Make the most of your training contract
You have written many exams and survived years of university and are finally starting your training contract. Congratulations on making it this far! The next calling now is how you maximise your training contract to achieve the career you always dreamed of.
Being a professional and chartered accountant (CA(SA)) is more than just about passing exams. Training contracts are a period of employment before you become a CA(SA): they give you an opportunity to shape your career and are a great foundation for the kind of professional you will become. The calibre of CA you become determines the opportunities and experiences you will have in your career in future. The three years of the contract aren’t something to dread or want to ‘get over’ as quickly as possible − here are some tips and tricks to help you along the way.
- Stay focused on your goal of becoming a CA and what you need to do to achieve it. Ensure you prioritise your exams when the time comes.
- Build strong relationships with your colleagues, including superiors. They can provide valuable feedback and support as you progress through your contract and beyond. Your colleagues may end up being industry peers, clients, mentors, and sponsors. In the same way it takes a village to raise a child, your career will be accelerated by the people you surround yourself with. It may initially be intimidating to regularly interact with your colleagues from various backgrounds, but it will get easier with practice. Be yourself and speak about things that interest you, people will relate to you.
- Attend socials organised by your employer/teams and engage. This will allow you to connect with colleagues beyond the boardroom. People enjoy working with people who are personable and likeable. Time away from your laptops allows you to connect and build relationships even more.
Be proactive, communicate and ask a lot of questions. Ask for work when you are idle − this will allow you to assist the team and add value. The more questions you are asking, the more you are learning. Every one of your peers was also once a beginner, so don’t be afraid to ask.
Stay organised. Keep detailed records of your work and track your progress. This will help you stay on top of your workload and ensure that you are meeting your goals.
- Keep learning. Continuously seek out opportunities to learn and grow. Attend training sessions, read industry publications, and stay up to date with technical requirements. Also, invest time in the development of other skills such as interpersonal skills. These are not necessarily taught in school but can make such a difference in working with people. Do not limit learning to your planned engagements. Participate in various ad hoc tasks your employer may have. No matter how random they may appear, they help to build your interpersonal skills.
- Seek out opportunities to work on new projects, learn new skills and take on additional responsibilities. This will help you build your experience and demonstrate your value to your employer.
- Make mistakes. Every professional has made a mistake in the past and so will you: this is normal. Once you have identified a mistake, discuss it with your seniors including how it can be resolved. Apologise for it, take the learning and move forward.
- Ask for regular feedback to help you identify areas where you need to improve and give you a sense of how you are progressing. Ask your manager or supervisor for feedback and be open to constructive criticism. This should be at certain milestones during a project or at the end. Use those development areas for your upcoming projects to try to improve. Ask for tips or assistance from your team members if you are not sure how to get better in a specific area.
Balance work and life. It is important to maintain a healthy work/life balance, especially during the contract, which can be incredibly demanding. Take care of yourself and make time for the things you enjoy outside of work. Ensure you are present and giving your best during working hours to ensure work is performed efficiently and hopefully allow you enough ‘life hours’.
Doing at least the above will set you up for a solid and potentially life-changing career. After passing so many exams, you have what it takes to come out as a brilliant professional who will make strides in the profession, so grab those opportunities.
Manoka Mathye CA(SA) is a business and career coach. You can find her on www.yourcorporatehustle.com and Manoka Mathye on LinkedIn.