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For a Successful Career be Aggressive from Day One and Don’t Let Age Hold You Back

What are the keys to success for a finance professional?

Can one expect to achieve success at a certain age or by reaching a set number of years of experience? Given that some professionals achieve more by age 30 than others achieve by age 50, the clear answer is no. There must be something more to the equation than simply putting in long, hard hours of work, year after year. Without traction and forward momentum, professionals can “spin their wheels” rapidly while staying in the same place.

Ben Mulling is a good example of a finance professional who took on significant responsibility relatively early in his career. As a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP), he became CFO of TENTE Casters Inc. at age 28.

Forbes ran an interview with Ben in which he revealed some of the keys to his success. Here is a summary:

  • “Soft skills” such as communication, as well as leadership (i.e., taking initiative), are rare yet critical distinguishing factors for young finance professionals.
  • Problem-solving ability, i.e., knowing how to solve a problem without a how-to guide nearby, is a technical skill set that finance professionals need to develop.
  • Continuing education is key for professional development, even for those with many years of experience. Finance professionals need to constantly push themselves and learn new things.
  • Professional certification, such as the CMA credential, is helpful and important in developing skills and advancing one’s professional career.
  • Get involved with the profession by joining professional organizations. This helps build your network and develop leadership and team building skills: “The constant refinement of skills – communication, leadership and teamwork – is key to career development.”
  • Think through your personal branding, and protect your brand. For example, be careful about what you do online that prospective employers can see.
  • Explore different opportunities, such as tax, cost accounting, IT-related work, and so forth, so that you can specialize in an area that interests you.
  • Get involved in seminar and other learning activities to build your skills, meet people, and development your ability to communicate.

And here’s a final gem to tuck away: “In the end, strong communication and leadership skills will set apart a senior accountant from a CFO and a good candidate from a great candidate.”