2018 Top 100 People extra: Advice for young accountants
As part of this year’s survey for Accounting Today’s Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting, candidates were asked: “What one thing would you tell a new accountant just starting their career?”
As all the candidates had valuable suggestions, all of their advice -- not just those of the Top 100 -- are included below.
My advice to new accountants just starting out would be to stop, listen and learn. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the hectic nature of everyday work life, but it’s critical to take the time to listen to your clients, mentors and peers and to take every opportunity to learn from them along the way.
Regardless of your profession, a career is a journey, not a destination. Commit to becoming a life-long learner and place a high-value on building positive relationships with a diverse group of people. As technology enables us to work from anywhere, it is easy to lose site of the value of human interaction. It’s all about balance. Professionals who take advantage of the modern way of working can also learn from the more tenured professionals who can share best practices on a range of topics.
--Karen Abramson, CEO, Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting
Enjoy what you do and be a lifelong learner. The profession I entered is very different than the profession today. I have adapted and evolved, but more importantly, I have loved every minute of it! That can be the case for you, too. When you enjoy your work, the people you work with and the clients you serve – as we do at RSM – and embrace change and new ideas as they come your way, you will be successful. Enjoy the journey!
--Joe Adams, Managing partner and CEO, RSM US
Take very seriously how you spend your time. If you can be more strategic by using technology to solve manual processes and helping your business be more compliant, more efficient, and have greater visibility, you become invaluable now and into the future of your position there.
--Chen Amit, Co-founder and CEO, Tipalti
Learn to fly a drone! Actually, while this is true and more inventories will be “observed” using drone technology in the future, the real key is to have new accountants to constantly be aware of emerging technologies and focus on how to embrace those technologies into the audit process.
--Alan Anderson, President, ACCOUNTability Plus
Never believe that you know better about what your clients want and need than they do. The key to outstanding service is listening to clients. The more you truly listen to them, the more you can provide them valuable service. And, it makes no difference who provides the service to the client, as long as you are the quarterback (trusted advisor) for the client.
--August Aquila, President and CEO, Aquila Global Advisors
Don’t take the traditional path. The train tracks of life don’t bear the same fruit they did in previous generations.
The No. 1 thing I wish I did a decade ago was pick a group of people, interview hundreds of them about their biggest problems, and create services to help them solve it. If I would have learned that before anything … I could have prioritized my learning. Rather than learning a bunch of things for 10 years that didn’t contribute much to what I’m doing today or my future.
The most valuable skill and the one absent from most new accountants minds is … “learning how to learn.” Not knowing anything. But know how to define problems, and create solutions.
From learning technical accounting, I’d also say that the best place to learn isn’t in a textbook or a 10-k, but it’s right in your own checking account. No one seems to remember that the income statement and balance sheet exist for businesses but also for people.
Even after years of schooling and work experience, I never really understood accounting, debits, credits, financial statements until I did a person budget, personal income statement, and a personal net worth statement. The same principles and fundamentals about assets, liabilities, and equity exist for the
individual in assets, debts, and net worth. So before you try to help someone else improve their understanding of their financials, or actually improve their financial results … start with yourself. If you can change your personal financials and start growing income, reducing expenses, growing net worth, tracking it, and understanding it … .
You may not be able to help companies right away, but it will certainly speed up your path to getting there and when you arrive, you’ll be deadly.
--Andrew Argue, CEO, AccountingTax.com
Be aspirational! You are more than an auditor or a tax advisor. You have the ability to be a key thought partner and resource to clients to help them with their most important issues. Along with honing your technology-related skills, focus on relationship-building and communication skills. At the end of the day, technology (including the promises of AI) is just a tool and people (e.g., clients) will always value relationships that they trust. Most of the limits on the value we can deliver are self-imposed. Don’t limit yourself. Think broadly about the role you can play with the clients you serve and be inquisitive to learn as much as you can about their business and industry to strengthen your relevance to them. The combination of deep technical skill-sets, along with deep industry knowledge and technology awareness, will position you as a indispensable resource to those clients where you have a real relationship.
--Matt Armanino, COO and MP-elect, Armanino
There’s never been a better time to enter the profession, thanks to technological advances and the higher value CPAs can bring to clients once they are fully equipped with those tools. We’re entering an era in which CPAs can consistently exceed client expectations.
--Erik Asgeirsson, CEO, CPA.com
Don’t get too comfortable -- as soon as you think you have it figured out, something will change. Ironically, it’s the same thing they tell us at Intuit: “The only constant is change”.
--Kim Austin, Business development manager, Intuit
The accounting profession is the best career anyone could have. You get access to see inside a lot of business while being protected from the economic pressures of that business. Being a professional is the best career and there is no better profession.
--Larry Autrey, Managing partner, Whitley Penn
Remain enthusiastically curious and continuously develop your intellectual capital. These two habits will enhance your ability to contribute value to the lives of others, and enable you to further the following formulation:
Wealth = Knowledge; and,
Growth = Learning
Alvin Toffler wrote, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” As a knowledge worker, your intellectual capital is what enables you to create wealth for others, and in turn for yourself. Like any other form of capital, however, IC is subject to obsolescence and must be constantly renewed.
Regularly question your profession’s orthodoxies, and understand the severe limitations of accounting: it’s not a theory, so it can only confirm the past and cannot peer into the future; it doesn’t account for intellectual capital, the chief source of wealth in our economy; it has nothing to say about value, hence the plug number of goodwill, a word we use to describe our ignorance.
Remember that your IC is more than your human and structural capital. It also consists of your social capital, the relationships that will have a profound impact on the rest of your life. You are whom you associate with. Don’t pollute your social capital with people who have a zero-sum mentality and believe you can only gain if someone else loses.
Profit comes from taking risks since we live in a world of dynamic disequilibrium (balance is for tires and ballerinas), where the only equality is in the graveyard. The Mexican author Gabriel Zaid wrote, “Wealth is above all an accumulation of possibilities.” Explore. Dream. Discover.
--Ron Baker, Founder, VeraSage Institute, and chief value officer, Armanino LLP
Embrace change and be part of forming our future profession.
We’re in an exciting profession — at the cusp of a major revolution in what we do and how we can contribute to the greater good. But we must be adaptable, as change is coming fast.
I would advise them to embrace technology, as it’s the key to not only their personal success, but the profession’s as well. And I would tell them that the next few years are critical for the profession. We’ll either change to take advantage of new and converging technologies, or we’ll simply fall by the wayside. In short, very soon it will be a very different profession from what we see today. Everything we do will be different. The time to plan for this and begin to execute is now. Inertia or complacency is a real danger.
Disruption provides opportunity for those who see it and adjust. It sounds threatening, but at the same time it’s an opportunity to focus on more value-add for our clients, and more meaningful work for the profession.
It’s very exciting to be part of the accounting profession today, especially in view of what we see the future holds. We just must embrace change management and make it part of our culture.
--Jon Baron, Managing director, Professional Segment, Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting
Don’t neglect building and maintaining your network of professional contacts; they will become extremely valuable as your career progresses —develop real connections with people and keep in contact with them, even if it’s just an occasional email. The dividends will pay out eventually.
