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Fantastic accountants and where to find them* or a couple of words about the work of an accountant in an accounting office

Ewelina ZAWIERUCHA
Accounting Manager at RSM Poland

Over the last couple of months, I have been very intensively involved in the recruitment process in our organisation and I talked to male and female candidates who wanted to learn something more about the work in a specific workplace, which an accounting office most certainly is. In wanting to met the expectations, this post has been written for all those who would like to pursue or continue their accountancy career.

Who are we?

To start with, I will briefly describe what the Accounting Department at RSM Poland looks like. In accounting offices, the Accounting Department may employ a different number of staff. At RSM Poland, it is one of the largest departments; however, it is divided into Teams that can be called small, because they tend to have from two to seven people.

What do we do?

Our everyday work is mainly about providing accounting and tax advisory services to clients who chose to cooperate with us. The number of clients a Team has to handle can be different, and so it may be one large client or a couple of smaller ones. Clients run different types of business, yet they usually involve services or a trade of goods. These are usually entities with foreign capital, and their books are kept in the form of a full accounting system. Therefore, we are no stranger to daily struggles with such taxes as CIT and VAT, accounting for the business transactions of our clients and doing year-closing work or preparing financial statements.

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Am I suited for this kind of job?

My favourite sketch about the work in accountancy is the one from Monty Python, in which a certain man wants to change his job and he is desperate to become a lion tamer, but after all the interviews of the aptitude test it turns out that he should become an accountant, which he already is (you can find it quite easily, just type: boring accountant).

We can laugh at it, yet we must acknowledge that when it comes to the accounting profession, the stereotypes about people doing this job are still holding strong.  The most popular associations and connotations include: dull, unimaginative, not very flexible, focused on highly repetitive activities and often perceived as not generating any profit but rather being a burden for an organisation. I will skip the external features such as glasses with a lanyard or a perm, so characteristic for a typical representative of my profession (because it is common knowledge that in most cases an accountant is a woman).

To those who think along these lines, we must say it clearly that the profession of an accountant itself as well as the way of performing it have changed a lot over the years. An accountant in an accounting office must face liaising with many people in different roles (clients, colleagues, clerks, etc.). Their success or the opposite, failure, often depends on how they communicate with them. Hence, this work requires the skills of presenting your arguments. It also takes consistency and some kind of decisiveness which is often confused with the lack of a flexible approach. It also involves constant balancing between the obligations towards the employer and clients. Many times it also means being involved in negotiations between these two parties and reconciling their conflicting interests.

What should be pointed out, as well, is that to a large extent we work differently than, let’s say, ten years ago, i.e. we have access to new technologies and IT solutions, we streamline and simplify, and it speeds up our work greatly, with repetitive activities being gradually eliminated. Therefore, those who wish to pursue their accounting career often find it difficult to understand what this profession is about in its essence, because they would often start from one area only, e.g. accounting receivables. In such case they may feel that this profession is simply dull. Is must be said, however, that work in accounting does involve repetitive activities that must be done; however, as you get more experienced, they no longer consume most of your working time. For sure, this is by no means a boring profession, in particular in an accounting office, as there are quite a lot of tax and accounting topics that keep cropping up.

And it would also be cliché to say that accounting is a profession that requires you to learn and improve your skills all the time. The reason behind this is that tax regulations often change, and they frame our professional landscape to a large extent. It is a requirement, though, to update our knowledge and skills in order to be able to meet the growing expectations of the environment (clients, tax authorities, our superiors, etc.). And it is not just about the awareness of tax regulations, but also being familiar with financial and accounting software and IT solutions used for organising the document flow as well as handling solutions dedicated to reporting for management purposes. Thus, an accountant may and should be someone who enjoys learning and developing their skills and abilities.

The common perception of the personality traits of a good accountant has remained unchanged over the years. It is important to be conscientious, patient, methodical and responsible. An accountant should be a person who likes peace and order, yet it may mean that those who enumerate these traits fail to notice that the work of an accountant also involves a certain degree of variability and does not mean you will be working in silence and complete isolation. What is also often forgotten is the fact that a good accountant should have good analytical thinking skills and the ability to integrate information from different sources that many a time may be quite fragmentary. This work begins to resemble broad tax consultancy and no longer boils down to merely processing the provided documents. More and more depends on how quickly we respond; therefore, good work management is essential to cope with the growing number of responsibilities we are given. However, this involves an additional burden of the advisory function and definitely requires you to be very flexible in the way you act.

Wrapping up: the accounting profession takes more than just skills acquired in the course of your education, training, etc.; it is also about your approach to work expressed in the work ethics. And this is the message I would like to leave you with, readers of this post.

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*title borrowed from J.K. Rowling

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