Ask our HR expert Darren Payne, Robert Half International!
In this column the HR expert Darren Payne from Robert Half International in Austria answers your questions on career planning and job change. Write your requests to firstname.lastname@example.org. Selected questions will be answered here - anonymously, of course.
What should be my next step?
Dear Mr Payne,
In last year I have finished my studies (corporate finances & controlling in Poland). Nowadays I am working for a manufacture company as a kind of controller/modeller, I participate in ICV and moreover in the beginning of this year I have started studying for a CIMA exam. My question is: During a study I was engaged in some international programmes, assosiations, some charity work, but now because of my speciality I am cut off. What do you reccomend me, I mean in which organisations/institutions I can have possibility to connect working as a financial control specialist and at the same time be engaged in organisations as well. How should I start ? What should be my next step?
This seems to be a time & commitment issue. If you want to pursue charitable activities besides your daytime job then you really should communicate this to your employer or next employer before commencing your job. You will still have to show and convince your employer of your commitment to fulfilling you duties within the arranged timeframe. Alternatively you could pursue a part-time job or even try and kill two birds with one stone and keep a lookout for a rewarding position within a charitable organization. They need highly qualified finance specialist like yourself too. Good luck!
Should I write an unsolicited application?
I am looking for a new job, but can’t find any job advertisements that fit my qualifications and experience. Now I thought about writing an unsolicited application. Do you think this is a promising idea?
I think it is a really good idea to write unsolicited applications because you show self-confidence, motivation and that you can be proactive. These are all attributes an employer is looking for. Before writing the application you should truthfully analyse your own strengths and weaknesses. Further, it is important that you collect as much information as you can about the company you want to work for and be able to explain why you chose this particular company.
The content will be the same as in every other application with the difference that you can’t refer to a specific job ad. Make sure to mention the following information: Who you are, your education and your attained qualifications. Your current occupation, the position you are interested in and of course the reason for choosing the respective company.
Good luck with your application.
What should I take into consideration while writing an application?
At my current employer I don’t have the chance to climb the career ladder. Because of this I want to apply for a new job. As some years have passed since I wrote my last application, could you please advise me on what I should take into consideration while writing it?
You should be aware that a really good application is not written within five minutes. Therefore it is important to take your time. On the other hand, the HR manager usually decides after five minutes whether the application is interesting or not. This means that it must be perfect. To give you a brief overview, the formatting should be homogeneous, content should describe your qualifications and reasons why you are applying for the job, and, of course without any spelling mistakes. It is important that you adapt every application individually to each job and company.
It is not necessary that you fulfil every requirement mentioned in the advertisement, but you should make clear that you are willing to learn. If the contact person is not mentioned in the ad, you should think about contacting the company to clarify this point. These are the most important things you have to take into account. Good luck in your new job.
Financial Industry: Which skills are especially in demand?
I finish my studies this year and I'm planning to enter the financial industry. Which skills are especially in demand?
As a young professional, especially practical experience, such as industry relevant internships, are essential and could be decisive. Ideally, you have gained experience in the financial sector over a longer period. In this way you are unmistakably signalling to a potential employer that you know about the job and are clearly making a statement about where the journey is going. In times of increasing international networking, languages are important, especially very good English skills. Having stayed abroad, perhaps as part of your studies, is an advantage but not always decisive. Computer know-how is for sure absolutely important. You should be able to apply all current Office solutions. Besides technical knowledge soft skills are increasingly in demand. Attributes such as initiative, creativity, teamwork and flexibility are important. Similarly, you should be prepared to carry on learning. If you are flexible, nothing stands in the way for a successful career! Good luck!
Do you recommend social media as a search tool?
I’ve seen quite a lot of job offers recently on social networks. Do you recommend using social media as a search tool? And how can I successfully use it?
Thank you in advance!