--Joanne Barry, Executive director and CEO, NYSSCPA
Accounting is the one of the greatest professions. Once you learn the language of business and understand how businesses work, you have the ability to grow into many different roles and have boundless opportunities to channel your energies and passions into whatever you want to do. Not many disciplines give you these types of opportunities. For example, in my career I never started out saying I was going to be a professor and associate dean at a major public institution, after starting with KPMG as a staff accountant.
--Bruce Behn, Associate dean, The University of Tennessee
I would tell them that being an accountant is one of the wisest choices they could make. The knowledge that they obtain in school and in the first job or two qualifies them for many other opportunities. As an accountant you get to see how businesses operate and function. Almost all decisions in business relate to accounting and that opens up many possibilities for moving up within a company. As an example, if you want to be a marketing manager, you would still need a knowledge of accounting to make decisions to cost justify or choose alternatives in what to spend money on. Many other accountants serve on boards of companies and charitable foundations, which opens up opportunities for them.
--David Bergstein, Digital evangelist, Accountant Segment, Intuit
Be curious and embrace change. Your career has many possibilities and the profession is evolving quickly. Those who always want to learn and are adaptable thrive. Also, be an independent and critical thinker. You are hired because you have what it takes; trust your own mind as you also learn from those around you. Lastly, always build relationships, inside and outside of your organization. That’s really what our industry is built on and how each of us progresses in our careers.
--Wayne Berson, CEO, BDO USA
It’s not your father’s accounting anymore. For the first time ever, accounting has become a field where a person with analytical, technical, and problem-solving skills can thrive and be rewarded handsomely. If you have an abundance of those skills, make the most of what you have.
--Chandra Bhansali, CEO, AccountantsWorld
The more you’re able to raise your value, the more relevant you’ll become.
--Sharada Bhansali, President and Co-Founder, AccountantsWorld
I am privileged to have the opportunity to meet and have discussions with new accountants and students in the pipeline to become CPAs. My consistent message is there has never been a better time to become a certified public accountant. With the recent changes in the definition of attest, new accountants will have the opportunity to practice in a myriad of areas including IT security, sustainability, cryptocurrency as well as traditional reviews and audits. I encourage new and prospective CPAs to constantly keep pace with technological changes as they will be continuous and will occur more quickly.
--Ken Bishop, President and CEO, NASBA
After getting some experience under your belt (for five to 10 years), start your own firm if you are bent towards entrepreneurship. But do not run your firm alone. You can make a lot of mistakes if you are trying to make growth decisions on your own. There are opportunities for coaching, accounting community involvement, events, and conference that can encourage you and give you great guidance towards growing your firm in healthy ways.
--Jason Blumer, Founder and CEO, Thriveal Network
Align yourself with a great coach and be prepared to change. As Walter Gretzky stated and passed on through his son Wayne, skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.
--Gary Boomer, Visionary and strategist, Boomer Consulting Inc.
Be prepared for change. The firm you enter today will look very different in just a few years. Your future success will be determined much more on your relational skills than your technical accounting abilities.
--Jim Boomer, CEO and shareholder, Boomer Consulting Inc.
Differentiate yourself from all of your peers. Focus on learning everything about advisory services. Deep dive on the firm’s client base. Look for industry or vertical concentrations and uncover the services that they are getting from other providers and then ask yourself if you have (or if you can acquire) the skillsets to also offer those services.
Technology plays a critical role in offering advisory services, so being a sponge to everything technology will help the new accountant to better understand the role that technology will play in advisory services and will help to guide them down the path that is right for them.
--Jim Bourke, Partner, WithumSmith+Brown
Be curious. Don’t settle. Learn as much as you can every day. It’s not only the best way to excel, it’s the best way to stay interested and interesting (to clients, your boss, your future employer, whatever the case may be). The popular phrase is “When we stop learning, we stop growing.” True. But, I also think that when we stop learning we stop caring as much. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve done a job or been in your career; the world is changing around you every day and there is always something new to learn to keep you engaged at being the best.
--Jennifer Briggs, President & CEO, Indiana CPA Society
First, all practicing accountants should be embracing, adopting and implementing technology solutions to benefit their firm as well as their clients. I would recommend that all new accounting professionals ensure that they do their best to educate themselves as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, most universities have not yet implemented an accounting technology education program. Because of that, many young professionals are not gaining the experience they MUST obtain to sustain a long term and successful position in the profession.
Second, I would also recommend an open mind frame when it comes to deciding their initial employment. The requirements to go “corporate,” stick it out for four to six years to obtain your CPA license and work 60-80 hours a week is not necessarily the right track. I would say be open-minded to a non-traditional approach when deciding on the direction you need to take to grow as a professional. Many smaller firms have a more dynamic approach including remote staffing, technology implementation and many other opportunities that would allow you the experience and flexibility that you may not have access to with a more traditional approach.
--Dawn Brolin, CEO, Powerful Accounting
Having passion for the client’s success and the contributions you and your firm make to that success is the most important attribute.
--Greg Burbach, President and CEO, Honkamp Krueger & Co.
The most important factor in your success will be your grit (resilience)
--Paul Caron, Publisher and editor-in-chief, TaxProf Blog
I would tell that person to embrace change, to be prepared to see the way in which we do our work evolve dramatically in the next decade as more and more technology is leveraged in the course of executing our responsibilities. A new accountant should come in with the idea – and this is true of any profession, not just accounting – that I am here to learn, but I am also here to help transform. Indeed, this is a time of transformation for the accounting and auditing professions.
As I look to the years ahead, contemplating what the profession’s future leaders will look like, I think there are six characteristics that are fundamental to the understanding of those just beginning their careers. If they’re hoping to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to steering the sort of change that’s coming down the pike, they will need to be:
- Genetically risk-centric.
- Tech-savvy and tech fearless.
- Incessantly curious and professionally skeptical.
- Ethically farsighted.
- Intellectually honest.
--Richard Chambers, President and CEO, Institute of Internal Auditors
Great choice !!
--Fayezul Choudhury, CEO, IFAC
Understand the latest technologies and imagine the opportunities they might present to the marketplace and profession. Consider diving deeply into artificial intelligence, big data and/or blockchain. Distinguish yourself quickly from others who might choose more traditional roles and services. Lead – don’t follow! Think like an entrepreneur.
--David Cieslak, Chief cloud officer, RKL eSolutions LLC
Be curious. Learn everything you can. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo. If you are open to change and can bring a fresh perspective, you are sure to have a long and profitable career. And if you discover that where you are today isn’t the right fit, don’t be afraid to make a change to find the right fit for you and your unique skillset. These are exciting times. Embrace them.
--Lauren Clemmer, Executive director, Association for Accounting Marketing
Learn to code and learn relationship/sales skills. Those will be vital to survive in this profession for years to come. Those that only know the numbers side of the business will not be as needed in years to come with significantly less jobs being available to those types of folks.
--Mario Costanz, CEO, Happy Tax
Plastics! No, just kidding (some of you know this line from the movie “The Graduate”). My first tip is data analytics – learn and get proficient with it. My second tip is consultant – learn how to become one.
--Gale Crosley, President, Crosley+Co.
