This was my speech to the 104 new ACCA Affiliates in Uganda on the 5th September 2014 on value of ACCA membership. I salute and congratulate Affiliates of 2014 once again.
I identify better with real life stories, therefore I chose to reflect on my own journey thus far, though am a believer that my better days are ahead. I preferred to narrow it down to 6 ways of maximizing ACCA membership as follows.
1. Use ACCA to improve your career progression opportunities
My Journey as an affiliate was less than six (6) months. I sat my final ACCA paper in December 2006 and was admitted to membership in May 2007. My stint was short because from when I started studying, I would keep updating my Practical Experience Record (PER) with every single competence I acquired. I was fortunate that my work responsibilities exposed me to a whole range of them. I would therefore give my supervisors to review and sign them off as soon as I updated the PER. By the time I sat my last paper, I had acquired all the competencies required to be an ACCA member. All I needed to do was to apply for membership.
After completing ACCA in December 2006, In January 2007 I was promoted to Senior Accounting Consultant having previously been an Accounting Consultant. ACCA had warmed my appetite for challenge and so in 2008 I started looking to moving into something different. A vacancy arose mid-year for financial consultant and trainer position in the same organization where I worked. It was an unchartered territory for me but I was willing to take it up.
I went through an internal interview and one of the key requirements was one must have an accountancy qualification and I had just got my ACCA membership in May 2007. I started on the new role as Financial Management Consultant and Trainer in August 2008. This role entailed training non-finance managers in understanding financial management, advising on accounting systems set-up and computerized accounting software installation and training.
A year later, August 2009, I was promoted to be the overall Finance Manager of the organization and the Team Leader of its financial services bureau department. This role was quite challenging, including managing staff, customers and their donor relations, proposal writing, staff recruitment, staff appraisal, drafting and reviewing policy manuals, contract negotiation, budget preparation and general financial management roles. Three years later I felt I needed more challenge and so I resigned to go hunting for one. I resigned in September 2012 and served 3 months’ notice to my employer as required for management positions. In October 2012, I received a call from a recruiting firm for a job offer. They read my profile on LinkedIn and one of the key considerations was the ACCA qualification. The long and the short, after going through 3 interviews, a technical test an aptitude test, I got the job.
2. Use the ACCA designation and align your personal brand as well
When you are a member you can use the ACCA designation after your name – a symbol of excellence and recognizable to employers all around the world. Having worked in a management consultancy firm, the clients valued the qualifications so much that we had to list all of them on our business cards. If you want to venture into consultancy, ACCA is a recognized global brand that you can use to be a part of your personal ID just as Doctors or Engineers do. I have sat in several interview panels sourcing for accountants and I can proudly tell you that the ACCA brand comes highly recommended.
However, we as individuals have to align our personal brands to the institutional ACCA brand and be prepared to be different. Key branding areas to consider are: How is your reputation in terms of time management, professionalism, ethics and integrity? Area Qualified Accountant and also a professional accountant in how you brand yourself?
3. Use the professional networks provided by ACCA to raise your profile
Many of us aspire for positions for which we have not yet gained the necessary work experience for. By becoming actively involved in ACCA activities and network panels, you can raise your profile, broaden your professional networks and learn new skills that you can transfer to the workplace.
As part of my PSR (personal social responsibility) I joined the ACCA Uganda network panel in 2008 and was in the technical committee which was and still is tasked to propose and organize the CPD topics. In 2009, I was nominated the vice chair of the panel and became the chairman in 2010. This accorded me the privilege and honor of representing ACCA Uganda members in the Annual International Assemblies in London for two consecutive years. I also represented Uganda in a meeting in Kenya to discuss the impact of the regional integration to ACCA members in the Eastern Africa countries.
Apart from my first trip to London, the network panel was a very good ground for me to gain transferrable skills. I published an article on LinkedIn on how transferable skills come in handy at the workplace when one has no work experience. The network panel was a great forum for me to nurture my leadership skills, team building skills, organizational skills, negotiation skills and people management skills. I acquired writing skills because I had to write opening remarks for every CPD and any other ACCA functions during my tenure. I now write articles on LinkedIn, my personal blog and two Facebook pages.
4. Use ACCA CPDs, AB Magazine and other media platforms keep abreast on new development
ACCA organizes regular CPDs to discuss topical issues affecting the Accountancy profession but also general life issues that would enhance the life of an Accountant to be a holistic one. This when taken advantage of can position members to be ahead of the pack and always on top of their game. The CPDs are challenging, thought provoking and paradigm shifting.
ACCA also keeps members up-to-date with what is happening in the accountancy and business world through a variety of ways including, the Accounting and Business Magazine and member focused social media platforms. These channels avail ACCA members the opportunity to know what is happening globally and may also provide international mobility to your career via the job postings in the forums. When you see what your fellow members have achieved elsewhere, you get challenged to aim higher than you would have without the exposure.
You can post your CV for free on the ACCA Careers. This is the official global jobs portal, providing you with career guidance and free access to browse and apply for hundreds of finance vacancies worldwide – with many recruiters specifically looking for ACCA members.
5. Use ACCA Membership to get exemptions for MBA
The ACCA’s world-class global reputation helps you to earn exemptions for most MBAs. I had the privilege of being awarded a Scholarship by the Canon Collins Trust to study the Edinburgh Business School Long distance MBA. One can be exempted up to four (4) course papers. On the Canon Collins Trust website, one of the eligibility criteria in order to apply for an Edinburgh Business School MBA Scholarship is having a first degree from a recognised university or a professional qualification such as ACCA
6. Finally, Use ACCA to accomplish yourself
An accomplished ACCA according to me would be; Ambitious, Courageous, Creative and Adaptable
Ambitious enough to take on any challenge that leads you towards realizing your career dream or vision. This however assumes that you have your vision for what or where you want to be and when. For instance, when I started my first Job, I said to myself and confidants that I would like to be a Finance Manager in 10 years’ time, and as surely as day follows night, exactly 10 years later; I was appointed to that position.
Courageous enough to stand for integrity and not be compromised even if you are the last man/woman standing. The nature of the Accountancy work exposes one to many opportunities for compromise. When one becomes a member, you then subscribe to the ACCA Members Ethical Code of conduct. This is subject to international disciplinary actions that could lead to de-registration.
Creative enough to think outside the box of accountancy, the box of corporate jobs and explore possibilities of being a job creator instead of a job seeker. My vision is to be an employer sooner than later and I have started taking baby steps towards that.
Adaptable enough to change with technology. The only constant in an ever changing world is change. You can leverage the various social media platforms to promote your brand; you can professionalize the social media instead of just socializing. For instance many recruiters are sourcing candidates from LinkedIn and posting job adverts there as well. Are you on LinkedIn? – I mentioned earlier that I got a job from there, but I have received several job offers and consultancy work from LinkedIn as well.
I joined Facebook just recently to set up a business page for my passion – Gardening. I then started to share my blog posts on financial management on my timeline and a business focused group as well. The post was well received such that a member of the business group requested that I write professional business items on the group’s page on a weekly basis. I thence started a series #professionalizeyourbusiness and I set up a business page The Accountancy and Business Clinic. Some of my friends on Facebook with any accounting, financial, taxation and business challenge now tag me in for my input.
When you do a Google search for your name, what comes up is a sum total of what you want the world to know you for. You can use the various social media forums to advance both your profession and your passion. What are you known? What do you want to be known for? Do a gap analysis and take action.
Be ACCA: Be Qualified, Be Accomplished.
With best wishes,
Lilian Katiso FCCA
Image credit: ACCA ENGLAND