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Art of Accounting: More advice for new accountants

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Most new accountants start in a pretty standard way. It doesn’t matter so much how smart you are or how well you did in school; the firm still needs to train you and get a feeling for your ability. If you are good, then at some point you will break away from the normal progression track. Here are some ways to stand out and grow your job into a career.

  • Do what your supervisor wants you to do. This requires you to understand the instructions and be perfectly clear about what you need to do and how. It also means that if you do not understand the instructions, you need to ask to have them repeated. If you ask too many times, your supervisors will get annoyed, but if you do the work wrong, they will get more annoyed. You have to decide if you would rather get your boss annoyed early on or later on after you’ve done the work wrong. I know that the early annoyance is forgotten quickly when the supervisor sees you do good work, and the later annoyance never ends. Once your supervisor sees you do good work, it builds up confidence and you will be given higher-level work. When they see you do poor work, they won’t trust you and you will not move up at a reasonable rate.
  • ABP. Always Be Prepared. That means have a pen or pencil and pad to take notes on what you need to do. If you are a great and fast typist, you can use your computer or iPad for this. ABP also means that you did a little research on the client or project you will be working on … before you start on it.
  • Look up and read last year’s financial statement or tax return. Check out the client’s website. Asked to be briefed about the services you will perform. If you did something similar previously, relook at it. If it is new, get a running start by looking in your textbook or CPA review book. Go online to read about it or ask a colleague.
  • Get your work completed on time, never late. If you find something cannot get done on time, tell your supervisors as soon as possible, so they have an opportunity to rearrange or change the schedule or due date.
  • Be on time. Never be late. It is OK for you to wait for your boss. It is never OK for your boss to wait for you. Be prepared to wait by having a book, article or memo to read so you will not be wasting your time until the other person shows up.
  • Hold yourself to higher standards than the highest standards your supervisor will hold you to. That means a lot of things but in particular, not making errors. Everything you do can be self-checked. Your boss will be checking everything you do, so isn’t it stupid for you not to do that before you hand it in to him or her?
  • If a supervisor tells you to do something that is not working, bring it to their attention when you realize it. Show them your attempt and what is not working. Never tell them they screwed up … because they will get upset with you by the way you said it or you might be wrong.
  • Pass on client comments and messages to your supervisors. The partners and owners are in the business of making their clients be and feel more secure. You are in the business of making the partners and owners be more secure by having you work for them. By way of illustration, when a client asks you a question, unless it is a very simple one, they do not want you to respond. What they want is for you to tell your supervisor, owner or partner so they can respond. By you answering it (even if you are right), it will lessen their respect for you and add an element of reduced confidence since they really wanted you to pass it on to the higher up. By asking you, they are saving themselves the call to your supervisor. It also indicates confidence that you are part of the team. Further, regardless of how smart you are, you lack the experience practicing with that client. Many times a basic question can lead to a much broader issue, which your boss could spot, but not you. And, when you pass on the question, it shows responsiveness and responsibility by you and trust by the client. That is how you grow.

There is more, but I think I’ve given enough information today and last week, so I am stopping. But you cannot stop. You have to move forward and if you follow all of the simple things I’ve laid out, I am positive you will do very well in public accounting.

Good luck.

Do not hesitate to contact me at emendlowitz@withum.com with your practice management questions or about engagements you might not be able to perform.

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is on the Accounting Today Top 100 Influential People list. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition.” Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com along with the Pay-Less-Tax Man blog for Bottom Line. Ed is an adjunct professor in the MBA program at Fairleigh Dickinson University teaching end user applications of financial statements. Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 743-4582 or emendlowitz@withum.com.

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