Most professionals, whether doctors, lawyers, engineers, or accountants, think they are going to practice what they were taught in school. While that is true a new accountant needs to understand that they are in the relationship business and are problem solvers. This holds true whether you aspire to be a partner in a large firm, hang your own shingle, or work for a corporation. In all situations the new accountant needs to think of themselves as a steward of the profession. At its core, accounting provides transparency and trust that is foundational to the confidence we all put into commerce transactions, the financial markets, and the global economy. The new accountant starting their career is going to be serving that mission.
--Ken Crutchfield, Vice president and general manager, Bloomberg Tax
Accounting provides an outstanding foundation and skillset, a great platform upon which to bring your knowledge and training into business, the public sector, forensic accounting, audit and so much more. Learning accounting, the language of business, allows one to become comfortable with the numbers and understand financial performance, thus providing real opportunities to make a difference — identifying and preventing fraud and corruption, supporting and advancing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and embracing and adapting to cutting-edge technology developments. We need your “digital native” thinking and mindset to help our entire profession continue to adapt and evolve.
--Kevin Dancey, Incoming CEO, IFAC
Look around and get to know as many people as you can. Success in your career will be about the relationships you build. No one does it alone.
--Loretta Doon, CEO, CalCPA
Really understand your core personal values and ensure that garnering trust and acting with integrity are cornerstones. Letting these values guide your actions will strengthen your decision-making, foster openness and collaboration, and allow you to carry out your critical role in protecting the capital markets.
--Lynne Doughtie, Chairman and CEO, KPMG
In this fast-paced world that is ever-changing, your power lies in your ability to let go of the need to have all the answers and open yourself up to possibility. Instead of aiming for the perfect answers, learn to ask great questions (not only of others, but of yourself, too!).
--Sarah Elliott, Co-founder and principal, Intend2Lead
Remain optimistic and do what hasn’t been done! When I started my career in professional services in the 1980s, I could have never imagined having a smartphone or a laptop with the capabilities these devices have today, let alone how AI, robots, or blockchain technology could transform the profession. Today, audit teams are using machine learning to help rapidly analyze thousands of pages of documents to pull key information. The next 30 years is set to see even more disruption than the last 30, and while that can be frightening to some, it opens a whole world of possibilities.
The other advice I’d give is that in order to embrace the upside of change and capitalize on the ever-evolving innovations happening around us, we all need to stay curious, and personally upgrade our skill sets continuously.
--Cathy Engelbert, CEO, Deloitte
Take the time to understand how your firm generates profits. learn to master one or two of those areas and demonstrate to the firm’s senior partners that you want to help perpetuate the firm.
--Domenick Esposito, CEO, Esposito CEO2CEO
“Be yourself,” followed immediately with “It’s harder than you think, especially if you are a minority.” We all know the importance of “being yourself” and authenticity has become a popular business buzz word. Everyone talks about being authentic as if it is easy – a simple formula to learn, then execute. The ability to be your authentic self draws on a mix of skills, attributes and qualities. For some, “being yourself” may come naturally. For others, it may take intention and a little effort. If you layer in the challenge for minorities interested in pursuing a career in a predominantly white profession, reconciling how to be yourself while still acting the part of the CPA can be even more complex. So I would try to help that new accountant understand if this comes naturally. If not, I would help them identify strategies to cope as they come into their own, stay true to themselves and own their confidence as they grow and develop. Lastly, I would offer to be a coach, mentor and resource to call on as they move through their career.
--Jina Etienne, Director of diversity and inclusion, Grant Thornton
I would tell him/her to keep an open mind and engage as early in his/her career as possible. The profession is looking for those who are willing to engage and help influence the profession. The role of the accountant is always evolving and contributions are as vital as productivity and results.
--Kim Fantaci, President, CPAFMA
I would tell an accountant just starting their career that they will inevitably face change throughout their career, but if they embrace it and focus on the opportunities change brings, they will thrive.
--George Farrah, Editorial director, Bloomberg Tax
Broaden your focus to encompass cross-border taxation including state and international areas. It will provide you more opportunities as you establish your career, and there is no question this will continue to be a high-demand area well into the future.
--Lisa Fitzpatrick, President, Bloomberg Tax
Think globally. The world's markets and economies are and will remain connected. Given accounting and auditing's international profile, a global and diverse perspective remains a great attribute for any CPA.
--Cindy Fornelli, Executive director, CAQ
Learn as much as you can, soak in all the knowledge that you are able to. Immerse yourself in, and enjoy the process. And look for opportunities to impact our profession. The new generation of accountants will be the ones to envision and enact the future of accounting, and I couldn’t be more excited by their dedication and belief in what they can achieve.
--Brian Fox, Founder and president, Confirmation.com
Focus your effort on becoming an expert in a niche area of practice. With the pace of change accelerating the value of expertise and soft skills will be even greater than today. Start focusing now. I’ve never meet an expert who wishes they had stayed a generalist or waited longer to specialize.
--Lee Frederiksen, Managing partner, Hinge
Educate yourself on these emerging technologies, including the basic concepts of blockchain, machine learning, and edge computing. Technology trends constantly change the industry landscape, and the rate of change has only increased in the past few years. Pay close attention to emerging trends and establish a continuous learning work ethic.
--Mark Friedlich, Senior director of global content, Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting
Embrace change! Be willing and open to the new possibilities and your eye on the ball.
--Glenn Friedman, Co-managing partner, Prager Metis International
Don’t let professionalism suffocate your personality.
--John Garrett, The Recovering CPA
The very first thing would be my motto for our Firm, “Embrace change and learn to adapt, it’s inevitable in business that you will need to do both well.” I would also encourage them to become technologists, always curiously searching for ways technology can be leveraged to the benefit of their clients. To be a life-long learner, always striving to shape not only their own career but of those around them. Finally, learn to become a self-disrupter, never settling for the status quo and always seeking innovation and improvement.
--Chris Geier, CEO and managing partner, Sikich
Develop and enhance technology skills to better address constantly evolving business processes.
--J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
My advice to any new accountant is, don’t be afraid to reshape the way the industry works. Think about how you can take advantage of technology to change the way accounting is delivered. Your peers have built entirely new technology businesses focused on verticals that no one even considered or didn’t even exist five years ago. Technology unleashes a whole new era of what it means to be an accountant and you should be a part of that.
--Keri Gohman, President, Xero Americas
Always remember that you’re serving the integrity of the capital markets. That important responsibility requires you to base decisions on what’s ethical, not what’s profitable.
I tell them that accounting might not be what you think based on your college professors. A few years ago, my college-age son said he wanted to change his major to accounting and, before he committed, I arranged for him to spend a day one-on-one with a handful of accountants in my firm (KCoe Isom). I asked people who were pretty new, with us for a year or so, some senior associates, and a manager, to be completely frank with him about their jobs in public accounting, what they actually do, and how they feel about it — the good, bad and ugly. I assured them there were no holds barred. They answered his questions and shared their realities. My son only told me that he was truly surprised by the difference between what he thought accountants did, and the true nature of their work. He loved that even young CPAs are empowered to make a difference in peoples’ lives and businesses as business advisors. Excitedly, he picked the major! These days, the CPA career path is just about anything you make of it.
--Michelle Golden River, Owner, Fore LLC
Confidence is king! I love the mantra, “Don’t fake it ‘til you make it, fake it ‘til you become it.” Accountants by nature are generally not the most outgoing people. They typically have a lot of self-doubt and are not sales people trained in the art of outreach and negotiation. In fact, leaders of CPA firms aren’t necessarily the best accountants, but the ones that can look a potential client in the eye and close a deal or inspire a workforce.
