10 things that accounting grads need to know
With the ink still drying on their diplomas, a whole new class of accounting graduates is ready to embark on careers in the profession — and with that in mind, Richard Berkowitz, founding and executive chairman of Top 100 Firm Berkowitz, Pollack Brant, compiled the following list of 10 things someone just starting out in the field should bear in mind.
1. Be inquisitive
As a recent graduate, you are not expected to know how to put your knowledge into practice. In fact, most of your new colleagues expect that you will rely on them to learn the ropes. If you have a question, ask it, whether it is how to complete a task, how the laws have changed or how to handle a client challenge. It is better to ask a question and potentially appear uninformed than it is to take action without having the right information.
2. Commit the effort to hone your skills
Your education provided you with a solid base, but there is so much more to learn. Roll up your sleeves and take advantage of every opportunity to acquire knowledge. Enhance both your technical and leadership skills and become a proficient advisor in a practice area or industry where your passion and leadership can shine.
3. Get out of your comfort zone and take risks
Avoid complacency and the risk of falling into a routine that keeps you stagnant and impedes your ability to achieve the career you desire. Be open to new people, new ideas and new experiences; share your curiosity; and have fun. By taking risks, you can step into new opportunities and grow in the process
4. Be honest and accountable
If you never make a mistake, you will never learn. Be accountable for your actions and immediately let someone know to help you mitigate any damages. If you attempt to hide the mistake, you compound the problem. Every mistake is an opportunity for you to learn something that ultimately supports your long-term success.
5. Understand and adapt to the seasons of an accountant’s life
Unlike your time in college, when you could cram a semester of knowledge into a few days before a final exam, you cannot build a career as an accountant by pulling all-nighters. Deadline season is a known factor that you can count on and prepare for in advance. Learn how to smooth out your workflow by taking advantage of non-deadline times to get work done prior to delivery dates.
6. Collaborate and make friends with your coworkers
Take advantage of every opportunity to socialize with the people in your office, at every level and in every department. Learn to leverage their expertise to help you with client issues. Introduce them to others at every opportunity. Professionally, your coworkers play a strategic role in moving the firm forward and supporting your development. At all times, treat others with dignity and respect.
7. Build your network and cultivate relationships with mentors
Accounting is an apprenticeship profession in which people develop people. Seek out and develop relationships with professionals you admire and who understand this concept. Ask questions and acquire knowledge that will empower you and support your ongoing professional development.
8. Get out of the office and make community a priority
Expanding your network of contacts and experiences outside of the firm is vital in your development as a professional accountant and as a leader. Be strategic in deciding which community, civic and charitable organizations align with your passions, your available time and your goals. Giving back to the community means more than opening your wallet. Give your time, your expertise, your leadership.
9. Build and protect your personal brand
Your personal brand is the reputation you create for yourself based on the things you do and say, both at work and in your personal life. Building your personal brand is a deliberate process that occurs over the course of your career. Demonstrating your technical skills will not be enough; you must learn all you can about your clients, their industries and their challenges, and you must demonstrate that you provide the value, attention and nurturing they expect and deserve from a trusted consultant.
10. Discover your passion and pursue it relentlessly
Keep exploring until you find what you love to do and then do it relentlessly. If you are able to discover what you are passionate about, work will become your calling. Your career will be dedicated to pursuing an expertise that will result in others seeking your counsel. Persevere until you discover your passion, and then