If you asked me what I ‘wanted to be’ when I grew up, I would have said I didn’t mind as long as I wasn’t working in an office.
I finished sixth form and my first full time job was… working in an office! I applied mainly to gain some much-needed experience, and although the wage at the time was only about £12,000 a year full-time, I felt rich after my first pay check!
The job itself was within Accounts Payable for Local Government – dealing with all the invoices that were sent into the Council. I’d always had an affinity with numbers, but had never considered utilising them within a career.
Initially it was a fixed term contract for four months, but this was extended and I was eventually made permanent. Over the seven years I worked there, I advanced through to a supervisor and then a manager in my final year. I really enjoyed the role, and only left due to relocating to another part of the country.
As an input assistant, the work could be fairly monotonous at times. The main role was inputting invoices onto our financial system (we used SAP), and answering queries from suppliers who were either chasing payment, or had received a payment but didn’t know what it was for.
As supervisor, I oversaw a team of seven input assistants. I took the lead on more complex queries and ensured the team met their input targets. I was also responsible for actioning multi-million-pound payment runs three times a week.
As manager, aside from overseeing the entire team & dealing with complex queries, I was responsible for recruitment & selection, performance management and ensuring the monthly Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) tax return reached HMRC on time.
Being able to work my way up through the department really gave me a solid foundation on which to build my knowledge. I was acutely aware of all the problems and issues that could arise, having dealt with them myself, and I felt that made me a better supervisor and manager.
Working in Finance helped me develop and hone the following skills:
- Organisational skills
- I had to be incredibly organised to make sure all payment runs were completed on time. I would often multi-task, dealing with emergency invoices, supplier queries & other calls from colleagues.
- Working to deadlines
- The end of the financial year was a non-negotiable deadline. It was incredibly busy as all departments wanted their payments to come out of their old budget. This instilled in me the desire to complete all my work as quickly and accurately as possible.
- Problem solving
- Payment runs were never straight forward. They would rarely balance and I would need to find out the reason why before proceeding.
- Invoices could get stuck on our financial system if managers did not approve them. This involved three-way conversations with the company and the relevant manager to resolve any issues.
- Telephone handling
- I answered numerous calls a day, which could range from a simple query to an irate customer wanting to know why they hadn’t been paid. I learnt how to diffuse the situation and take ownership of the problem.
Although I no longer work within Finance, I have considered returning to that profession. I may self-fund my AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) qualification as Accountancy is an area that really interests me. There are so many different areas and facets to Finance, that there is something out there to suit everyone.
Sophie, Business Support Co-Ordinator