Every new accountant should take small steps each day to challenge their comfort zones (i.e., practice public speaking), increase their knowledge base, learn and emulate the best attributes of their supervisors, and network with their local community. All of these steps will increase confidence and confidence is the key to a vibrant and fulfilling career.
--David Gosselin, Partner, dbbmckennon
Be a sponge. Most students come out of school with a good foundation but for the most part very little practical experience. It takes one or two years for a new accountant to get “up to speed.” Do not get discouraged – just keep learning. With a good foundation in theory, the art of practicing accounting will come. We have to remind new accountants that experience is not something that can be rushed.
--Janice Gray, Vice chair, NASBA
Try to do it right. Have a personal touch, be ready for continuing changes, stay current with CPE, and have balance with the other parts of your life. You can make a difference.
--Larry Gray, National government liaison, NATP
Congratulations! What an incredible industry to be in! You have an opportunity to learn and develop and contribute to the future of this profession. Find something you are passionate about learning, dig deep, find great mentors inside and outside of the profession, raise your hand and volunteer to make a difference in your firm, with your clients and in the community. Never stop learning, never stop growing and share your thoughts with your leaders and let them know you are there to help. Have fun.
--Angie Grissom, President, The Rainmaker Companies
Invest early in broad foundational fields. Business is complicated. So measurement and reporting of business activities will necessarily be complicated, too. Good professional judgment will require not just an understanding of technical accounting rules and guidance, but also enough economic and scientific knowledge to understand the context to which the rules and guidance are being applied. This has always been true, but is likely to be increasingly important in a world where business is increasingly dominated by intangible assets while being shaped by the forces technological innovation and environmental change.
--Jeffrey Hales, Chair, SASB
They are entering a profession that has more opportunities than ever. I would encourage them to jump in head first, get involved and engaged in the issues through state societies, the AICPA, industry associations, etc. and make a difference. Don’t wait for the future, create the future!!
--Eric Hansen, Chair, AICPA
Be agile, think laterally and never stop learning.
--Andrew Harding, Chief executive, management accounting, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants
Learn more than just the basics. Think about your business and not just the product you offer. If you want to be in the tax business, you need to know more than tax law and how to prepare a tax return. Don’t just know how to get numbers on a return; know how to impact the numbers that go on that return.
No matter what direction you choose in our profession, you must be able to offer advice and planning in many areas. The change in our profession likely will change the staff makeup of your firm. Will you and your firm have the skills required in this changing time? You may also need to form alliances with outsiders to supplement your firm’s abilities.
The more skills you or your firm can bring to the table, the more successful you will be. What can you do that technology can’t replace? How can you add value to your customers when everything appears to be online or in an app?
The reasons people have historically engaged us has not and will not change for the new accountant, but more will now be expected of you than of me when I started.
--Roger Harris, President and COO, Padgett Business Services
Keep your L>C, your rate of learning greater than the rate of change. That means committing to be constantly learning new skills and committing to spend at least one hour a week in the future.
--Tom Hood, CEO and executive director, MACPA
Focus on your client relationship/management skill sets. The technology and freelancers will be handling the compliance work. To truly be different and add value from a client’s point of view, you must be good at the stuff that is relationship-based. Not just technical compliance-based. The ability to advise, show empathy and relate to clients on a human-level are going to be the key skills we need to develop in our people.
--Dustin Hostetler, Consultant, Boomer Consulting Inc.
The accounting profession is at a tipping point, creating opportunities for new professionals to learn, grow and differentiate. Early in your career, you will certainly need to learn traditional accounting skills. To prepare for the future strategic advisory role, you will need to do more than that. My specific advice is to:
1. Gather as many different career experiences as possible. Say “yes” to any project or opportunity that comes your way to learn about different business functions and people
2. Build relationships with people in other functions, from tech to finance, to expand your knowledge of what it takes to grow a business
3. Differentiate yourself by proactively learning about the new technologies that will shape the profession
--Andy Hovancik, President and CEO, Sovos
You are joining at an exciting time and there is such a ridiculous amount of opportunity to shape the future. Be patient. In many cases, if you have an accounting and data analytics or IT background, the firms might not know what to do with you yet. Be bold. Don’t be afraid to speak up and share your ideas, but also don’t be afraid to learn the nuances of business and relationships from the boomers and Gen X folks. It will carry you further than you realize.
--Sarah Johnson Dobek, President and founder, Inovautus Consulting
Never stop pursuing differentiation. What you learned in school will be archaic in years; it is a constant evolution and you must stay ahead so that you don’t get left behind.
--Kacee Johnson, Strategic advisor, CPA.com; founder, Blue Ocean Principles
Learn how to read financials quickly, and how to recommend changes in businesses to improve their operations. Support your work with an understanding of process mapping and project management. You’ll use these three skills over and over for both strategic and tactical consulting.
--Randy Johnston, Executive vice president and partner, K2 Enterprises; CEO, NMGI
I would advise: Never stop learning. This will help you plan for the jobs of the future, as the financial sector continues to evolve, and so the skills one needs must too. Become fluent in the language of technology and cybersecurity. (Talk to your information technology and information security teams!)
Equally as important as keeping up on technology is polishing your people skills. Learn how to speak and present well, how to manage a staff, and how to manage up. Don’t just assume you know what it means to be professional; keep developing those skills, too, throughout your career, and you will go far!
--Warner Johnston, Interim head of North America, ACCA
Manage your own career. Don’t assume others will possess the same zeal as you do and advocate for yourself as you would. However, you cannot get everywhere on your own. Mentors and leaders are looked to for guidance not executing your career aspirations.
Knowing what you want is an advantage. Finding a career and job function that fits your personality is essential. Do not attempt to excel in a position you dislike regardless of technical knowledge. Be mindful – Something different may turn into something great. Be O.D.D. - Own it. Drive it. Deliver it.
--Bridget Kaigler, Founder and president, Bringing Leadership Back
Specialize. Specialization will make you unique and different from others. The specialized knowledge and experience will position you as an expert and distinguish you from others. Tax reform, dramatizes the opportunity afforded by specialization. Tax reform created new Code Section 199A – the Qualified Business Income Deduction. There aren’t very many experts in this area – in particular because the IRS has not issued guidance and there are huge information gaps in the statute. The ability to be an “expert” in a particular area will transform you into a more valuable commodity.
Having promoted the idea of specialization, I also believe that it is critical for new accountants to work on their core skills. Accounting is a dynamic profession. Consciously working on transferable skills that grow qualities such as leadership, communication, presentation, organization, and motivation is critical. Also, looking for opportunities a little outside ones comfort zone will create a more strategic environment where change won’t appear so foreign. The idea would be to position yourself to learn and develop skills that complement the specialty.
--Edward Karl, Vice president of taxation, AICPA
I would ask a new college graduate just starting their career: Why did you major in accounting? It is not enough to carry you into the future. Consider getting more and more varied education. I would encourage accounting students to pursue a double major. I hope universities are changing rapidly enough to serve the needs of accounting students.
