On Friday morning, at the start of the New York State's Society of CPAs (NYSSCPA) NextGen15 Conference - the annual interactive career development conference held in Midtown Manhattan - Kevin Matz of Kevin Matz and Associates gave a presentation highlighting the merits of "real-world communication," titled "Keeping People 'In-the-Know': Communicating to Cultivate Relationships and Inform."

"I want to encourage you all to put yourselves out there, to not be afraid to communicate, and to take chances," Matz told the crowd. "We are all our own brand; we're all ambassadors of our firms."

Matz explained that communication and interpersonal skills are essential to one's professional career, and that young CPAs should focus on soft skills for career advancement and always strive to learn more.

"You have to get your name out there - internally, in your own firm, and externally."

Matz stressed to develop strong writing, speaking, reading, and especially listening skills to overcome communication barriers. "Everyone of us is going to make mistakes. Admit them, see what went wrong, and move on."

Matz offered the following things to consider:

  • Sarcasm and jokes don't show up well in email.
  • Pick up the phone and call clients. Avoid all possible confusion and show you have their best interests.
  • Speaking face to face with a client shows that you empathize with them.
  • Have to keep developing these skills over the course of your career.
  • Make client meetings more valuable through preparation - clarify the objectives of the meeting. "I like clarity because my clients like clarity."

And while some of the suggestions might seem remedial, Matz noted, "It's important to remind ourselves of the simple ways of communicating and the magic of personal touch in building a successful and long-term relationship. [It's] making ourselves as attractive as we can to clients."
On Social Media, Matz advised to not spread oneself too thin, to focus on one or two social media sites and make it a goal to post at least once a week. "You are your best marketing agent," he added. "Don't be too informal. This is the time to show your skills and knowledge."

Above all, Matz wanted professionals to keep continuous self-improvement in mind. "If we are no better than we were yesterday, clients may soon look elsewhere to have their needs met. Be aware of how the market is changing and adapt accordingly. You have to be seen and heard to stand out and advance."

For more information on NextGen, head to NYSSCPA's site here.