- COVID-19’s impact has extra resonance for young CAs, due to increasing uncertainty about the future.
- Young CAs should use this time to embrace soft skills that will help prepare them for the new world.
- How young CAs communicate with clients is becoming ever more important.
By Sam McKeith
From virtual team meetings and working from home to pay cuts and job losses, COVID-19 has changed work in many ways.
For young CAs in Australia and New Zealand, COVID-19’s impact has extra resonance, increasing uncertainty about the future due to the virus’ economic fallout, which continues to rapidly alter the business landscape.
Griffith University psychology professor Paula Brough urges young workers to think about possible roadblocks ahead, including having hours cut or losing a job as economies falter.
“It really helps to think through the consequences of it happening ‘to me’ and if I lost my job what would happen to the house, the car, insurances and so on ¬– especially if there’s not many other jobs currently available,” Brough says.
“It really helps to think through the consequences of it happening ‘to me’ and if I lost my job what would happen to the house, the car, insurances and so on.”
In this context, it’s key for young professionals to put a priority on mental health.
“They need to give themselves a bit of a break from time to time and it doesn’t do any harm to speak to someone if they need some extra support,” she says.
Improving soft skills
Vinay Iswar CA, managing director at Auckland-based accounting and business advisory firm BetterCo, believes with many clients facing a slowdown in business, now is a good time for young CAs to embrace soft skills that will help prepare them for the brave new world ahead.
“We’re taking on a lot of client stress [but] younger CAs don’t actually talk about it, they don’t talk about it amongst their peers or with their superiors or boss,” he explains.
Client communication is key
Fullstack Advisory founder and CEO, Stuart Reynolds, echoes Iswar’s sentiment, saying it’s how young CAs communicate with clients that’s becoming ever more important.
Reynolds says that’s because in a post COVID-19 world it’s not enough for young CAs just to be technically strong. They need to marry that with highly developed interpersonal skills.
“Most of the clients can go off and access the internet and find the information themselves, but they need us as advisers to provide that extra layer of experience, so we really need to understand our clients,” the Sydney-based CA says.
“What we’re finding is that it’s not what you say, but how you say it that gets remembered. It’s how you say it that really inspires [clients] to take action, whether that’s to meet a deadline, or provide the information that you need to further advise them.”
He urges young CAs to tailor their communication styles to individual clients, rather than deploying a once-size-fits-all approach. This could mean where a meeting with a client once took the form of phone call, now it’s a Zoom call, shared-screen, or visual-heavy workshop.
“It’s not just about words over the phone because the visuals can provide a thousand words, as they say.”
Be ‘forward thinking’ on tech
Iswar says it’s also important to be as tech savvy as possible.
“Part of being innovative and forward thinking and planning for change is looking at different bits of technology, and I’m not talking about Xero and Unleashed,” he says.
“Go and find out, what are the best pricing proposal software companies in the world? What tools are people using to do screen sharing and recording video?
“There’s thousands and thousands of different bits of technology that are coming out per year, and there’s nothing wrong with trying it yourself for six months, then putting your hand up and saying, ‘We should role it out for the firm’”.
Network – virtually
Having the CA designation can be a real bonus as it provides a way to tap into a community of like-minded individuals, says SV Partners Joshua Robb, regional chair of the Newcastle and Hunter chapter of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand.
“It allows you to connect with other people within your industry and to get to know other chartered accountants,” he says. “A lot of my best friends are chartered accountants that I've met through doing the program. If I didn't strive to get that designation, I probably wouldn't have met half of them,” he says.