--Rita Keller, President, Keller Advisors
Be entrepreneurial and look for every opportunity to learn new skills to help your clients manage and grow their businesses more effectively (as well as utilizing those skills on your own practice). With the increasing pace of technological and business change, anyone that wants to continue to be relevant will have specifically allocate time and resources towards being a life-long learner.
--Roman Kepczyk, Director of consulting, Xcentric-a division of Right Networks
Adaptability. When I sit on panels at the University of Maryland that speak to MBA candidates, I advise that adaptability is the intangible key to professional development. Young professionals today are more technologically savvy than at any time in history. However, savviness can never equal complacency. Advancements in technology and the changes they bring are a foregone conclusion. Adapting to these changes and turning them to your advantage are the critical ingredients for success. Along with technology though, the mindset of the accounting profession has evolved. Blue suits and white shirts have been replaced with jeans and blazers. This evolution in particular affords the incoming class of accountants the opportunity to take initiatives that have historically been discouraged by the industry. It is the firms that enable generational collaboration, and the young men and women who bridge the divide, that will be better positioned to advance the profession and, in doing so, create sustainable success.
--Lexy Kessler, Chair, Aronson LLC
Don’t listen to what the older generation says -- observe what it does and draw your own conclusions and forge your own path.
--Ed Kless, Senior director, Sage
It would be the same advice I received from Steve Appel (then North American Leader of Arthur Andersen Small Business Division), which was given to me in 1975 while I was shining his shoes at a country club. “Learn how to communicate, because at the end of the day everyone can do debits and credits. But if you want to have a competitive edge, your ability to listen, ask good questions, and read people will make you a star.”
--Allan Koltin, CEO, Koltin Consulting Group
Get ready for a wild ride! It’s an exciting time to be a CPA. The profession is at the forefront of change and with their help, we’ll continue to build a great profession. Learn blockchain if you don’t already know it. Learn AI if you don’t already know it. Even with all these changes, understanding your client and servicing their needs, whether, tax/financial planning, small business assurance or small business accounting, listen, understand and deliver.
--Mark Koziel, Executive vice president – public accounting, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants
What an exciting time to be joining the profession! The paths for your growth have NEVER been more broad, diverse, and open. Firms are more willing than ever before to embrace those who show initiative, drive, and entrepreneurial thinking. I would recommend you to think WAY beyond the paths that exist currently and consider the possibility of paths that have yet to be carved out. These new paths will probably be some of the most rewarding, financially successful and drivers of our future than any path that may already exist today. This discussion is part of my “Creating a Strong Personal Brand” business development training program given to high-potential future leaders in firms across the country. The earlier a young accountant realizes there are more career choices than what they can currently see, the better.
--Art Kuesel, President and owner, Kuesel Consulting
Become intentional about noticing what brings you most alive because that is what the world needs from you, and that in turn will maximize your positive impact on others.
--Brian Kush, Co-founder and principal, Intend2Lead
Always focus on the client, which means continually asking, “How can I make this better?” Know your technologies and explore new ones as they evolve – the cloud, AI, automation, and more.
--Rene Lacerte, Founder and CEO, Bill.com
Understand that the literacy of the 21st century is the ability to “learn, un-learn, and re-learn” and embrace that an always-current awareness of, and general competence in, the technological tools available to the profession is a base-line requirement for success.
--Gregory LaFollette, Strategic advisor, CPA.com
Don’t say no to new opportunities. The accounting profession is one of the most dynamic professions there is. No two days are the same, and no two accounting roles are the same. Accountants are now on the forefront of more areas then every before. Well beyond the traditional roles in finance, auditing, and tax. Today’s accountants are leading the effort in cybersecurity, technology automation, and blockchain technologies, just to name a few.
--Michael Levy, Director of internal audit, Student Transportation Inc.
Learn how to develop business. To do so, understand how to become an advisor and not a compliance-focused professional. The business will come if you know how to add value to the client’s business. In addition, young professionals need to know that it is their responsibility to own and manage their careers.
--Bob Lewis, President, The Visionary Group
This is a great time to be in accounting! The profession is transforming – both in what it means to be a CPA and as the next generation of leaders are taking the helm driving change in their firms and organizations. New accountants can literally write their own ticket and be in a career where they can make a difference for clients, their own organization or in education. And they can create a career that truly integrates work and life, because technology makes it possible to work from anywhere, anytime.
--Tamera Loerzel, Partner, ConvergenceCoaching
Agility is a core competency to develop. The profession is justifiably respected for its stability and enormous career roadway – you can go and do practically any professional role with your background. But the world is going to change faster than your ability to digest change, and the individual who can pivot and evolve the fastest will always be in demand.
--Janice Maiman, Executive vice president of communications, PR and content, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants
One thing that I would tell a new accountant starting their career is to stay on top of the constantly changing technology and be familiar with the aspects of cybersecurity. This knowledge can be obtained through many sources and often might need to occur on their time. However, this time will be well spent. It will not only make them more valuable to the firm in which they are working, but also give them the tools necessary for if/when they open their own firms.
--Stephen Mankowski, President, NCCPAP
Be patient, creative and dynamic! The accounting profession, like most careers, is very much a journey and the most satisfied professionals are being patient with their journey. Having patience with your career allows you to discover opportunities that bring forward creative ideas that build into rewarding personal experiences. Don’t be afraid to be dynamic, and gain knowledge from those around you so you can be skilled at identifying change opportunities and future tangible ideas and solutions that bring value to our profession.
--Robert “Sean” Manning, CEO and Founder, Payroll Vault
You have so many options. A career in accounting can, and should, look substantially different from the one your parents had. The avenues in which you employ your skills have broadened and you can create a niche for your career. Perhaps you love working with numbers and analysis, the need for data analytics is growing; or tax is an interesting puzzle, look at specialties in SALT. The need for professionals talented in financial literacy and foresight is strong. Apply your passion to your skill and define your path.
--Samantha Mansfield, Director of professional development and community, CPA.com
It’s an exciting time to be an accounting professional — embrace the constant changes and above all, keep learning! The need to continue learning doesn’t stop as a professional. Learning is not limited to CPE credits but read about other professional service industries to see how you could apply their best practices to our industries. Be prepared for a transition period as you meet new colleagues, learn new firm culture, new systems, and acclimate to the professional world. Beyond being a continuous learner, consider observing other markets and try to triangulate how innovations outside of accounting can shape the profession in a new way — think service models and technology applications
--Jason Marx, CEO, Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting North America
Continue your education and read current articles, news and reports to stay abreast of and embrace change.
--Chuck McCabe, Founder, president and CEO, The Income Tax School
Don’t undervalue your unique advantages as a digital native, and as part of a generation that understands how and why the business world has shifted in the past 10 years, from the sharing economy to the rapid rise of ecommerce and automation. You know why shopping malls are disappearing. You have no fear of turning first to a technology to take care of time-consuming tasks, and spending the bulk of your energy on adding strategic value. Embrace this advantage, it’s big -- now go out and win the world!
--Scott McFarlane, Co-founder and CEO, Avalara
Leverage advanced technologies to assist you in automating areas that can be, which will free up more time to offer the higher-value-added services clients are looking for today. Don’t be afraid to try new things with your processes by doing lean tests in different areas to learn quickly and then determine if it is worth continuing or refining to improve.
