A career in finance and accounting is perceived to be the most secure in the world. It’s also commonly known in Asia as the “ironclad bowl”. This is because every company, regardless of size, needs an accountant to record and monitor its financial books.

However, it’s difficult for finance professionals and accountants to stand out from the crowd when they are searching for jobs. Most of them have similar qualifications, certifications and experience using similar tools and software for work. This is why employers look for the X factor that differentiates one from all the other job applicants, such as someone who has a very strong professional profile.

This is why more and more accounting and finance professionals are using marketing and personal branding strategies to build distinct online and offline identities to appeal to potential employers.

what is personal branding and why is it important?

Personal branding is a marketing practice of building your reputation and promoting your skills, expertise, experiences and overall image by means of intentionally creating and influencing the public perception of you. This branding is different from professional branding which is creating a distinction around your name or your career.

One of the key benefits of personal branding is that it further people's careers as it differentiates a person from their competitors and positions themselves as an expert within an industry. By growing their social and online presence, also allows them to build trust with prospective clients and employers.

personal branding strategy
personal branding strategy

tips on how to build a strong personal branding

Personal branding is a delicate journey, so if you’re an accountant or financial professional who is thinking about spending more time building a professional personal brand, we’ve outlined some of the best ideas and tips to guide you.

1. create a personal branding action plan

Companies always have a marketing plan that specifies long and short term goals, and you can apply the same principles to yourself and your job prospects. Creating an action plan detailing how to build a personal brand can be an extremely effective way of ensuring that it takes shape.

Set long term goals as well as specific short term ones and mark deadlines against them. Short term goals act as milestones in your journey to reach the long term goal. Your goals should set the tone for how you want to be perceived by your peers and potential employers. For instance, a short-term goal could be removing all your unprofessional posts, tweets and shares on your social media account or simply deleting it and starting afresh. A long-term goal would be to have at least 10,000 followers by 18 months.

Keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date with the latest information and regularly edit your privacy settings to control what you want others to see. For example, you can let recruiters know that you’re open to new opportunities on LinkedIn. You could also start scheduling the industry online and offline events that you would like to attend to build your network and be closer to your goal of having 10,000 followers.

Whatever goals you decide to map out, make sure that they meet the SMART criteria (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-sensitive), and always remember to check your progress every 2 to 3 months to ensure you are consistent and on track.

2. avoid oversharing

If you truly want to differentiate yourself from your peers, sharing more relevant information and promoting your brand are pretty much essential.

However, some professionals have a tendency to ‘over-blog’ and spread themselves too thinly across several online platforms. There is also a tendency to overshare. We’ve seen this on LinkedIn and Facebook before where some users let their emotions get the better of them, or when they share news that is off-brand and not aligned with their professional goals. This causes their image to be inconsistent with who they want to be, which might not be ideal.

It is essential to keep and maintain a positive and purposeful brand. When you’re inconsistent with what you share, you may risk losing your valued followers and gaining some whom you may not be as keen to build a networking relationship with.

Obviously having a properly crafted content plan on LinkedIn is much more likely to give you the edge over other candidates, but don’t get too hung up on writing and sharing everything under the sun. When it comes to differentiating yourself, quality matters more than quantity.

Experts recommend that you should publish 1 to 2 posts or articles a month, especially if you want to make sure your insights are well-researched and your data is correct. Consider collaborating with your communications and marketing team to learn more about publishing your posts to your company's social media, reputable finance news sites, or even platforms like LinkedIn Pulse, to broaden your reach and impact.

3. remain up-to-date and add some personality

Financial markets are always fluctuating so it’s vital to stay in touch with the latest updates and trends by following key finance publications as well as business and thought leaders on LinkedIn.

Alternatively, you can consider subscribing to newsletters or magazines that are relevant to your specialism. You can also participate in relevant LinkedIn group discussions so you can be up-to-date with the newest market trends and changes. Keeping on top of industry trends shows you are paying attention to and knowledgeable about your field of work, and it also demonstrates that you are adaptable and versatile.

Also, when it comes to writing posts on social media, don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through and experiment with different writing styles.

Finance news can be dry at times so injecting a little bit of personality, originality or even some humour can help to attract the attention of your followers and potential employers. Whilst you don’t want it to look too casual, there’s nothing wrong with writing in a tone you’re more comfortable with as it will allow you to further differentiate yourself from other job seekers.

4. bring your networking to fruition

The 3 tips above largely relate to networking your personal brand in the digital world. Now, it's time to bring it to the real world and materialise the connections you have made into valuable networks, resources or even work opportunities. 

There are many tips when it comes to making a good first impression in real life - from being punctual to the meeting to showing genuine interest to connect with your network. Networking is a two-way street, so you would have to show your network the potential value that you can bring that will make it worth their time to commit to this newfound connection.

how do you make sure that your networking is worthwhile?

Have a clear objective of what you want out of the meeting, be it exchanging career advice, asking them to help write you a recommendation, or getting insights on the type of skills you may need to be more competitive in the job searching market.

Next, be clear about your objective and be transparent about it with your networks. Nobody can read your mind and hence, being clear about what you want will help prevent any misunderstanding. Lastly, be genuine in your intentions and give them the best of what you can offer.

5. build up soft skills

In an industry where qualifications and experience are closely matched by other candidates, it takes more than technical skills to set yourself apart and be noticed by recruiters. You might want to consider building up your soft skills to achieve that additional edge. 

According to our Randstad Workmonitor survey, 50% of respondents in Malaysia struggle to acquire new skills to adapt. However, upskilling is a crucial part of every career.

Job demands and skill expectations have changed significantly as a result of accelerating digital transformation.

Employers are seeking applicants who are equipped with in-demand digital abilities as well as transferable soft skills to hit the ground running. Hence those who lack soft skills may face a more difficult time finding a job in today’s highly competitive environment.

Our senior director highlighted that the soft skills employers often look for in candidates are business partnering skills, cultural adaptability, leadership capabilities as well as the ability to influence and improve business processes. Some other relevant soft skills for work that employers are on the constant lookout for is the ability to communicate and resolve conflict.

These skills are picked up mainly through work experience or interpersonal relationships when you converse with your family and friends.

skills expectations for future of work
skills expectations for future of work

What can you do if you are a fresh graduate or relatively new to the industry and don’t have the necessary skills that today’s employers look for?

You can sign up for mentorship or traineeship programmes that would allow you to work directly with an experienced mentor. You can also find opportunities to take on relevant projects through short-term contracting work.

Nothing stands out better for new employees than being able to demonstrate the value you can provide to your potential employer, hence developing your skills will play a critical part in your finance and accountancy career.

want to further your career in finance and accounting?

If you are looking for better career opportunities or seeking career advice, Randstad is always here for you. No matter if you’re in audit, tax or financial planning & analysis, our specialised accounting and finance recruitment consultants are ever ready to help increase your chances of securing your dream job.

Reach out to us to find out more about our recruitment and career services. You can also refer to a wide range of professional resources available on our website, such as our Blue Suite series which includes expert insights into industry trends written by our leadership team.

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