How Accounting Grads Can Succeed in Life and Work
By Fred Bara, CPA, Senior Manager, WeiserMazars LLP –
May 18, 2016
Congratulations! You just graduated and are beginning a new and exciting career in the accounting industry. The challenge of balancing your professional and personal life begins. Succeeding in your new job, preparing for the CPA exam and maintaining an active personal life can collide and cause stress if not managed well. Preparing for what is to come is one of the most essential ways you can manage your career.
You will find that you have many questions. What is busy season like? Why is my medical insurance so expensive? Why is debit abbreviated “DR”? Fortunately, many employers are making significant strides in helping you bridge the transition from your collegiate experience to your professional career.
Many employers will assign you some version of a coach or mentor. This person will be there to answer your questions about day-to-day life in the workplace. They will provide realistic insight about what to expect. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Leverage People Who Support You
Get to know your Human Resources (HR) professionals and partners; they will continue to be an asset throughout your career. HR is there to answer questions about employee benefits, workplace perks and offer career guidance. Partners are able to share their expertise and personal insights about the choices they made for their own career path. They are able to offer developmental advice and direction. For instance, “WeiserMazars recognizes that career-life integration is an essential component for the retention of talented professionals. Through education, awareness, improved visibility and access to role models, the Women of WeiserMazars (WOW) strive to empower individuals to take personal success into their own hands while creating a rewarding and fulfilling future,” said Carlos Martins, partner and chairperson of Career-life Integration Committee.
Endure Busy Season; It's Only Temporary
For those of you entering into the public accounting profession, you most likely heard horror stories about busy season. Depending on the size of the firm you are working for and the area you are working in (audit, tax, consulting, etc.), busy seasons may vary. Realistically, you can expect to work long hours. As a young professional, you will be expected to do what is necessary to complete your work. However, outside of busy season, there is normally a lot of flexibility.
Today, firms understand that the workday isn’t always 9 to 5, and that you don’t always need to be in the office to be productive. Technology allows you to work from home and get the job done, without the hassle of a commute. Firms are constantly trying to attract top talent. They offer plenty of workplace perks ranging from flexible work schedules, summer hours, to a more relaxed workplace.
Even though perks at accounting firms are improving, and you have many resources at your disposal, work life is still a challenge. You're no longer in college. Forty-plus hours a week at the office can disrupt your personal life. Finding middle ground between personal and professional responsibilities can seem difficult, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice integrity to achieve it.
Break the News to Your Family and Friends About Busy Season
Being raised in a non-accountant household, my understanding of an accountant was that they handled taxes. Many people probably share this view and do not fully understand the challenges that you face. Family and friends may need to be made aware that weekends during the winter and early spring are reserved for catching up on DVR’d shows and relaxing. Busy season is demanding. Let your family and friends know what they can expect. Being up front with them about your full schedule will help them understand your situation. It may take a while for them to adjust, but eventually they will get it.
Get Through Preparing for and Passing the CPA Exam
For those of you seeking the coveted CPA designation, the work doesn’t stop after busy season ends. The CPA exam presents its own set of challenges. Be it a review course or independent studying, you need to devote plenty of time and effort to pass the exam. The profession itself is continually evolving and the need for new rules and guidance is constant.
A word of advice: Pass the exam as quickly as possible. As you progress in your career, the CPA designation may positively impact future promotions. Taking the time earlier in your career to pass the exam will alleviate stress later on when you have even more personal and professional responsibilities.
Working in the accounting profession is a great thing. You will be highly valued and respected for the knowledge you possess. Working with teams of other accountants (which may not sound exciting) is actually some of the most fun you will have. Other accountants know the challenges you face. They've been there themselves!
Learning how to manage your personal and professional life is essential to a successful career in the industry. It is a balancing act that you will need to manage well throughout your career.
Frederick P. Bara
Fred Bara has been a practicing CPA for over 15 years, nine of which he has spent at WeiserMazars. Fred has extensive knowledge in various state and local tax issues that small business owners face. He focuses on helping those owners effectively and efficiently run their enterprises. He provides compliance support and consulting services across many industries.