--Jim McGinnis, Executive vice president, Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting
I tell every new professional who comes to us, “This industry is transforming – rapidly.” Everything is changing at a dizzying pace. If we want to lead and succeed, we all have to be ready to lead and drive that change. So there’s great challenge and also tremendous opportunity. I tell our new teammates, this is a really exciting time, and I hope you’re all ready to jump in and help make things happen!
--J. Michael “Mike” McGuire, CEO, Grant Thornton
The core values of our profession create huge opportunities for the profession and those in it. The world has a shortage of trust and our reputation and commitment to ethics and competency produce a trust relationship with the stakeholders of the profession. This trust provides opportunity as expectations rapidly change.
--Barry Melancon, President and CEO, AICPA
You are on the cusp of a revolution affecting the accounting profession that will make you more valuable, trusted and vital than we have ever been in ways that we are just starting to imagine. To be part of this requires an eagerness to learn new things and to think about the implications of what can be done rather than what was done. You will be on an exciting adventure that will be limited solely by your lack of efforts and imagination.
--Edward Mendlowitz, Partner, WithumSmith+Brown
Don’t look in the rear-view mirror. The challenge for a new accountant is the past. They will possibly be trained, advised and coached by accountants resisting the evolution that is happening. As I talk to new grads, I encourage them to align themselves with forward-thinking people and firms, embrace the change and be a positive influence on that chance.
--Wesley Middleton, Managing partner, MiddletonRaines+Zapata
Be “proactively curious” – curious about clients and their businesses; curious about the full scope of their firms’ capabilities; curious about the goals of others in their networks; curious about “what’s next” in the industry. Doing so with a genuine interest is a key to being equipped to be an advisor who can make an impact for their clients, for their firms, and for their personal lives.
--D. Scott Moore, Shareholder and executive vice president, The Rainmaker Companies
While technical skills are important, continue to build out your verbal and written communications skills. I see many talented accountants who are entering the workforce who are very bright, but who can’t carry on a conversation or write a decent memo. Even though we talk a lot about technology, analytics, etc. you still need to have strong communication skills to advance your career.
--Stan Mork, President, ITA
I coach many new young professionals to the CPA profession and I encourage them all to first become great technicians of their desired accounting disciplines. Secondly I tell them to watch those in the firm especially the partners they deem highly successful, charismatic, good client service people and energetic LEADERS. Learn to take care of business, learn to nurture others, learn to bring business into the firm and learn to establish core values and principles they will be proud of when they look back on their career. Learn to work and play hard, learn to say they are sorry when they hurt someone, learn to clean up their own messes when they create them. Learn to be kind to other people and respect everyone and their opinions. Check your ego from time to time. Remember the people you pass on the way up the ladder are the same people you will pass on the way down. Love your families, tempus fugit -- time flies -- and most importantly make your parents proud of the person you will become. Your good name is your most important asset. In the words of Robert Fulgim, “Live some and laugh some” .... in the words of Jay Nisberg, “Do good deeds, give it your all, enjoy your profession and enjoy your family.” These are the things I tell young people I coach.
--Jay Nisberg, President, Jay Nisberg & Associates
Invest in yourself. Read, read, and read some more, so that you have substance. Build a knowledge base before you focus your attention on building a client base.
--Tony Nitti, Partner, WithumSmith+Brown
The accounting profession (as is life) is all about relationships. Be a student of how to create connection with other people and always seek to understand how you can add value to them. Always guard your integrity and adopt a forever mindset of service and contribution.
--Clayton Oates, Chief solutions officer, QA Business
You no longer have to choose tax or audit. There are many opportunities in IT and consulting for accounting majors.
Learn as much as you can about accounting software, ERPs, and how to integrate cloud applications. Your professors probably won’t have taught you much about that, if anything.
You don’t have to follow the traditional career path in the Big Four anymore. It’s not about “making it to manager and then going to industry.” You can start in industry. You can go to public after that if you want. You can even start your own firm in your twenties these days if you’re good at marketing yourself online. I know because I’ve done all three, and have watched others do the same.
--Blake Oliver, Senior product marketing manager, FloQast Inc.
Learn as much as you can about technology and data. But don’t forget your human skills. As technology will take over a lot of our grunt work, our human skills will make us more valuable than ever.
--Jody Padar, CEO and principal, New Vision CPA Group
When a toddler starts to learn walking on his/her two feet, he/she holds the hands of parents to minimize the risk of injury from a fall -- and to help practice walking. Fundamental accounting knowledge will be newly starting accountants’ two feet. The hands holding him/her to help to learn to walk will not be those of traditional seniors and experienced accountants. On one hand, there will be new transformative technologies. On the other hand will be the new outcome and value expectations of the newer generations of clients. Both won’t be obligated to you to hold your hands till you learn walking. It will be like parents sending their child to another country, all alone.
The real parents -- the experienced accountants -- will be more like the remote navigation assistance providers -- as the newer technologies will have inbuilt “accounting work intellectual property” and are capable of using artificial intelligence and machine learning to derive new intelligence from the context of the work. Blockchain and other emerging digital ledger technologies will provide immutable trust. In other words, the traditional processes followed by accounting firms -- to initiate, onboard, train, provide real-life, real work experiences to the incoming new accountants -- will not be any more relevant to the intensely technology-driven future that is fast moving away from the accounting world we now live in. In fact, it will be a new world altogether. The new accountants will, therefore, need to leverage human intelligence to benefit from the whole technological spectrum to cater to clients’ expectations of newer outcomes and value. They will need the creative ability to imagine the new outcomes and create processes that will enable them to deliver those new outcomes. Hence the one thing I will tell a new accountants is: “Imagine immigration.”
Imagine immigration: Imagine you are a child traveling to another country without accompanying parents. You need a visa to enter that country. You don’t want to carry too much baggage The people in that country speak a different language.
Future of accounting is that country. Your preparation is your visa. The older processes followed by accountants is the baggage you want to leave behind. The people (clients) in the new country speak the language driven by newer technologies. You need to learn that language in advance.
--Hitendra Patil, Director of practice development, AccountantsWorld
Education is worth a great deal, and it’s unlikely that machines will ever be able to replace human judgement. Work hard, stay focused, and continue to learn and develop new skills at every step of your career.
--Brian Peccarelli, Chief operating officer, Thomson Reuters
Data analytics are more important than ever. Integrate data from multiple sources into your client data analysis, go beyond the financial activity -- that will set you apart from everyone else today. You don’t have to be an engineer or a data scientist, your accounting foundation is all about data analysis.
--Carl Peterson, Vice president of small firm interests, AICPA
You are going to work for a very long time. Even though you may have wanted to be in tax since you were in high school, you won’t know for sure if that’s the right fit if you don’t try advisory or auditing, or every other facet of the accounting field.
--Scott Peterson, Vice president of U.S. Tax Policy and Government Relations, Avalara
Learn Client Accounting Services, all the technology and apps that support small-business clients, and start working with clients direct as soon as you can. Become the outsourced accountant to SMBs and grow an incredible practice -- either as your own cloud firm or inside your existing employer.
--Jeff Phillips, CEO, Accountingfly
Congratulations! You are entering the accounting profession at an exciting time!
