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How can ACCA give you the competitive edge for 2017?

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We all have our personal resolutions. You know the ones - exercise more, quit something, read more books and watch less TV etc.

But have you given a thought to more professional goals and targets for 2017?

Here's a look at professional areas in which you can set goals and milestones for yourself, whether you're in full or part-time employment, studying or doing work experience.

Social media presence and personal brand

From a professional perspective, social media is an opportunity to connect, learn and engage but also something that needs careful managing.

LinkedIn is a must have. It's a great place to display your career and education, your professional and academic achievements, as well as to connect with peers and prospective employers or clients.

Twitter is also a great place to engage with people and organisations professionally and to share your professional interests. But you need to manage your presence too, being careful not to come across in a bad light, being careful of the views you express publicly, because employers may look at all your social media presence before asking you to interview, so be mindful of the things you say and the photos you post.

Professional development

Continuously developing as a professional is a cornerstone of the finance profession. ACCA members are expected to undertake CPD yearly as part of their membership requirements, and while you may not yet think it relates to you yet, the practice of continuously striving to be a better professional is something you should start as soon as possible.

Taking it upon yourself to read relevant reports, studies and industry magazines, to attend networking events or conferences, or to undertake professional studies, such as ACCA's qualifications, will help place you to remain engaged with an ever-evolving profession. A good place to start is with ACCA-X, our free online courses, which will give you an understanding of financial basics and count towards further education.

Face-to-face professional networking

While social media is an ever-more popular place to socialise and communicate, you still can't beat face-to-face time. Meeting other peers in person is still a very important way to build a professional network. Start building your professional network early - one that will grow with you throughout your career and provide you with support and opportunities.

ACCA frequently runs local and international events for people interested in the profession and the qualification. In fact, becoming an ACCA student and member means joining a global network of professionals, with a great deal of influence and opportunity.

Work experience and volunteering

There are many skills in addition to technical knowledge that employers want from their prospective employees. Qualities such as good communication and interpersonal skills, commercial acumen, being able to work in a team and leadership attributes are all key expectations. The best way to gain these skills is through direct work experience. This can be a week's work experience in the finance department of a local firm, volunteering with a charity, or a more formal internship with a large firm. 

Also, 36 months of work experience is a key element to completing the ACCA Qualification, so it’s good to get a head start.

Increase productivity

There has been a lot mentioned in the media over the past few years about professional productivity levels struggling, despite so many technical innovations supposedly heralding an era of efficiency and automation.

There are countless time management and organiser apps available on our smartphones and computers, integrated across devices and platforms. If you can embed these into your life to help you become more productive, while at the same time increasing your tech-savvy status, you can certainly improve your productivity. Just make sure you don't let the apps, smartphones and gadgets get the better of you - know when to ignore the bleeps and flashing lights.

Work-life balance

Which brings us on to balancing your life, so that you're not a slave to your emails, your studies, your smartphones or your job. Again technology - properly used and integrated - can help you organise your time and responsibilities, as opposed to taking up more time than you'd like.

Balancing your life, giving the right amount of attention to each element of who you are and what you do - family, friends, work, study, hobbies - is not only important for a happy life, but you will generally become more productive and content in each area. 

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