You need more than great accounting skills in your toolbox

Posted on Tuesday, November 27, 2018 by Gary Hunt

By John C. Navin, Ph.D.

So, you are spending lots and lots of time learning about debits and credits and accrual versus cash. You have all the accounting language down and you are a whiz with Excel. Is that enough to land you the dream job that you want and put you on a successful career path?

Employers will tell you it is not enough; it is the soft skills and professionalism that will set you apart from other candidates who bring similar technical skills to the table.

The true foundation of business is the ability to connect with others and present yourself in a professional manor. These so-called soft skills are appropriately dubbed “people skills.” The ability to listen attentively and to understand alternative points of view will always make you stand out in a job interview and even more so once you are employed. Being conscious of your appearance, a firm handshake and looking your potential employer straight in the eye when interviewing will help you make a positive first impression. As the old saying goes, you never have a second chance to make a first impression.

So how do you work on your soft skills? I encourage you to take the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom. Internships are of tremendous value in this regard, and I recommend you pursue them rigorously during your college career. These opportunities allow you to take the technical skills you learn in class and apply them to the workplace. Also, from these experiences, you learn about company culture, how to dress, how to deal with varying personalities and the importance of punctuality.

I will also share with you one of my favorite things that we do at Ohio Northern. Each year we hold an event at our university’s inn for all the juniors in the Dicke College of Business to educate them on proper etiquette at networking events and during business dining experiences. We begin the evening by holding a mock networking event. We ask students to dress in their formal interviewing attire. Our etiquette expert goes over rules for conversation topics, dress and the proper way to introduce oneself. She also covers information on the proper way to hold to exchange business cards while holding beverages and appetizers.

After our students have spent an hour practicing introductions and enjoying appetizers while circulating among faculty and guests, we move across the hall for a multi-course formal meal. During the meal students learn which fork to use, which bread plate is theirs, how to make a toast, the proper way to pass items among the table and many more important tips for formal dining.

It is a fun experience for all and our students absolutely love it. Why do we do it? When our students go out to interview and are taken for a meal, we want them to be able to concentrate on the interview and not have to worry about figuring out which water glass is theirs or what fork to use. It is one more way we allow students to display their professionalism.

In the end, how we do things over the years has changed, but why we do things remains the same. Connecting with people remains the true bottom line. Presenting yourself as a true professional and possessing a mastery of people skills will separate you from your peers. Take advantage of any opportunity to sharpen your skills. After all, the market place is crowded, and these skills will help you stand out.

John C. Navin, Ph.D., is dean of the Dicke College of Business Administration at Ohio Northern University.


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