Work hard and remember to keep a pulse on what is happening outside your company in the accounting profession. Your ability to recognize what changes are coming and learning what skills you need to keep up with these changes will prepare you for the new experiences in your career. Be bold. You may have an idea of what you want to do long-term, but always be open to exploring different paths that arise. You may find you fit into a neat niche in our profession that you did not think was a possibility.
Pick a passion (e.g., technology, diversity, taxes, technical standards, ethics, communication, etc.) within the accounting profession and volunteer in this area to lift up others (e.g., through educating, writing, mentoring, etc.). We will be a better accounting community and world community when we dedicate time to helping people around us. Allocate part of your time and financial resources to supporting organizations that serve others.
--Elizabeth Pittelkow Kittner, Controller, Litera Microsystems
This is not your father’s accounting profession. Your future success will be more dependent on your creativity, your judgment, your analytical skills and your people skills than the technical accounting skills you learned in college. Be open, stay on top of the changes, don’t be afraid of technology and you will have an amazing career in front of you.
--Amy Pitter, President and CEO, Massachusetts Society of CPAs
Accounting is a great career choice during this time of digital transformation. You can help advance the profession with “big thinking” and innovation. Don’t just accept the “That’s the way we’ve always done it” type of thinking.
--Terri Polley, President and CEO, FAF
If you did not take the courses in college, seek out either college courses or CPE on data analytics. The change in technology will make people with a data analytics background more valuable in our industry.
--Nick Preusch, Tax manager, PBMares
Look for a firm that “gets it.” A practice that embraces diversity between generations and cultures. Look for a firm that invests in new tools to serve clients, and a firm that sees its people as the most important attribute for its success. This profession continues to offer the best long-term opportunity for success for accounting grads, and now grads with non-accounting skills as well, both professionally and financially.
--Terry Putney, CEO, Transition Advisors
For a new accountant just starting in their career, the key will be being open to what I call “perpetual learning.” The world is evolving faster than ever before, and it will be important to be open to learning how to think creatively about their roles. To think about “how they do what they do” at a firm and individual level. The new accountants who are prepared to understand these changes will be successful in the long term.
--Ron Quaranta, Chairman, Wall Street Blockchain Alliance
The biggest difference between successful accountants and those that fail has more to do with their responsiveness than their expertise.
--Lee Reams II, CEO, ClientWhys
Be aware of the continual evolution of the accounting profession. Accountants are no longer the pencil-pushers of old. They are key to successful and profitable businesses.
--Lee Reams Sr., Chief technical officer, ClientWhys, TaxBuzz and CountingWorks
To learn as much as they can about data science and how to use big data to help their clients interpret information.
--Darren Root, CEO, Rootworks & Liscio
Sorry, two things. First, understand that interpersonal and communication skills will always be more important than technical skills in determining career advancement and success, regardless if it’s in public accounting or other businesses. Caveat: Do not misinterpret this statement as meaning that technical skills are unimportant. People must develop technical skills in the CPA firm world, but they are more like ante to get into the game.
Second, become as proficient and comfortable as possible with technology. Be the kind of person that greets technology changes with excitement and open arms instead of one that struggles with change. Master technology and be known as someone who is a go-to person when technologically-challenged colleagues (like partners??) need help.
--Marc Rosenberg, President, The Rosenberg Associates
Become familiar with cloud ERP systems and mobile technology -- they will make your client’s business run more efficiently now and well into the future. Try to fully understand the problem before you dive in with a solution. Make sure you are comfortable with applied technology and take time to understand the business processes they support.
--Jon Roskill, CEO, Acumatica
Find a mentor right away, one that is consultative in their approach. Secondly, become a rainmaker, learn how to network and start bringing in new business from the start. Look for opportunities to expand the work you do with clients all the time. This will put you on a track for success and for eventual partnership.
--Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk, President, bbr companies
I would tell a new accountant to hold fast to their values and be true to themselves.
--Heather Satterly, Owner, Satterly Training & Consulting
Let the adventures in accounting begin by always seeking opportunities to learn something new; especially obtain skillsets focused on effective communication, critical thinking and how to be creative & innovative.
--Natasha Schamberger, CEO and president, Kansas Society of CPAs
I would tell a new accountant to persevere in the face of challenges; lead from where you are; always work hard; strive to maintain and grow your skillset; and never stop learning. It’s never too early to develop and exercise a growth mindset.
--Russell Shapiro, Partner, Levenfeld Pearlstein
Be nimble, quick and lead change. The speed of change will never be slower than it is today. New accountants need to develop superior analytic, strategic and leadership skills. They will need to capitalize on these skills to lead change in a rapidly evolving environment. Those who do will be highly sought after by clients and businesses.
--Todd Shapiro, President and CEO, Illinois CPA Society
Your education hasn’t ended — it’s just begun. As Fast Company editor Robert Safian says, the most important skill you’ll ever have is the ability to learn new skills. Your job will evolve many times during your career. You must evolve as well. Be nimble. Be flexible. Read and learn constantly. Then repeat. The results will be personal and professional growth — and an enriching, fulfilling career.
--Bill Sheridan, Chief communications officer, MACPA
Get your CPA. Then look at the broad set of specialty credentials that are available after the CPA. Figure out which one aligns with your passion and interests and start working toward that credential. It’s a way to differentiate yourself and increase your value to potential employers or clients.
--Donny Shimamoto, Managing director, IntrapriseTechKnowlogies
As a faculty member, this is not a theoretical question for me. It is a daily reality. I am bullish about the future of the profession. In my over 40 years of involvement in accounting, I have seen the profession make numerous adjustments to retain its relevance. The emerging investments by firms to leverage data analytics and technological innovations are extremely encouraging. The message I deliver to students entering the profession is that the opportunities are unlimited, not only when entering, but throughout a career in the profession. I like to use my career as an example and relate the different career opportunities I was provided every two to three years. The key is they are joining a lifelong profession, not just finding a job.
--Scott Showalter, Chair, FASAC
Try and keep broad the experience and knowledge you seek to obtain. While focusing on your accounting skills, also embrace and learn as much as you can about technology. Try and diversify your experience with consulting types of services and knowledge. Don’t only focus on traditional A&A type of services
--Joel Sinkin, President, Transition Advisors
I would tell them that they need to understand how a business runs and to not approach clients only from a “Monday morning quarterback” perspective. Be a part of their business when you work on their business.
--Pauline Sullinger, Director of TASC, Miller Grossbard Advisors
Don’t go anywhere without something to write with and something to write on (and don’t forget your business cards).
--Danielle Supkis Cheek, Director, PKF Texas
New accountants should establish career goals to become an industry or niche market expert versus taking a generalist career path. They should develop a well-defined plan and a personal brand, including measurable action items with specific time frames, to increase skill-building and leadership capabilities. They should use and sell their personal brand to consistently get to the next level in their career. Also, new accountants should consider taking the consulting and advisory services path, versus the compliance side of public accounting and use state-of-the-art technology in delivery of services.
--Joseph Tarasco, CEO, Accountants Advisory Group
Here’s what they won’t tell you in college, or even in your first job: You’re an entrepreneur. Learn to think an entrepreneur. Learn to act like it.
You are a member of a learned profession, dedicated to a unique responsibility to truth, independence, and objectivity, and a higher responsibility to the public that goes beyond yourself, your firm, or even your client.
