In a job market that’s always changing and evolving, strategic thinking is a core competency that every job-seeker should have – especially as a CPA! While they occupy a more cookie-cutter role in some contexts, CPAs are also very well-positioned to actively participate in their company’s development.
The key to becoming a good strategist is knowing how to take calculated risks and make well thought-out decisions based on the goals outlined by your company, department, or current project.
In most cases, strategic thinking isn’t something you can learn in school – it’s a skill that’s developed over time. It’s a potent mix of professional experience and three key elements: creativity, analysis, and communication.
So, how can you be more strategic? Practice makes perfect! Here are seven tips to help you get started.
1. let your curiosity run free
This is one of the best pieces of advice we can possibly give you. Being curious allows you to learn new things, adopt new perspectives, and make exciting discoveries. It also helps you nurture your creativity and think up new ideas with ease. In your daily life and at work, ask questions, read specialized websites or publications, and show interest in the people around you. Get to know your competitors, pursue training that focuses on developing creativity, and attend conferences hosted by professional orders or experts.
2. sharpen your communication skills
The best solutions aren’t worth much if no one knows they exist! Refine the way in which you share your point of view, and develop your capacity to rally your coworkers around a cause. You should also never underestimate the importance of listening to and understanding your colleagues. Practice by speaking up during meetings, preparing points you want to discuss in advance, or signing up for a public speaking or debate club.
3. break down barriers
If you want to sharpen your strategic thinking, you’ll need a thorough understanding of the company you work for. Get to know your colleagues’ responsibilities and issues, no matter their department. Invite a coworker from another department for a coffee to discuss your personal challenges, ask one of your managers to be your mentor, or get involved in the company’s social club. This will give you an in-depth understanding of each situation.
4. prove yourself as a leader
Get involved, be seen! It’s the best way to develop your skills. If the opportunity arises, ask to spearhead a project, share your ideas, and call upon other people’s talents to create effective solutions.
5. practice making decisions
Without being irresponsible, you need to learn how to make decisions. Analyze the situation, evaluate pros and cons, calculate risks and benefits, then go for it. You need to be able to back up your choices, but don’t let your search for justifications stop you from taking action. Do some research on the different types of decision-making models – they may come in handy.
6. get off the beaten path
Try and take a step back when you’re working on your daily tasks. Ask yourself if you can use a different methodology or a new tool to add even more value to your work. What could you change to better serve the goals and interests of the company, or your clients? If you want to approach your challenges with a new perspective, ask someone who is totally removed from the situation for some help, like a close friend or a coworker in another department.
7. accept that making mistakes is part of the process
Don’t think of each mistake as a failure, but a golden opportunity to learn, expand your horizons, and perfect your skills. Just don’t make the same one twice!
Whether you’re an intern or a manager, developing your strategic thinking abilities will allow you to play a more active role in your company’s evolution, and discover sustainable solutions to problems you encounter. The earlier you start sharpening this aspect of your personality, the more opportunities will come your way. CPAs that can prove their worth as strategists are viewed as trusted partners, forever in problem-solving mode.
When it comes to strategic thinking, diversifying your experience will give you a broader perspective. We have helped hundreds of CPAs with their career advancement. If you think you’re ready for a new challenge