Perspectives

The professional skills I wish I’d possessed on my first day

By Aaron Brown, audit senior, Deloitte & Touche LLP

San Francisco, CA — I still remember my first day working at Deloitte. Armed with a master’s degree in accountancy from Wake Forest University, I felt confident that I was ready to tackle the rigor and analysis that I was hired to do as an auditor.

That was 2012. Today, I can look back and see that school had indeed prepared me well to scrutinize financial records, assess risk, evaluate internal controls and such. But I can also see that there were significant areas of my day-to-day responsibilities that I did not learn in school.

Fact is, being an auditor isn’t just about understanding numbers. Of course the numbers matter. But just as important are a number of “soft skills” that frame every interaction that I have with clients and co-workers, and that often determine the efficiency and success of a project.

These skills are important in virtually every professional service job. From what I’ve seen, they can be pivotal in a person’s career success. Yet few schools teach them in any formal way.

For me, learning how to collaborate with teams, building relationships with clients and leading complex projects was gained through mentoring and on-the-job training. I watched the senior members of my office and emulated their practices. I asked a lot of questions. I read books on leadership and communication.

Along the way, I saw other early-career professionals challenged by the same issues. So in 2014, a co-worker and I decided to do something about it. We launched the Deloitte Leadership Academy, a program for first- and second-year professionals in our San Francisco office.

The program focuses on developing a number of competencies that apply no matter the client or discipline.

Many recent graduates have relatively little experience with team projects, yet most professional service work involves collaboration. So we spend time discussing team dynamics and how to assess and work with different personalities.

We delve into personal brand building and the importance of embracing new experiences. We talk about aligning your passions with your work in order to enhance effectiveness and avoid burnout. I am a firm believer that the best path to professional success is to be true to yourself; life is too short and the workday too long to simply “do a job.” And happy people make for a successful company.

We also work through some very practical, day-to-day challenges: How to organize your email, how to set priorities and maintain boundaries, and so on. These may sound like basic life skills—and in a sense they are. But I often find that they rank among the first challenges when people emerge from academic life into the business world.

The academy was launched as a series of informal workshops where more experienced leaders and professionals simply shared what they wished they’d known when they started at Deloitte. Response from the beginning has been positive and so we’ve continued to evolve the curriculum and grow the number of participants.

By helping new employees better understand these issues, we’re accelerating their effectiveness as employees; we’re increasing the value they deliver to clients; and we’re helping them advance their own careers in order to participate in fulfilling job responsibilities at a faster rate. For me personally, it’s great to see those impacts on my co-workers and Deloitte.

About the author:
The son of a high school principal and an engineer at an international defense, aerospace and security company, Aaron Brown brings natural leadership skills as well as an analytical mind to his work in Deloitte’s San Francisco office, where he has worked since 2012.

Career Journey: Aaron Brown

Did you find this useful?