactly what you're hoping they will do for you. Do you want them to read and critique a lengthy project report, or would you like to meet for an hour every other week to review some things? Get specific about what the ultimate objective is, have a plan for improvement, and do some work on your own in preparation.

"Take the initiative so the person knows you're really invested and willing to put in the work," said Carla M. McCall, CPA, CGMA, managing partner of AAFCPAs, a CPA and consulting firm based in New England in the US. "That way they know if they're going to take time out of what they're doing in order to develop your skill, you're really going to be serious about it and it's going to pay dividends."

From "6 Tips for Asking for Help Improving Professional Skills", by Hannah Pitstick, 17 November 2021

Craft your ideal job description

Figuring out how to pivot comes down to locating the intersection of the things you enjoy and are good at and aligning them with your values and priorities, said Caroline Castrillon, career and life coach and founder of Corporate Escape Artist who is based in Austin, Texas, in the US.

Before updating your résumé or CV and beginning your job search, Castrillon recommended crafting your ideal job description.

"What I find is people are highly skilled and could fit in a lot of different positions, but not all of those positions will get you excited to go to work every day," she said.

You can start to envision your ideal job by adjusting different variables to figure out what you want to hold constant and what you want to change. Major variables might include your job title, industry, and area of expertise. For example, if you're an analyst, you could keep that job title but pivot into a different industry like tech or not-for-profit. Perhaps the easiest shift will involve adjusting just one of these variables, while the hardest would entail a complete career transformation.

From "4 Tips for Finance Professionals Looking to Make a Career Pivot", by Hannah Pitstick, 28 September 2021

Resist complacency

The pandemic has affected every industry in some way, meaning it's very possible that your role is not as secure as it once was. Nicola Simpson, an executive career coach based in London, recommended every finance professional make a habit of vigilance by assessing industry changes, observing shifts within their organisation, and keeping an eye out for any signs that their role could be at risk.

"The technological advances have not diminished," she said. "If anything, employers are probably ramping that up and thinking about that as a route for cost savings, so we're going to be seeing consolidation in jobs and roles."

If you're concerned the pandemic has accelerated the automation of some of your skills, this is a good time to consider how you might be able to leverage yourself into a slightly different role or into a broader role.

"None of us can afford to relax into our careers," Simpson said.

Depending on your role, you might consider some professional development, learning a new skill, or searching for a job at a company that seems more likely to weather any instability caused by the pandemic.

"Think about how those changes could impact you and how you can use it as an opportunity to learn something new and pivot, or switch to an organisation that perhaps sees more value in a person-to-person contribution rather than machines," she said.

From "5 Tips for Setting Post-Pandemic Career Goals in 2021", by Hannah Pitstick, 11 February 2021

Teri Saylor is a freelance writer based in the US. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Drew Adamek at