They say life is a marathon, not a sprint. Viewing your career the same way can help you handle its various ups and downs – from being downsized to getting offered one of the hottest accounting jobs in your area. Though your co-workers and managers might have great advice for how you can get through your job’s specific tasks, we spoke to a few industry experts to get their long-term advice and tips for your accounting career.
1. Become A CPA
CPA – It’s an acronym you’re likely already familiar with, and might already have on your business card after your name. The certified public accountant designation is one that opens doors for people to more and greater accounting jobs. Financial consultant and auditor Milton Galeas, who has over 15 years’ experience across both the public and private sector, considers becoming a CPA one of the most important things a person can do to excel in accounting.
Galeas points to the versatility a CPA will afford you. After becoming one, you will be able to branch out into a wide range of industries in finance, and be free to work in internal or external auditing. This includes the private sector, where accounting jobs that become available to you include areas such as financial reporting, corporate tax and Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) compliance.
2. Know The Basics Well
Los Angeles-based CPA Robert Wheeler, author of the new book “The Money Nerve: Navigating the Emotions of Money” (Balboa Press, 2013), stresses the importance of understanding the fundamentals of accounting. “Work a year or two in private accounting, learn some accounting software and get familiar with how clients do their books so that you can communicate with them about things that matter,” he advises.
Knowing these basics will make it easier to communicate with your clients. “Many CPAs don’t understand the accounting software and aren’t able to show clients how to do journal entries, bank reconciliations or other practical matters that clients need guidance on,” says Wheeler.
3. Don’t Trust The Computer
It’s one thing to use spreadsheets to help you get your job done, but it’s another to rely too heavily on their calculations. Errors can occur at any stage of a process, and it is important to verify that formulas have been entered properly and that the machine is doing what you set it up to do.
“I have found that many of the younger hires assume that if they input information in the computer, it will come out right,” Wheeler shares. “Several times I have reviewed the work and it’s wrong. When I ask the staff person, ‘Did you look at the completed forms after you input the data?’ they usually say, ‘No. I am sure that I input it correctly so I didn’t bother to look at the output.’
Wheeler reminds those in accounting jobs that double-checking the numbers and reviewing your work multiple times is key to getting the figures right. He says he has seen many botched financial statements that resulted from no one checking the numbers because they had been entered into a formula in Excel.
4. Show Interest In Your Organization, Not Just Your Job
Many accounting jobs can seem to be all about the numbers, and in a way they are. But the longevity of your career depends on more than just getting the math right. Companies are attracted to employees who believe in what they do and who have ambition. Especially when you are interviewing for a position, this is important to keep in mind.
Ian Smith is the executive director of business and administration at the University of Cincinnati Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine. When he interviews candidates, he is turned off by those who think only of their immediate employment. “It’s obvious they want ‘a’ job… not ‘my’ job. They need to be interested and have a good story for why they want my job one day, and show they are interested in the organization.”
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