Take the Guesswork Out of Creating a Development Plan

In my role at IMA©, I oversee the creation of management accounting educational products that help our members expand their professional knowledge and skills. These products include webinars, online self-development courses, and live events such as IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo and Leadership Academy workshops.

Before selecting educational products, it’s important to first take stock of your professional development needs for your current situation as well as your career aspirations, and then put together a plan. If you’re unsure of where to start, here are some ideas.

Take Stock in Your Professional Knowledge and Skills

Young businesswoman thinking and cloud of mind with quiestionsThe first step in creating a professional development plan is to assess your management accounting skills and knowledge. There are various ways to do this. You can ask your colleagues or manager for their perspective, consider feedback received during your performance reviews, talk with a mentor or coach, or do a self-assessment. After obtaining feedback and results, you can then determine which areas for growth you want to focus on when building your development plan.

Plan Your Development

Once you’ve benchmarked your skills and prioritized areas for improvement, you can start building a development plan that is customized to your particular needs. This involves considering the extent of what you need to learn, how much time you have to devote to expanding your skills, and what types of education you find most attractive. Remember to consider various options for development, including self-study online courses and webinars, relevant books and publications by thought leaders, blended learning solutions involving classes and online courseware, live events such as conferences or specific training sessions, networking with others, and on-the-job activities.

After researching the various learning opportunities, select those which you feel best meet your needs and record them on your development plan. Also, determine the date you want to start each of your selections as well as a completion date.

Commit to Your Plan

A critical next step is to “work” your development plan by starting and completing the activities you’ve identified to close your skill gaps. As you progress with your activities, it will also be important to update your development plan with actual results. This will keep you motivated to continue on your professional development path. Then, at certain intervals (such as quarterly, semi-annually, or yearly), you should take stock regarding the broader progress made against areas for improvement to ensure you are successfully closing your skills gap. If diligent about your efforts, you will be proud to see your progress.

Continue Your Professional Development Progress

careerdriverIMA’s CareerDriver ™ career planning tool is designed to help members assess their management accounting competencies and create personalized development plans. Whether you are looking to transition into a new role, strengthen your skills, or discover new professional possibilities, Career Driver has the right personalized approach for you.

Gaining new knowledge and skills is a lifelong adventure as well as critical to professional success in your current and future positions. The personal assessment and development plan process is a continuous discipline in which you will reap many benefits. Enjoy this important professional journey!

Written by Debbie Warner, CPLP

 

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Unleash Your Learning Potential

One of the key skills that will help you succeed in your career already lies within you: understanding the way you learn. Focusing on what topics are relevant to your needs, and knowing when and how you digest information, can help you unleash your learning potential as you advance along your career path.

For me, it’s a rewarding process to help others learn and grow, and I’ve been lucky enough throughout my career to have been involved in training and development in one way or another. Now, as IMAs vice president of education and career services, my team and I are tasked with providing a variety of continuing education learning opportunities for financial professionals in business. These programs and services need to be delivered in a variety of formats in order to help professionals maximize learning. But, it’s also important for individuals to understand their learning preferences.

Here are a few things to ask yourself when deciding if an educational opportunity is right for you:

Topic Relevance

Will the topic help you grow your knowledge, skills, and abilities to be more effective on the job and progress in your career? Is it mandatory to continue holding a certification?

As a busy professional, it’s important to continue your professional education, but it’s also important to choose a topic that is relevant to your personal and professional goals.

Format Preference
Learning_Potential_1How does the training opportunity fit in with the rest of your commitments? Do you have the time needed to attend live workshops, conferences, or events? Is your preference to leverage self-study online courses accessible at convenient times from the comfort of your home or business? Or, does a webinar given at a prescribed time in which a speaker presents on a topic in real time interest you instead?

Determining the right environment and format can help prepare you for an ideal learning experience.

Learning Style

Lastly, but also very importantly, what type of learner are you? There are generally three types of learners: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.

  • Visual learners absorb information better when viewing pictures, diagrams, or other visual representations of concepts. Such learners may want to participate in courses that are more visuals based and less text based.
  • Auditory learners learn best by listening to Relaxe woman at homedirections and information and verbally sharing information with others. Courses including lectures and engagement through team exercises may benefit these learners the most.
  • In contrast to visual and auditory learners, kinesthetic learners prefer to be actively involved and enjoy hands-on learning. Educational courses that include practice tests, knowledge checks, and case studies are important to such learners.

It’s helpful to understand your preferred learning style so that educational opportunities can enrich your learning experience.

Setting Yourself Up For Success

Growing your professional knowledge, skills, and abilities is critical to progressing in your current position and, more importantly, in your future career. Understanding your professional developmental needs, course preferences, and learning style will help with your growth.

With more than 300 online self-study courses available 24/7, webinars on management accounting and leadership topics three to five times per month, and in-person conferences and events typically including lectures and networking opportunities, IMA is dedicated to offering a variety of learning approaches. Check out IMA’s Learning Center for more information. You can also view our new learning assessment tool, CareerDriver, to match your skills to 40 management accounting roles and build a development plan as a guide to the next step in your career.

Written by Debbie Warner, CPLP

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Ethics Training: It Starts Earlier than You Think

Ethics is a serious topic for professionals working in business. Stories of financial professionals failing to act in an ethical manner – and the consequences – are unfortunately commonplace. It’s important for management accountants around the world to be able to understand and identify unethical behavior. This importance is reflected in the requirement for professionals holding the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) credential to earn two hours of CPE credit in ethics each year.

While we often refer to ethical issues on the job, ethics training for professionals starts earlier than you think – even before college.

Higher Educationillustration2-BlogGraphic

Growing up, you acquire ethical values through many avenues, including your culture, religion, family, and more. These values stay with you throughout your life. While many people would agree that ethics isn’t something that you can be taught in school, you can learn how to recognize unethical situations in kindergarten through college.

In college (and with continuing education courses), you can learn about applying your ethical beliefs in the real world, the red flags that alert you to fraud and other unethical situations, and the procedures to report these situations. Most higher education institutions require their accounting majors to take an ethics course before graduating or incorporate an ethics component in other courses. This is a great way for students to learn how to address real-world ethical situations and understand what can happen when faced with financial pressures and your business’s reputation is on the line.

If you were ever to get caught cheating in school, consequences can range up to getting expelled. But if you get caught “cheating” in the real world, the consequences can be much more serious, including losing your job, damaging your reputation, and facing criminal charges.

Business
After you graduate and get your first job, you’ll need to continue to develop your ability to identify unethical situations and learn how to avoid them. One way to do this is by asking for a mentor at your company, who could explain how a seasoned professional would handle such situations. How would he or she recognize the red flag? How would he or she report it? Each company has different procedures, which should be followed first. The IMA Statement of Ethical Professional Practice can also be a guide in resolving ethical conflicts.

HiRes - stepsApplying what you’ve learned in the classroom to the business world can be intimidating. But if you know the signs of unethical behavior and the resources available to you, you will be able to successfully uphold your values in the workplace and keep your company on the ethical path to success.

As a leader in upholding the highest ethical standards in business, IMA offers many resources to help guide accountants and financial professionals:

In a time when the news is flooded with stories about big corporations committing fraud, it’s more important than ever to understand your values and responsibility as an accountant to hold yourself to the highest ethical standards.

Written by Dr. Raef Lawson, CMA, CPA, CFP, CFA
Follow me on Twitter @RaefLawson

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