When I was at school there were many times that I felt lost during the lessons – especially any of the sciences! I never picked up the nerve to ask questions, though. It wasn’t until I’d made a radical change in direction from studying A level French, German and English, changing to accounting, that I grew in confidence. When I started my one year foundation course in Accounting, I stayed behind after the lessons to go through my queries, especially Economics and Statistics.
It’s OK to ask questions. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s a good life skill to have! In the same way, it’s good to be open to working with someone else who will question you, challenge you and mentor you. I’m a big believer that having a mentor leads to personal and business growth.
What is mentoring?
Basically, it’s working with someone independent from you who has done/achieved what you want to. They are there to guide and support you.
How can mentoring help me?
Over the years as an accountant mentor, I have mentored Accountants and Bookkeepers and have helped them to move their lives forward. I’ve worked with people in practice, industry, people working for themselves and accountancy students. In fact, you name it, I’ve worked with someone from that sector!
Kalvinder worked in practice.
“Anna’s approach has helped me tremendously, from our first lesson together on the phone, in a way that works for me like nothing else.
Anna’s advice and knowledge has given me thoughts for consideration as I approach accountancy in a new direction.’’
People come to me for a range of issues when they want a mentor. Here are just a few and how I help them.
Using a mentor to improve your annual appraisal experience
This has come up several times in my mentoring sessions. People not feeling confident about asking for what they want – a promotion, a pay rise or whatever they are looking for at that stage in their life. Mentoring can help give you the confidence to prepare for your annual appraisal so you have a better chance of getting what you want out of it.
What I would say is, remember that it’s not easy to find good staff. Value who you are and what you can bring to an organisation.
Preparation is key to being successful at your appraisal so this is what I recommend to the people I mentor:
Consider what you want to achieve on the next year, the next 5 years
Make notes before the session
Review last year’s appraisal; note anything you want to comment on
Brainstorm with someone independent to you if there are any points you want to get across that you may struggle with.
Understanding analytical review?
A frequent concern of mentees who come to me is the subject of analytical reviews. It’s crucial when preparing a set of accounts that you take a common-sense approach. These accounts need to be useful to the client. Make sure that you cover the following when you have finished the accounts:
Have all tax-sensitive accounts been analysed; repairs; sundries, legal and professional
Have there been significant increases/decreases in income and expenditure? Why has this happened?
Is there anything the client could be doing differently re. keeping their records up to date?
Are the figures in line with the client’s expectations? Take account of profit and turnover.
The big plus about being an accountant or bookkeeper is that you have transferable skills. Don’t just continue to do what you’re doing if you’re not happy. You can make a change for whatever reason. A mentor can help you to decide on your new direction. Maybe:
You’re working long hours and you want a better work life balance. Many people saw what was possible during the pandemic when they were working at home.
You feel that you have more to offer and are bored. Maybe you haven’t been promoted recently.
You are happy working where you are but want and need a change of direction otherwise you’ll get stale!
Whatever is making you dissatisfied, don’t despair. You’ll feel better if you start by making a plan. Think about these four questions and jot down your answers:
Where are you now?
Where do you want to be?
What is important to you?
Who can you help?
Your answers will help you focus on the opportunities that are open to you and what you need to do next.
Day to day practice queries
Often when working in practice, either for yourself or as an employee, there are gaps in your knowledge. This is not your fault. A lot of accountancy training takes place on the job, and you may be struggling with the person who is training you or there may not be enough time. Again, this is an ideal opportunity to involve a mentor to help you improve your skill set.
I have helped people update their knowledge and ask their questions in a safe place. The questions could cover:
Completion of self-assessment returns
Organisation of your practice
Double entry revision
Preparing a folder for review
Calculating accounting ratios
Preparing management accounts
Director’s loan accounts and how they work
Calculating capital allowances
By working on these areas, you will gain confidence in your ability and feel better and more in control at work.
Good luck in taking control of your life and moving yourself forward. Remember it’s OK to ask for help; you don’t need to do this on your own! Look into mentoring now and then that’s one more thing ticked off your list – always a bonus!