Social media provides a lot of opportunities: researching potential employers, benefitting from an active network when on the lookout for a new challenge or “self-advertising” through articles in professional forums. However, if you want to use social media as a career tool, you must take into account that your profile on networks like Facebook or Xing are the first impression and just to coin the phrase “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”. Therefore it should always be kept up-to-date and interesting. Also think about the photo you are using: It would be best to use one that could also be used for potential applications. Also note that more doesn’t always mean better. Cultivate your network and consider well whom to add to your contacts. I also recommend visiting forums of trade journals or participating in specific groups on social media sites. This allows interaction with peers on a regular basis. Thus also interesting job offers can result from these contacts. And the most important thing: Inform your close network about your interest in a new challenge. Only those who know you might just think of you when reading an interesting job ad.
All the best!
How to ask for the application status
Should I send a text or call HR to know my application status in their company? And how will I show my interest in their company after the interview?
Thank you in advance for your advice,
Many thanks for your question.
I understand completely that you are really keen on getting some information about your application. But don’t pester the HR department too much – especially in large companies the recruitment process can take up to 8 weeks. In my opinion you can start to inquire after two or three weeks. Mostly, it is more advantageous to call than to write, because you can respond directly, maybe even build a certain rapport and stick to their mind. But remember to stay professional at all times.
To express your interest in the job, you can write a short e-mail after the interview to show your appreciation and enthusiasm about the company and the position available.
My ex-boss offered me a job again
My ex-boss offered me a job again. How should I react to this job offer? And how can I ensure that the reasons for my job change are a thing of the past. What should I consider when I re-enter the old company?
In reality it’s nothing unusual. The majority of employers would give former employees another chance. If in principle you always felt comfortable in the company and merely changed the job to gain new experiences or to accept a new challenge, you have good chances. However, before returning to your previous employer you should check, if this really means career advancement. Also, evaluate the possible pitfalls. Both, you and the company, have developed further over time – mutual ideas and expectations should be discussed in detail to make sure everybody’s needs are meet with such a decision. Something else to consider: With social media it is easy to remain in contact with former colleagues or bosses. So you could follow the processes in the old company and discover potentially interesting vacancies at an early stage. At the same time your former boss is up-to-date with your development and new skills and may lead to renewed contact when filling a new position.
How I can push my career?
I have been working as staff for several years. Now I’d like to scale up to a position with managerial responsibility. I already had some professional training, but it seems as if my career is standing still at the moment. Could you give me some advice how I can push it?
First of all you should try to have a conversation with your boss. As a first step towards your goal it can be very important to at least show that you are ready and willing to take on more responsibility. Perhaps there’s the possibility to take over more responsibility within the company. Your employer may also have a budget that covers training costs (partially). Take into account that professional training courses are often not enough, if you want to climb the ranks. Most companies require good soft skills like the ability to communicate, flexibility and assertiveness from their managers. Therefore it would be useful to take a good look at the many soft skill courses on offer. But don’t even try to attend them all. Choose only those that support your ambition in the best possible way. It is advisable to be selective and try to find out how other people (friends, peers and internet) have rated the courses you think may suit your aims. Your top priority however should be a career plan. Think about which position you want to reach and which trainings, positions or even companies can help you in reaching your goal. Good luck.
Application via e-mail or by post?
I'm interested in applying for a job as controller, but the announcement doesn't say if candidates should apply by e-mail or by post. Do you know which communication path is preferred by HR representatives in general?
the preference depends on the company, where you want to apply for a job. In the global employment market companies mostly favour an application via e-mail. Many firms even have an online form on their website, which you could use very easily. But to be sure, it would be the best to contact the HR representative. In this way you don't only get to know the favoured communication path but also show your interest and the willingness to respect the company's preferences.
All the best!
Envisage your future!
Dear Mr. Payne,
I am Ajay, a Engineering (BE in Electronics and communication) graduate from VTU university INDIA. I finished studies on June 2009 and I joined a telecommunication company as tester engineer. It was a field job and involving a lot of travelling from city to city. So I left that job. Now I am in confusion to pursue my career in either Networking or in Software??? Please advise me which is good to me and suggest some course pertaining to that.
