Career Advice Job fairs and Events

Beyond bookkeeping

At the CPA Australia Career Expo on January 12, accounting students and professionals will have the opportunity to be noticed, get connected and become acquainted with the industry’s biggest firms.

The annual event, held at the Conrad Hotel in Admiralty, is also a platform for participants to seek advice and career information from industry experts and potential employers.

Eighteen exhibitors, including the Big Four and other accounting firms, CPA practices, banking institutions and recruitment agencies, will be present to meet with over 1,000 expected participants.

One of this year’s highlights will be the launch in Asia of The Naked CEO, an online reality TV show. Created by Alex Malley, CEO of CPA Australia, the show invites students to join Malley behind the scenes as he interviews inspiring leaders and reveals some of the secrets students should learn to get on the road to success.

“[The show] features videos of discussions with business leaders who openly share their business strategies, leadership techniques, the problems they face, and how they deal with these problems,” says Peter Lee, divisional president for Greater China at CPA Australia and managing director of Veco Invest (Asia). “It’s a very good learning opportunity for students and potential employees.”

In his 20 years in the accounting and finance profession, Lee has witnessed many people add value to their companies that goes beyond their traditional accounting roles. “A lot of successful corporations and CEOs are not merely good at looking at numbers, but are outstanding leaders and strategic thinkers.”

Lee believes that accountants nowadays require more than just technical knowledge. “They must also possess interpersonal skills, problem-solving skills and an understanding of the global business environment. They must add value. They must be able to contribute solutions to different business issues,” he says.

He encourages greater strategic planning and thinking out of the box. “Accountants have to reinvent themselves. They need to be creative. Accountants always have an image of being too technical, but the world is changing. Many accountants have demonstrated they are also capable of providing strategic thinking,” he says.

He adds that being open-minded and proactive are key in taking advantage of the opportunities available in the competitive business world.

“Accountants have to take the initiative in doing their own research. If they’re interested in an industry, they have to talk to practitioners within that industry. If they have mentors, they should constantly talk to them,” he says.

He says the expo is a great place for doing all these things, and he recommends that participants talk to as many exhibitors as possible. “Don’t just ask about the salary or job opportunities. Try to understand what kind of work is involved. Ask questions on areas such as training and whether there are opportunities for work rotations or relocation to other cities. Really try to understand the job nature,” he says.

Arthur Pang, partner at Shinewing (HK) CPA, says the expo offers a number of benefits to both accounting service firms and participants.

“It provides a platform for us firms to meet potential candidates and explain to them our corporate values and the career opportunities we provide. It also offers an opportunity for candidates to meet a wide spectrum of employers, build up connections and get a better understanding of the accounting industry,” he says.

Shinewing plans to hire between 80 and 100 new staff at varying levels in 2013. It seeks candidates with soft skills such as good communication and language proficiency.

Pang also stresses the importance of being a team player. “The CPA practice is a service. In order to provide a quality service, we need to work together with others within the sector, as well as clients.”

For Manulife Financial, one of the world’s largest insurers, the expo is a great opportunity to attract top talent.

“We exhibited last year and were deeply impressed,” says Albert Yip, head of audit services for Asia. “The event provided a ‘one-stop shop’ matching platform for potential employees and employers.”

One of CPA Australia’s recognised employer partners in Asia-Pacific, Manulife Financial requires professionals who want to develop their careers in the financial and banking sectors.

“Traditionally, fresh accountancy graduates will look to CPA firms for their first job opportunity. However, CPA Australia offers an excellent pipeline for their members to gain a professional qualification with worldwide recognition for different commercial and industrial sectors,” Yip says.

“On top of hard skills and professional knowledge, we are also looking for versatile professionals who are proficient with soft skills such as people management, leadership, relationship management and effective communication,” he adds.

The CPA Australia Career Expo – also held in Australia, Malaysia and Singapore – is one of CPA Australia’s major annual events. CPA Australia has 139,000 members in 114 countries, including over 14,000 in Greater China.