It seems jobs are increasingly difficult to come by these days, so a number of people look to the most quickly and significantly growing fields before choosing a career. Accounting happens to linger near the top of that particular list with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting a 13.1 percent demand surge in the CPA profession over the next few years. If you’re motivated, organized, detail-oriented and one of the less mathematically challenged among us, accounting, auditing and related careers are likely a great career path for you.
As is the case with most industries, education is crucial. Although being armed with a degree and license will help you land a CPA job, reaching true success in the field depends on your own level of dedication. Following a few tips of the trade can help you stand out among your coworkers and make you a key player in your firm.
CPAs should Build Strong Professional Relationships
Working well with others certainly makes the workday go by faster and more smoothly. While showing up at the office with a smile on your face and refraining from arguing with your coworkers is a good place to start, it’s far from the final step in this category. Forging solid working relationships will take you far, but this effort falls into a few different categories.
- Those on Your Level: Earning your degree and passing the licensing exam prove you’re theoretically capable of performing the duties involved in a CPA position, but there’s plenty to be learned on the job. Each firm has its own distinct way of operating, and those who’ve been there longer than you can offer a great deal of insight in this realm. Ask questions, follow their leads and remember not everything always goes by the book. You’ll learn more about the firm itself as well as the industry while also building trust among the people with whom you’ll be spending the majority of your time.
- The Upper Tier: Once you’ve been with the company for a little while and proven you’re self-motivated as well as willing to be a team player, you can begin seeking advice from the upper echelon. Turn to those in management positions for guidance, and let them know you’re open to constructive criticism. Doing so will show higher ranking members of the firm you’re ready to learn from their experience as well as your own shortcomings. When they see you accepting their mentorship efforts, they’ll be more likely to help you rise through the ranks in the future.
- Clients: You must be a highly client-focused individual; after all, without the clients, there would be no jobs for CPA’s in the first place. Instead of just hearing the words coming out of your clients’ mouths, truly listen to them. Ask questions. Probe deeper into their business lives and the companies they’ve built. Use all this to create a solid approach to their overall needs, and use your own knowledge to offer them advice in this regard. Satisfied clients are a firm’s most effective form of advertising. If your superiors see you’re making clients happy and helping bring in new business, they’ll be far more likely to keep you around and promote you to higher levels within the company.
Every day is a learning experience, and each of your coworkers has something valuable to offer you in the way of experience. Management can educate you beyond your current level of employment. Clients who feel you’re working for them rather than just for the firm will also be your ticket to success. Combine all these elements to foster job security and increase your chances of future promotions.
Never Become Complacent as a CPA
Plenty of people enter a job, learn the ropes and settle into a nice, leisurely routine. Unfortunately, these are the same employees who blend into their surroundings and are constantly overlooked when it comes to advancements. Venture outside your comfort zone early on in your career. Ask your superiors for new responsibilities, and make every effort to excel in completing those tasks.
Venture outside your current area of expertise as well. This reverts back to asking other employees for advice in a sense. Each of you has your own specific role in the company, and even if cross-training isn’t an official option in your firm, learning everything you can is never a negative. These aspects could include:
- Becoming familiar with the business’s internal operating systems
- Developing knowledge about clients in industries with which you may not work directly
- Gaining skills in branches of the accounting world outside your realm of focus
Learning about anything lying beyond your specified job description will help build up your arsenal when it comes to making yourself an integral component in your firm. You’re not going to succeed at every new venture on the first try, so don’t let failures thwart your efforts. Just persevere until you get it right and keep in mind every botched attempt brings you a step closer to victory.
Be sure to talk to your superiors about each new challenge you set out to rise above, and chat with them about successful attempts as well as the not-so-fruitful ones. Ask them what you could’ve potentially done to reach a different outcome when you fail, and express enthusiasm over your accomplishments. They’ll be more likely to take notice of your overall efforts than your mistakes along the way.
Don’t Deny Your Mistakes
As mentioned in the last point, you’re going to have your fair share of failures along the road to triumph. Don’t try to cover them up, and don’t blame others when something goes wrong. Badmouthing someone for giving you incomplete instructions or advice that didn’t work for you only makes you look bad, not your coworkers. You’re all adults, as well as professionals, and that means you’ve got to own up to your pitfalls. Admit your mistakes, consider them valuable learning experiences, and strive for improvement on the next go-round.
Use Your Knowledge to the Firm’s Advantage
Just like everyone else in your firm has a unique perspective in the CPA field, you have a distinct skill set of your own. If you’re the low man on the totem pole, chances are you may have an advantage. In all likelihood, your training revolved around the latest technology and the most recent industry-specific theories and developments.
While you’re learning from your teammates, share your knowledge with them as well. Show them how you learned to manage the latest database programs, help them implement software they may not be so well-versed in, and offer advice that could potentially make their jobs easier. Don’t try to force your way into their space or imply their ways are inferior, though. Get to know your coworkers and their ways of thinking before deciding just how to approach them on matters like these.
Although your knowledge could be beneficial to everyone else, don’t give away too many of your secrets all at once. Pace yourself. A little tidbit here and there goes a long way; at the same time, it’ll make you a go-to resource for your coworkers for a long time to come.
Be a Confident CPA
Whether you’re offering others the benefit of your technological know-how or suggesting more efficient operating techniques to your superiors during lunch, self-assurance is the key to being heard. If you approach others sweating, shaking and stammering to get your point across, they’ll be far less likely to put their faith in you. This applies to client interaction as well. They’re probably not going to be very confident in your ability to handle their finances if you seem unsure of yourself, and that reflects poorly on you as well as your firm as a whole.
Think through what you’re going to say to your bosses and coworkers well in advance of actually expressing yourself. You may even want to rehearse in front of a mirror a few times, and plan out a few different approaches. When others question our theories or balk at our ideas, sheer human nature tends to tell us to back down, and that in itself could take credence away from your authority. Be firm and fearless in all your endeavors.
Education doesn’t end with accepting your degree and licensure; real-world experience is often more valuable in a CPA job than book learning could ever be. Learn from everyone on your team, and share what you know with everyone else. Always be open to new advice, but whether you use it, expand upon it or toss it aside is up to you. Be responsible for your own mistakes, and allow yourself to learn from them rather than considering them setbacks. Never be afraid to venture outside your comfort zone.
CPA Jobs require confidence from the very beginning, but those other points can help push your certainty to new levels. All these elements will help you outshine the competition and rise through the ranks from an entry-level position to potentially owning your own firm if you’d like to take it that far. Until you become your own boss with others working for you, taking these five pieces of advice to heart will help make you a vital component in your firm while generating job security above and beyond what the field already holds in store.
This blog was written and posted by David Oppenheimer, CPA, MBA. He is VALiNTRY’s VP of Accounting and CPA placements. He represents CPAs that are looking for alternative career opportunities and his team can be reached at 407-392-3128.