Firstly, you should make up your mind about yourself. Take enough time and honestly contemplate your personal strengths and weaknesses. Talk with your friends to find out, what it is you really want to achieve. Envisage your future - in which industry do you see yourself? Choose your next employer carefully; do you know someone working for the company you're interested in? Consider asking which development programs are in place, which career opportunities/path can be offered to you? At this early point in your career these aspects are much more important than the salary, for example. Another important part of your career success is your network. Cultivate your contacts and stay in touch with them - they could be your door opener to your next dream job. And gain, further qualifications pertaining to the position/industry you're interested in must be considered carefully - invest at an early stage and reap even greater awards later. Take every chance to broaden your horizon. Good luck!
Finance jobs abroad
Dear Mr. Payne,
after ten years working as a finance expert in Austria, I'm planning to work at least some years abroad. I know the code of behaviour for applications in Austria or Germany well, but which rules do I have to follow in the Asia-Pacific region?
applications for different countries follow different rules. I can recommend a very good website to you that answers nearly all questions about the topic "working abroad". It's called "Finance Jobs Abroad" (www.financejobsabroad.com) and I'm quite sure that you will find some useful information there.
Dear Mr. Payne,
I'm working as a payroll accountant and I am planning to change my job. As I'm quite uncertain about the average salary for my position, it would be great, if you could advise me a framework for my future pay negotiations.
Thank you very much in advance
Robert Half International publishes a Global Financial Salary Guide every year. Please visit our website to find out the current average salary for your job worldwide. The Global Financial Salary Guide is subdivided in sixteen different professions - amongst others payroll accountant - and can serve as a rule for the average salary after 0-2, 3-5, 6-9, 10-15 and more than 15 years of professional experience. Of course, your effective salary can differ a little bit, as the salaries depend not only on professional experience but also on the company, industry and location.
Regards from Vienna
MBA degree: Effort useful for my further career?
Dear Mr. Payne!
My company has offered to pay for an MBA degree. This would mean two very stressful years for me. Do you think that the effort would be useful for my further career?
whether an MBA degree is useful or not depends on many different factors - the company you work with, your job or the country you live in. My experience for Germany, Austria and Switzerland shows that it is often much more reasonable to take courses to achieve a certain specialised certificate than an MBA degree. Therefore it could be useful to have a conversation with your boss to find out for which reason your company prefers the MBA program. Perhaps he has a really good reason - or you can convince him of another advanced training that could be more suitable.
All the best for you!
Advice for proper career management
Dear Mr. Payne,
I've just finished my studies (economics) and am looking for my first assignment. As I don't want to leave my career to chance, I'm interested in getting some advice for proper career management.
basically, you should make up your mind about what you want. To manage your career properly you need an aim - for example filling a leading role with hiring authority in five years. To explore your aims you should take enough time and contemplate your personal strengths and weaknesses honestly. Based on this analysis describe your goals as detailed as possible and distinguish short-term aims from long-term-aims. Afterwards it is up to you to achieve these goals. Choose your first employer carefully: Which development programs are in place, which career opportunities can be offered to you? These aspects are much more important than the salary, for example. Another important basis for your career success is your network. Cultivate your contacts and stay in touch with them - they could be your door opener to your next dream job.
Returning to work after a maternity leave
Dear Mr. Payne,
after a maternity leave of five years I want to return to my former job as an accountant. How can I apply best and do you think that it is necessary to attend special advanced trainings before?
first of all you don't have any reason to feel uncertain about your knowledge and your expertise. You have managed your own small "family business". Apart from your specialised knowledge, the soft skills you need to educate a child should also be mentioned in your application. Perhaps some aspects of your expert knowledge have been out-dated in the meantime but this is no reason for serious concern. You can refresh this knowledge quite simply and should already start taking some courses to prove your willingness to learn and to develop yourself to potential employers.
With best wishes
How long can I remain unemployed before it hurts my career?
Dear Mr. Darren Payne,
my question is about the current situation. How long in months can I as finance and accounting professional remain involuntarily unemployed before it hurts my career?
it's very important to find a new job as soon as possible after having been made redundant. But the time you can remain involuntarily unemployed before it hurts your career can differ from country to country. In Germany you can on average be unemployed for almost 8 months before it has negative effects, in Austria finance professionals have more time to find the right job: 10 months. The international average is at 7 months.
