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6 tips for pursuing a career in a CPA firm

Applying for a new role with a CPA firm may seem daunting.

Who has the time to apply and fill out an application that asks questions already answered on your resume or LinkedIn profile, not to mention the lengthy interviews and salary negotiations? Then, there is that moment when you truly begin to consider making the jump and starting with a new firm. This may be risky, especially if you enjoy aspects of your current firm. But despite these potential hurdles, those seeking a new job will often discover that many professional services and accounting firms are on the hunt for the best and brightest in the marketplace and will offer competitive compensation packages.

In a growing industry, with plummeting unemployment levels, the war for talent is fierce. If you possess the skillset that firms are seeking, you are in luck. These sought after skills include specific certifications, client management and interaction, creative problem solving, team leadership and emotional intelligence.

Middle-market accounting and advisory firms specifically are honing in on the typical CPA license, along with the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) licenses. Such firms usually target well-rounded professionals who possess experience with a diverse set of clients versus someone who is very industry specific. Finally, candidates with an entrepreneurial approach to their work are highly sought after by these firms.

Part of the natural maturing of a professional is to constantly be vigilant and scope out career options as well as networking opportunities. In order to break free from the traditional and often outdated recruiting processes, the following bits of advice should be considered:

1. Start following the social media accounts of target companies and firms you wish to work with; doing so creates a better understanding of the company’s overarching mission and goal. This includes locating firms that service clients or industries you are comfortable with or even those to which you wish to gain more exposure.

2. Go the extra mile and briefly introduce yourself to members of their talent acquisition and recruiting teams. Remember, networking has many benefits for your career, both now and down the road. When making introductions, state your personal career goals. Doing so helps recruiters find the “right” fit for you. Some recruiters may review your LinkedIn profile and notice you have spent your last few years in audit but would not otherwise be aware of your desire to move into a consulting role.

3. If you see an opening with a firm, that fits your professional goals or aspirations, send a resume or message to the recruiter directly and ask if your background fits the role. Also include a brief note mentioning your career goals. This saves time in regard to filling out lengthy application processes and initiates a conversation.

4. Have a strong and thorough understanding of what you are currently looking for in your career and your future aspirations. Distill this into a written objective on your LinkedIn page and check that your resume, profiles and messages all consistently speak to your unique goals. If you would like to relocate or are in the process of doing so, update your resume and profiles to reflect that. If your resume states you are in Oregon, but your goal is to make it to New York, ensure that all written material reflects this messaging and objective.

5. If you decide to interview with a firm, convey your timeline and schedule with the recruiter on the front-end of your conversations. Be clear about your availability and feasible start date. Your time is valuable and you should convey it as such. Additionally, if you are passively looking and are not ready to make a move for a while, let them know. Networking and interviewing today help spark a conversation and could position you well for future opportunities.

6. Be clear with recruiters regarding your desired compensation package. Know what you find valuable and need in a career. If this means extra vacation time or a desired salary, make recruiters aware of it.

Making a jump in your accounting career does not need to be nerve-wracking. If you feel you possess the skills necessary to be successful in a firm and have a desire to grow with one long-term, delve into the market and see if there is a fit for you. Remain confident in what you want out of your career, your work and a firm. Going through this process with confidence ensures smooth transitions and clear, open communication.

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