As an accounting student, you attend 5 years of school to prepare for the field, and then what? There is no road map for starting your accounting career, and each firm or company will have different processes and expectations. It can be tough the first few years, not to mention your first month end or busy season. When first starting out in this field, it may feel as though you are in a tsunami and you only brought a row boat.
So what are the things you wish you knew to help build your professional ark and prepare yourself for your tsunami, or your first job after college? Members of the AFWA LEAP Council share their top 5 piece of advice.
- Network…Network…Network. It’s never too early in your career to network, your career is built on networking. Whether you are working in a large or small Public accounting firm or in the accounting department of a private company. Through networking you can build working and personal relationships; these relationships are great when you need an “expert” in an area you are not as familiar with, looking for a new job, looking for potential clients, and/or new employees. Opportunities for networking are EVERYWHERE! In a small event or a large event. Join an organization and go to the events, bring a friend then try and meet at least one new person at each event. Once you become more comfortable go solo, meet two people. No matter how you do it, just do it!
- Build relationships within your Company/Firm. The fields of accounting and finance have a team based approach, it’s important to build relationships with people at work to have an effective team. You will also be spending most of your time with your coworkers, it makes the long hours seem less daunting. Also, build relationships with others outside your department, i.e. for a public accounting firm audit/tax/accounting service, or for a company AP/AR/Sales/Inventory, etc. You’ll be surprised how a friendship from a completely different department can help you out. Be willing to help others, teach others, and never complain about it. You never know who will go to bat for you to the big guys. You can never have enough advocates!
- Time management to practice self care. Let’s face it, no matter where you go you will have slow times, busy times, and so busy you won’t know what to do with yourself. Time management is key to be able to practice selfcare. We all forget to take care of ourselves when we get busy, it becomes the last thing on our list. When it should be the first, you’re less productive and less effective when you’re sick, tired, overwhelmed or just plain burnt out. It’s important to maintain good time management to find time for yourself, whether it’s connecting with family and friends, meditation, working out, even in the most stressful times. You will see that spending a few minutes or even an hour on yourself will do so much to help you get through the stressful time.
- You are in charge of your career. Don’t sit back and wait for good things to happen, i.e., promotion, working on a new high profile client, etc. Speak up and talk to your boss, performance manger, mentor, sponsor, etc., about your goals and how they can help you accomplish them. They can’t read your mind and may not know what you want to accomplish in your career. Show them you’re committed by putting in the time to prove you’re in it to win it. Hard work and dedication stand out to those in senior positions.
- Just say no. This isn’t the same “just say no” your parents use to talk to you about, it’s learning to say no when you are overwhelmed and have already put in a 80-hour work week. If you do a good job, you will continue to get more and more responsibility. Sometimes it’s not advantageous for you to take on that additional project, if you are unable to deliver. If you drop the ball on something, that is what people are going to remember, not all the other great things you did.
All of these suggestions provide tips while helping you build your competency when taking on your first job or commanding your boat into the tsunami, so that you can be successful in your career. I encourage you to keep them in mind though out your career.