Bottom line: Every accountant is in business for themselves, responsible for their own skills, growth, integrity, reputation, brand, and service to clients and the public.
The most important skill you can learn beyond the basics for licensure are how to get new clients, and to amaze and delight them.
If the definition of a business starts with the fact that its not a businesses until it has a customer (Drucker, I think), then the definition of an accountant is that there’s no such thing as a professional accountant until they are in practice (public or private) with a real, live client.”
--Rick Telberg, Founder and CEO, CPA Trendlines
You become what you believe.
--Irene Teng, Executive vice president of global markets, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants
Always focus on the broad picture — think horizontal and develop your story. Accountants are in a unique position to see the big picture and our ability to tell the story is critical. Tell it with clarity and passion.
--Arleen Thomas, Managing director, Americas, and CGMA global offerings, AICPA
I would remind a new accountant how respected the CPA credential is, and I would encourage him or her to obtain it if it hasn’t already been achieved. CPAs and accounting professionals are valued from Wall Street to Main Street and are needed in all industries. Whether working in a large accounting firm, opening up one’s own practice, or working in the corporate environment, this degree will always be useful. And it opens more doors today than ever before. More skillsets are required to be successful, so more professionals should be encouraged to enter the field.
Accountants are needed in good times and bad — our last recession taught us that. It is a profession that is highly regarded and admired. The more accountants realize where their degree can take them, the better it will be for everyone.
--Ralph Albert Thomas, CEO and executive director, NJCPA
The employment market for finance professionals has changed. We have now automated many of the tasks traditionally done by entry-level accountants. Because of this, new management accountants are being asked to have a more sophisticated skillset when they enter the workforce. Therefore, I’d encourage new finance and accounting professionals to pursue a well-rounded accounting education, with a focus on technical accounting as well as business strategy and decision support. Earning relevant certifications can help professionals develop these skills and elevate their standing in their organization. Technology is impacting our profession, but with the right skills and training, your career trajectory will change for the better.
--Jeffrey Thomson, President and CEO, IMA
Pay attention, ask questions, and do the next right thing, to infinity.
--Darryl Ucheya, founder, Shrewd CPA; tax associate, KPMG
Take the opportunity to help the organization you are in to evolve. The next group of accountants are more tech-savvy, more purpose-driven, and motivated to make an impact. They should seize those inherent strengths to power the firms they work in to do the same. Don’t be afraid and let your voice and ideas be heard.
--Ian Vacin, Co-founder, vice president of education & partnerships, Karbon
Hold on to your hat! You are about to enter the profession at a very exciting time. As someone new to the accounting profession, you bring a lifetime of experiences with technology. You can be a key factor in helping our “seasoned” accountants who tend to have a harder time embracing technology advancement. You will play an important role in shaping the future of the profession. Take full advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead – and enjoy the ride.
--David Vaudt, Chairman, GASB
Embrace what makes you unique. You are not limited in this profession to do one thing for the rest of your life. I started out in tax, then switched to external audit, then internal audit, then owned my own client accounting services practice, and eventually worked as an executive for accounting technology corporations. Stay the course and try new things when you get inspired. When you find something that interests you -- become an expert and set yourself apart. Seek out mentors who can help guide you on your path and prepare you for the skills you will need to accomplish to meet your professional goals. Look for senior leaders and get to know them, learn their stories and how they were able to get to where they are today. Seek out ways you can help others and you will get it back tenfold. Don’t hold yourself back -- try things you didn’t think you could do, learn from your experiences and improve, and say “yes” to opportunities that present themselves.
--Amy Vetter, CEO, B3 Method Institute
You are about to enter one of the best professions you can find in the world. It allows you to truly impact and help people in unique and challenging ways, leverage technology, and solve unique problems. The profession is going through tremendous change right now, so don’t get discouraged -- now is your time to make an impact and help usher in the change.
--Garrett Wagner, CEO and Founder, C3 Evolution Group
You are not an accountant, you are an advisor. Accounting taught you how to balance numbers; advice doesn’t balance. Get used to that.
--Kyle Walters, Founder, L&H CPAs and The Personal CFO
I would tell new accountants to embrace learning. Your formal education may be complete, but your learning has really only just begun. Welcome the opportunity to be the least experienced person in the room and use every chance to learn from your leaders and peers. Especially today, accounting requires practitioners who can evolve and adapt to changing client expectations and norms. Embrace the fact that this industry provides a lifelong opportunity to learn and grow.
--Jennifer Warawa, Executive vice president of partners, accountants and alliances, Sage
Excel at technology. Get on as many technology working groups as you can. Not only will you be helping to map the future, it’s also an unbeatable way to learn from others while standing out as someone with their eye on tomorrow.
Specialize. Figure out what industries or technical subjects get you excited, and focus on those. Specialists can write their own tickets – which is not always true of generalists.
Think like a business owner. Create value for your clients and your firm by embracing and even anticipating challenges and coming up with solutions. Ask yourself what your work means to the client and the firm. Own it. Perform as if it’s your company because that’s the career track to partnership, when it will be your company.
Don’t be a number cruncher -- be a strategist. Think beyond the confines of the traditional public accounting box.
--Jeffrey Weiner, Chairman and CEO, Marcum
Be curious and open. Say yes. Learn everything you can. There is no greater gift you can bring to service of all kinds than to be interested, curious, and constantly learning.
--Geni Whitehouse, Founder, Even a Nerd Can Be Heard
Education is power, and while your bachelors or masters allowed you a foot in the door, your education is just beginning. Continue your education by learning more about data analytics, entrepreneurship, business practices, business development/sales and marketing. Make learning a daily habit and watch your career thrive!
--Sandra Wiley, President and shareholder, Boomer Consulting
The sky’s the limit for you in this profession. Be prepared, though -- there is a lot that needs to change, so please don’t be surprised that the firm or company you join has some “old school” ways. Be solutions-oriented and respectful as you share your suggestions for change – and don’t quit without speaking up, please! Almost all of the baby boomer leaders I know want to be told what you’d like to see change or be different. They want your input and guidance. Come in and be part of the transformation of this wonderful profession that guards our global economy!
--Jennifer Wilson, Co-founder and owner, ConvergenceCoaching
Be proactive with your clients, expanding your role and your value proposition beyond compliance and recordkeeping (historical) to include analysis and coaching (forward-looking). Then, price your engagements based on the value you bring to the client.
--Joe Woodard, CEO, Woodard Events
Technical skills will continue to be critical. But just as critical to new accountants’ careers are critical thinking skills which will help them be anticipatory to environmental changes and the evolving needs of businesses. I believe the most successful accountants will not only be able to analyze key business drivers such as financial and operational data, regulatory requirements, technology changes and risks, but also able to compile these individual elements into a strategic approach that helps their clients or companies evolve.
--Candace Wright, Chair, Private Company Council
I talk to a lot of young professionals and my consistent response is find something about your career that intrigues you even if it isn’t the “sexy” issue. Discover what you are good at in terms of the nature of the work and then find a way to marry those two things. If you can do the functional work where you excel in the tax area you enjoy – you will succeed – always! Don’t get put into a box – advocate for yourself to make sure you can succeed.
--Diane Yetter, President, Yetter Tax