Think back for a moment about why you became a CPA. Chances are, there was a person, or perhaps more than one, who inspired you to follow the path to becoming an accountant.

Maybe you had a family member or a friend whom you admired who was a CPA and made you want to follow in their footsteps. Maybe it was a person -- a professor or a professional -- who encouraged you to pursue a career as a CPA. Or maybe you fell into your career as a CPA because you were lucky enough to find someone who was willing to give you your first break.

At some point, when a profession matures, its members shift away from simply working to establish the profession and start focusing on growing the ranks and planning for the future. It was clear this year at the Financial Planning Association's annual conference this week in Denver that the financial planning profession is maturing.

No longer was the focus on establishing financial planning as a standalone profession in the minds of the public and of other professions. Instead, there was a lot of talk about succession planning. Today, there are many planners who've been in the business for decades and they're at a point in their careers where they must decide where they want to be in the next five to 10 years. And while in the past, most people who became financial planners got there by way of another career -- many started out as stock brokers, insurance professionals, attorneys or accountants -- today, college students can major in financial planning and decide early on that planning is their career of choice.

To that end, FPA president-elect Jim Barnash called on planners at the conference to give back to their profession by "growing their own replacements." In asking planners to serve as mentors, Barnash urged them to commit to doing three acts of mentorship over the next 12 months, whether it be teaching a course, hiring an intern at their firm, or letting a "newbie" planner sit in on a client meeting.

Barnash's message should serve as a reminder to everyone that we're responsible for ensuring our own future by helping to cultivate tomorrow's leaders. What are you doing to ensure that your firm -- and your profession -- continue beyond your lifetime? Even as many rise to the top ranks in the profession, a common problem cited, particularly by women in accounting, has been a lack of role models.

If you were lucky enough to have a mentor who made a difference in your career, maybe the best way to show them how much you appreciate what they did for you is to serve as a mentor yourself. After all, they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And if you didn't have a mentor, and wish that you had, now's your chance to be the person who made a difference in the career of another budding CPA.


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