So you’re ready to be an ac­coun­tant?

10 things re­cent ac­count­ing grads should know

Accounting Today - - Contents - BY RICHARD A. BERKOWITZ

Wel­come to the ac­count­ing pro­fes­sion! As you take your first steps on your hope­fully long, pros­per­ous and re­ward­ing ca­reer jour­ney, there are some things you should know ­— things that are con­trary to the lack­lus­ter stereo­type of CPAS!

Truth be told, ac­coun­tants are often the most trusted ad­vi­sors in busi­ness, tax and wealth plan­ning. Hav­ing spent more than three decades in­ter­view­ing hun­dreds of cam­pus re­cruits and watch­ing young CPAS de­velop and grow into trusted ad­vi­sors, I want to share with you 10 truths to guide you on your path to suc­cess in the ac­count­ing pro­fes­sion.

1. Be in­quis­i­tive. As a re­cent grad­u­ate, you are not ex­pected to know how to put your knowl­edge into prac­tice. In fact, most of your new col­leagues ex­pect that you will rely on them to learn the ropes. If you have a ques­tion, ask it, whether it is how to com­plete a task, how the laws have changed, or how to han­dle a client chal­lenge. It is bet­ter to ask a ques­tion and po­ten­tially ap­pear un­in­formed than it is to take ac­tion with­out hav­ing the right in­for­ma­tion. You must still per­form re­search to learn, but do not be afraid to ask for help. Be­ing vul­ner­a­ble is an es­sen­tial com­po­nent to be­com­ing a car­ing pro­fes­sional with an ar­se­nal of knowl­edge to ad­vise clients.

2. Com­mit the ef­fort to hone your skills. Your ed­u­ca­tion pro­vided you with a solid base upon which you can build a re­ward­ing ca­reer in ac­count­ing, but there is so much more to learn. Roll up your sleeves and take ad­van­tage of ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to ac­quire knowl­edge. En­hance both your tech­ni­cal and lead­er­ship skills and be­come a pro­fi­cient ad­vi­sor in a prac­tice area or in­dus­try where your pas­sion and lead­er­ship can shine. The more you learn, the more you in­crease your chances of be­com­ing a val­ued and trusted ad­vi­sor.

3. Get out of your com­fort zone and take risks. Avoid com­pla­cency and the risk of fall­ing into a rou­tine that keeps you stag­nant and im­pedes your abil­ity to achieve the ca­reer you de­sire. Be open to new peo­ple, ideas and ex­pe­ri­ences; share your cu­rios­ity; and have fun. You may have planned to be an au­di­tor, but if you are tapped for a val­u­a­tion project, go with it and see what you can learn. By tak­ing risks, you can step into new op­por­tu­ni­ties and grow in the process. You have cho­sen a pro­fes­sion where con­stant change and chal­lenges are the norm. Em­brace ev­ery new ex­pe­ri­ence to en­hance your ca­reer.

4. Be hon­est and ac­count­able. As a new pro­fes­sional, you are bound to make mis­takes. We will never ex­pose you to more risk than you can han­dle. If you never make a mis­take, you will never learn. Be ac­count­able for your ac­tions and im­me­di­ately let some­one know to help you mit­i­gate any dam­ages. If you at­tempt to hide the mis­take, you com­pound the prob­lem. Ev­ery mis­take is an op­por­tu­nity for you to learn some­thing that ul­ti­mately sup­ports your long-term suc­cess.

5. Un­der­stand and adapt to the sea­sons of an ac­coun­tant’s life.

Ac­coun­tants live and breathe by dead­lines. Un­like your time in col­lege, when you could cram a se­mes­ter of knowl­edge into a few days be­fore a fi­nal exam, you can­not build a ca­reer as an ac­coun­tant by pulling all-nighters. Dead­line sea­son is a known fac­tor that you can count on and pre­pare for in ad­vance. Learn how to smooth out your work­flow by tak­ing ad­van­tage of non-dead­line times to get work done prior to de­liv­ery dates. We want you to have a qual­ity life out­side the of­fice where per­sonal mat­ters may pop up just when you’re work­ing on dead­line. Get it done early.

6. Col­lab­o­rate and make friends with your co­work­ers.

With so much of our day spent at work, it is im­por­tant to de­velop and nur­ture re­la­tion­ships with your col­leagues. Take ad­van­tage of ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to so­cial­ize with the peo­ple in your of­fice, at ev­ery level and in ev­ery depart­ment. Learn to lever­age their ex­per­tise to help you with client is­sues. In­tro­duce them to oth­ers at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity. Pro­fes­sion­ally, your co­work­ers play a strate­gic role in mov­ing the firm for­ward and sup­port­ing your de­vel­op­ment. At all times, treat oth­ers with dig­nity and re­spect. On a per­sonal level, you may be sur­prised to find how much you have in com­mon with your co­work­ers, many of whom will be­come your clos­est friends and loud­est cheer­lead­ers.

7. Build your net­work and cul­ti­vate re­la­tion­ships with men­tors.

Ac­count­ing is an ap­pren­tice­ship pro­fes­sion in which peo­ple de­velop peo­ple. Seek out and de­velop re­la­tion­ships with pro­fes­sion­als you ad­mire and who un­der­stand this con­cept. Ask ques­tions and ac­quire knowl­edge that will em­power you and sup­port your on­go­ing pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment. We are in­vested in your ul­ti­mate suc­cess.

8. Get out of the of­fice and make com­mu­nity a pri­or­ity.

Ex­pand­ing your net­work of con­tacts and ex­pe­ri­ences out­side of the firm is vi­tal in your de­vel­op­ment as a pro­fes­sional ac­coun­tant and as a leader. Be strate­gic in de­cid­ing which com­mu­nity, civic and char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tions align with your pas­sions, your avail­able time and your goals. Giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity means more than open­ing your wal­let. Give your time, your ex­per­tise, your lead­er­ship. Start with your net­work of fel­low grad­u­ates and make a con­certed ef­fort to es­tab­lish mean­ing­ful re­la­tion­ships with pro­fes­sional and com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions where your knowl­edge and lead­er­ship can make an im­pact.

9. Build and pro­tect your per­sonal brand. Your per­sonal brand is the rep­u­ta­tion you cre­ate for your­self based on the things you do and say, both at work and in your per­sonal life. It is how oth­ers per­ceive you, how they re­mem­ber you, and why they should seek you out. Build­ing your per­sonal brand is a de­lib­er­ate process that oc­curs over the course of your ca­reer. Demon­strat­ing your tech­ni­cal skills will not be enough; you must learn all you can about your clients, their in­dus­tries and their chal­lenges, and you must demon­strate that you pro­vide the value, at­ten­tion and nur­tur­ing they ex­pect and de­serve from a trusted con­sul­tant.

10. Dis­cover your pas­sion and pur­sue it re­lent­lessly.

Keep ex­plor­ing un­til you find what you love to do and then do it re­lent­lessly. If you are able to dis­cover what you are pas­sion­ate about, work will be­come your call­ing. Your ca­reer will be ded­i­cated to pur­su­ing an ex­per­tise that will re­sult in oth­ers seek­ing your coun­sel. Per­se­vere un­til you dis­cover your pas­sion, and then just have fun! AT

Richard A. Berkowitz, JD, CPA, is the found­ing chair­man of Mi­ami-based Top 100 Firm Berkowitz Pol­lack Brant.

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