How To Get Promoted In Entry Level Accounting And Finance Jobs


If you’re just starting out at your first entry level or early-career job in financial services or accounting, you may not have given too much thought to your long-term career objectives.

But if you aspire to a management position one day, you’ll need to start planning now.

A recent survey developed by Robert Half Management Resources has found that fewer than one third of management positions in accounting and finance were filled by candidates who were promoted internally. Employers are more commonly looking outside their own organization for managers.

Why is this figure so low?

According to David King, Canadian president of Robert Half, many companies don’t have a fully developed plan for succession. “Everyone thinks it’s a good idea, but it gets bumped down the priority list,” he says.

When a vacancy comes up unexpectedly, a company may not have qualified internal candidates on hand to replace departing employees. In other cases, a qualified internal candidate can’t be promoted because their position can’t be back-filled. Hiring in a hurry may result in an internal candidate with unexplored potential taking a backseat to an employee who can’t be trained for eventual promotion.

How to get promoted

Speak up

You may need to raise your voice in order to give yourself a good shot, particularly if you’re being overlooked.

“If you get a sense that others have been identified for roles and you’re not getting tapped on the shoulder, it’s appropriate to ask for feedback in terms of what skillsets you’re lacking,” he says. This type of communication reiterates your commitment to future advancement.

Improve yourself

If you notice that you’re lacking a skill in demand among managers at your company, try to learn close to home. “Seeking professional development that’s sponsored by your company would be ideal, and if it isn’t, you may have to look for it on your own time,” says David.

In either case, make sure your supervisor is aware that you’re dedicating your own time to broadening your skill set on your employer’s behalf.

Advertise yourself

Performance reviews give you the opportunity to build on your employer’s existing impression of you while emphasizing steps you’ve taken to put yourself in line for a move up the ladder.

“That ensures that they see you are, one, interested in and, two, capable of promotion,” he says. Key among these steps is taking on special projects which demonstrate skills you don’t use in your regular job.

When should you pull the plug?

While it takes determination and patience to chart an upward spiral in your career, it’s important to recognize that some employers won’t be able to offer you advancement opportunities.

Cover your bases before you decide a change is needed, says David. “Provided you’ve exhausted all opportunities at your current firm, it’s appropriate to look into options elsewhere. Be sure to benefit fully from your current learning experience.”

He also notes that the traditional advice against burning bridges applies even moreso in cases where advancement is the cause for leaving. “We see quite often the opportunity for people to return to a company they left for a more senior position,” he says.

In this case, you’ll be able to capitalize on your prior experience as well as the breadth of knowledge you’ve acquired from other employment.

Visit the Accounting Career Guide to learn more about careers in the accounting industry, and find student and entry level jobs from top accounting employers, including PwC, KPMG, Grant Thornton, BDO and more