Unemployed people feel the pressure of finding a new job quickly. Finance and accounting professionals experience that especially in a challenging economy it is difficult to get a new job seamlessly. It may help to use your professional and private network while searching - very frequently you get the deciding hint from a person you would not have expected it from. Another good option are unsolicited applications. They should definitely contain an individual cover letter and CV.
How can I stay ahead in accounting and finance during a recession?
Dear Mr. Darren Payne,
my question is up to the current turbulent times. Could you please give me some advice, how I can stay ahead in accounting and finance during a recession?
Thank you very much in advance
many of the changes for financial professionals stem from corporate governance regulations implemented in the early part of the decade. These have expanded the roles and stature of the profession in a business environment increasingly focused on ethics. Today, the difficult economic environment has generated renewed interest in bringing accuracy and transparency back to financial reporting and has fuelled demand for these practitioners. This new environment requires financial professionals to make themselves "recession-proof" and to develop their expertise in the following areas:
Technology expertise: It's critical to stay up to date on the latest technological innovations in accounting and finance and it's valuable to develop expertise in such areas as financial systems conversions. You also should make an effort to learn all you can about your company's financial systems.
Go global (in perspective): Organizations are seeking professionals who are not only familiar with global trends, but possess an understanding of accounting principles in other countries. Professionals adept at working with IFRS or US-GAAP, have a competitive advantage. Individuals who are fluent in multiple languages have a leg up when pursuing positions at internationally oriented organizations.
Professional development: Businesses actively recruit accountants who've taken the initiative to further their education. And here's another bonus to additional education: Our company's research shows that a graduate degree or professional certification can increase your starting salary in a new job by up to 10 percent.
Communication skills: As professionals forge new relationships with other departments and increase the use of cross-functional teams, strong communication and interpersonal skills are essential, including the ability to convey complex financial information to non-financial audiences.
A final piece of advice: You'll have a hard time achieving your full potential unless others are aware of your expertise and accomplishments. Pursuing new challenges, such as volunteering to participate on special project teams, will help you steadily build awareness and better position you in the unfortunate event of a layoff at your company.
All the best,
Want to be senior management accountant
Dear Mr. Darren Payne,
I am a graduate student in Shanghai Jiao Tong University of China (SJTU). I read some aticles about GPK and RCA. They are just my interest. I want to be senior management accountant. I am just studying on cost evalution by RCA, and prepare to write some papers. Could you give me some advice on how to realize my dream? Do I need to access some examinations?
Firstly, I would like to congratulate you on your chosen career path which at times can be strenuous but also extremely rewarding. Investment Management, your current area of study is obviously a broad area of expertise when one considers related areas i.e. UtilCap, CapCalc, PCE, PDSA, MP etc. But to answer your question, I can definitely recommend certifications by the ACCA & IMA which should also cover the above and lead to your desired Management Accountant status. By the way, globally recognised and in demand! Good luck and check out: www.accaglobal.com & www.imanet.org
All the best,
How to apply correctly for a job in a German company
Dear Darren Payne,
I would like to work for a German company but I don't know, how to apply correctly. Shall I send my application to the headquarters or to the office in my country? And shall I write the application in German or in English?
Thank you in advance for your advice!
In most cases the offices in each country recruit their staff on their own, so it is reasonable to apply to the regional office. The preferred language of your application depends on each company: Some prefer to get all documents in their company language - which might be English or German - and some are happy to receive applications written in the language of the country. So it is always the best to contact the company before applying and ask them for their favourite form of application - online or by post, language etc. In doing so you can build a first relationship and demonstrate your interest in the company and in meeting their demands.
All the best,
Studying in a German- or in an English-speaking country?
Dear Darren Payne,
I would like to know the major differences betweens studying in a German-speaking or in an English-speaking country. How does the choice affect a career in a Central or Eastern European country?
After the so-called Bologna process the different education systems and the final degrees are aligning within the European Union. The main difference is still the language. As English is the worldwide business language, it will be reasonable to study in an English-speaking country, if you aim for an international career either in your home country or abroad. In general, the importance of foreign language competences rises, so you should keep this in the back of your mind when choosing your university.
All the best