CPAs have received a blessing in disguise with the annual continuing professional education requirements that force them to learn something new.
 
“Selection of learning activities should be a thoughtful, reflective process addressing the individual CPA’s current work plans, current knowledge and skills level and desired or needed additional competencies to meet future opportunities and/or professional responsibilities,” according to the statement on standards for CPE programs issued jointly by the AICPA and NASBA.
 
This sounds like a guiding principle that every working person in any industry should follow in order to better serve the public and, quite frankly, themselves.

Tons of vendors offer discounted, and often free, ways for accountants to become power users of their applications. TaxSimple is in the process of calling customers to offer them training now in hopes of decreasing some of the tech support calls during busy season. Staying hip to current trends, CCH in August introduced a CPE Podcast Center with downloadable audio files about recent developments and emerging issues in tax and accounting that people can listen to on their MP3 players to earn continuing professional education credits while commuting on the subway or hanging out in the park.

A simple Google search for “CPE” reveals a plethora of personal development courses such as time management for busy people (“streamlined for people who don't have time to sit down and read a whole book”) and a professional guide to high-tech consulting.
 
Some conferences serve such a wealth of intriguing material that I curse myself for not being able to be in two places at once.
 
Yet all too often during industry events I sit in on sessions about what I consider to be interesting topics (despite the fact that as a non-CPA I earn no credit for them) and have to block out others who are chatting or dozing off while supposedly enriching their careers.
 
I can’t fault people for choosing to collect their CPE in Vegas or Hawaii—they may as well have a little fun while brushing up on tax law. But by ignoring the speakers, they are not only cheating the system, but themselves.
 
Last week a little girl stood in the hallway of my office, holding her mother’s hand, and relayed a story of how she had cried on the first day of school, not wanting to leave her mother, until she spotted her friend and suddenly ran off without a thought. She was smiling as she spoke, supposedly at how silly she had been for not wanting to leave her comfort zone.
 
It made me think of all the courses I wanted to take while in college that I never got a chance to and how registering for a class or two could really prove beneficial. But this incident also made me realize how scary it can be to advance to the next “grade” level when you don’t know what to expect and you’re already working around the clock—especially when there is no governing body mandating that you do so.
 
As all the kids hop back on school buses ready for a new year of learning, think about what you’re doing—or could be doing—to continue your own education. Are you just going through the motions, venturing in from the golf course to collect your CPE, or are you willing to leave your comfort zone in the name of self-advancement?

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