No matter which stage you are in, it is always a good idea for finance professionals to develop, advance, and protect their careers. With so much uncertainty and opportunity, in the marketplace, it pays for professionals to look for ways to broaden and develop their career paths.

To help, we’ve curated some of the best career development advice for professionals.

Embrace uncertainty

Darren Snellgrove, chief finance and operations officer and vice-president of finance at Janssen Global R&D, the pharmaceutical research-and-development (R&D) group for US multinational Johnson & Johnson, said being asked to take on new responsibilities and adapt to quickly changing circumstances is a challenge that professionals will have to get used to.

Technology such as data analytics, machine learning, and automation are helpful tools, but professionals will also need a broad set of skills to influence tomorrow’s business decisions.

Snellgrove said: “It’s always important to start with a broad base of skills early in your career and get lots of diverse experiences and training and education. But then I think you want to zero in on those skills that are going to make a difference.

“The ones I would pick out would be strong analytical skills and particularly evaluation and risk analysis. Learning a variety of different techniques and approaches to financial analysis and risk analysis and knowing when to apply those can be really important.”

He added, “If you can, take that a step further and use analysis to understand value creation and what drives value for your business. Then that’s going to be a game-changer.”

Snellgrove also emphasized that the most important action professionals should take to advance their careers is never stop learning and developing and to master the art of analysis and value creation.

Own your career

It is critical that you be ready to invest time and resources and take ownership of your own career development. Raju Venkataraman, FCMA, CGMA, a negotiation skills trainer and credentialed leadership and career coach in Singapore, offered the following strategies to manage your career and reap the benefits.

1. Improve your self-awareness continually. Before you prepare for the future, it’s important that you understand what traits and behaviors got you to where you are now. Practice internal and external self-awareness, and unearth and resolve your blind spots by seeking feedback.

2. Think about your career vision, and cascade that down into near-term goals by defining career success for yourself and thinking about who and what you want to be. Dream a little.

3. Build a development plan. Determine what you want and what your gaps are. List what skills to acquire, behaviors to change, certifications to get, and work exposure to seek. Get input from your bosses and mentors about what skills they want to see you develop and take action.

4. Build helpful habits. Build habits that make you stronger, healthier, smarter, and more centered and that help you implement your plan. Prioritize and shift away from nonessential practices.

5. Nurture relationships. Network proactively. Effective networking is not about you; it is about the value you add to others, and it does not end when you find a new job. Dig the well before you’re thirsty — whether job searching or not, think of whom you can reach out to each week, without a “need”.

Develop constructive habits

The following small steps can help improve your career even if you are feeling overwhelmed.

Go on loan. Want to try your hand at something new and exciting without leaving the safety of your current job? Try a secondment with another team for all or even just a portion of your work time.

“Attend” events. The rise of webinars, or seminars conducted online, is one of the features of modern work life. Webinars and online conferences often offer “breakout” rooms between sessions for attendees to meet other professionals.

Practise “adjacent” networking. Most people only network within their own field. By reaching out to people in complementary functions and industries, you de-silo your knowledge base and gain exposure to contacts and skillsets that keep you relevant.

Tiny lessons offer big gains: Boot camps, immersives, and university continuing education certificates can take months to complete. Consider the thousands of short courses — many under 90 minutes — that are available online from Udemy, Coursera, edX, and LinkedIn Learning, to name just a few providers. These inexpensive and succinct overview courses offer low entry barriers and high payoffs, teaching you the ins and outs of many finance-adjacent functions without a long commitment.

Stay prepared

Two human resources experts in the US offered simple ways to be prepared for an unexpected job change.

Maximize LinkedIn. Having a LinkedIn profile is a standard strategy for showcasing your education and experience and for maintaining visibility in the marketplace. That LinkedIn profile becomes a more powerful asset when it is “packed to the gills with good information about you”, said Laurie Ruettimann, a human resources professional and author in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Stay connected to your network. An effective network of colleagues and influencers can help you navigate your career, but they won’t serve you in the long run if you don’t maintain relationships with them, said Cheryl Simpson, an executive career coach and president of Executive Resume Rescue, in Westerville, Ohio. “This means keeping your connection alive by checking in with them periodically or congratulating them on their successes,” she said.

Pursue relationships through mentoring. Ruettimann pointed to mentorship as a vital professional component and recommended both serving as a mentor to others and seeking mentors to nurture your own career.

Keep your portfolio up to date. Just like keeping your résumé or CV up to date, Simpson recommended keeping samples of your best work and professional achievements current and accessible.

Invest in professional development. When you are employed, be sure to accept offers to participate in professional development activities. Simpson recommended taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, whether your company pays for it or you cover the cost yourself. After all, professional development is a great way to invest in yourself.

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