How to make a success of your first accounting job

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The transition from studying accounting to practicing it can be an adventure: instead of spending sleepless nights and wearing sweats, life moves on to sunrise and power suits.

There may be no more homework or testing, but work in the professional field is monitored and assessed with even higher stakes, and “A-level work becomes the norm,” Shabinaaz Mahdi said, Washington-based senior tax accountant in accounting and consulting. Baker Tilly Virchow Krause company.

But those challenges, along with those of studying for the CPA exam and spending really long days during peak season, of course pay off. Accounting is a rewarding career with many opportunities for growth. Accountants enjoy a solid salary, plenty of advancement opportunities, and the opportunity to serve the good in general, so newbies have plenty of reasons to hang on.

Here are some tips for young accountants to ease the transition from backpack to briefcase:

Sharpen “soft skills”: It’s easy to focus only on academics in school and assume that the skills guiding personal and professional interaction will take care of themselves. Employers say many young graduates who grew up in the tech age are less prepared for the human element of a new career. As a result, students who can conduct a professional conversation, offer a strong handshake, and make eye contact gain an advantage when hiring and promoting. For this reason, make it a priority to hone these skills, said Rina Henning, recruiting manager at UHY LLP in Farmington Hills, Michigan, which is part of the UHY International accountancy network. “Soft skills play a big role in our business,” said Henning, who recruits between 60 and 75 students per year. “Gone are the days of ‘I have a 4.0 and I’m in it.'”

For practice, visit campus career guidance services for mock interviews and one-on-one commentary, she suggested. The skills you learn will be useful for years to come.

Keep learning: The diploma does not mean that you can withdraw the course of the thought. Most companies have a long onboarding program to teach company culture and procedures. “This is what is not taught at the university level,” Henning said.

Be prepared for a transition period as you meet new colleagues, learn new computer systems, and acclimate to a full-time, fully professional world. Take advantage of this early period and “kiss as much as you can and be a sponge the first year,” she recommended.

Henning and Liz Niemczura, a UHY staff accountant also in Farmington Hills, recommended asking lots of questions. “You’re going to learn so much in your early years, and the more questions you ask, the more you’ll develop not only your technical knowledge base, but your people skills as well,” said Niemczura, who did an internship over the winter. 2016 tax season and started full time last September.

Navigate successfully during high season: Young accountants face great challenges in their busy first season. “You will be working on weekends and you will be exhausted. Sometimes you may feel like there are not enough hours in the day for work, social life and sleep,” he said. said Allison Towle, who joined Mazars USA accounting firm in New Jersey in 2015.

That’s why many companies offer benefits aimed at reducing stress, such as catering or the ability for employees to work a few hours from home. Niemczura does little things like take an hour-long lunch break, get up every hour or so for a short break from walking, and use a small water bottle that needs to be refilled frequently to remind her to stretch her legs. But hang in there: after the end of the busy season, many accountants are taking a well-deserved vacation.

Use the time wisely: It’s easy to get distracted by your friends’ snaps and this trending viral Facebook video. You don’t have to shut down your life outside of work, but you do need to keep social activity to a minimum, especially if your job involves hourly billing.

Mahdi said his employer recognizes social media as a way to network and access market and industry information and news. Still, she suggested minimizing all distractions during work hours. “If you’re feeling drawn into social media, set aside time to log in either over lunch or during a scheduled break,” she said.

Plan to study: In addition to adjusting to a real career that includes busy periods when vacations are not allowed, beginners should set aside time to prepare for the CPA exam. Remember that “you will have to make sacrifices in the short term but for the benefit of the long term,” Mahdi said.

Niemczura said she plotted a study calendar on her bedroom wall and worked to achieve a daily goal. “Dividing the chapters and sections into smaller parts for each day made it a lot more manageable for me, which made the whole review less intimidating,” she recalls. Towle recommended getting a license as soon as possible. “Make a serious effort to purchase your study materials and let your friends and family know that you are fully committed to it,” she said. “The longer you wait, the harder it is to get back into the rhythm of constant study.”

Practice self-care: With all of these changes, it’s easy to put things like exercise and healthy eating on the back burner. “Make sure you stay active,” Towle said. “Bring your own lunch instead of buying fast food. The little things can make a huge difference in the long run.”

Dawn Wotapka is an Atlanta-based freelance writer. To comment on this story, contact Chris Baysden, responsible for newsletters at AICPA.


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