Changing How We Talk About CPA Career Opportunities

By Joseph Hunt, CPA, PSA, CLA (CliftonLarsonAllen LLP) – June 6, 2024
Changing How We Talk About CPA Career Opportunities

My first introduction to a professional services firm was a half-day program at a top-25 firm in 2016. The first question I was asked after introducing myself was, “Are you here for the audit or tax program?” Therein lies what I would describe as the problem. A career as a CPA with a professional services firm, private industry or in government is so much more than just audit, tax, advisory or the expanding area of wealth management. This is a profession built on serving others, something most humans inherently strive to do.

Instead, I believe the question we should be asking those joining our teams is, “What skills do you bring to our team and how would you like to serve?”  This question serves two purposes:

  • The individual has the opportunity to clearly communicate their interests, skills and what inspires them.
  • The CPA/employer can discuss how the new individual can use those skills in the most effective way to serve others.

Rather than focusing on potential career opportunities, we should start by learning about the passions and interests of the new individual and go from there. The end goal of conversations I have with those exploring a new career as a CPA is to really have a deep understanding of what lights a fire under them and what would make them jump out of bed in the morning eager to get to work. If I can tailor their experience working with me towards those passions, we can more effectively keep them engaged and excited about what they’re doing and who they’re serving.

If you asked me what inspired me as an intern, I am not sure I would have had an answer for you. But you would have learned from a conversation with me that, in college, I organized a baseball clinic for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I’m thankful for those who heard that and created the opportunities and experiences for me to begin serving the nonprofit community as an intern. Taking into account the experiences someone has had prior to joining the team is crucial in connecting them with meaningful experiences where they are now. Eight years later, I’m enjoying a career as a CPA providing assurance services and serving as an ally for some of the many remarkable nonprofits throughout the state of New Jersey. Helping our nonprofits help more people is truly what inspires me and is my “why.” 

Building a relationship and successfully getting an understanding of what someone may love to do is difficult, but once we learn what it is, we must be ready to connect people with those opportunities. I think of it as having the menu of opportunities ready. That s not just at each of our different places of work either. At the end of the day, we are one community of CPAs, and we want the best and brightest individuals joining our teams. Each one of us needs to be prepared to speak highly about the opportunities different areas of the profession provide. I know that if we first successfully understand the impact new CPAs are looking to make and what inspires them, we can confidently say we’ve got a role for that.

The career opportunities available to CPAs have no locks on them, it simply comes down to making sure we open the doors and invite people to walk through them. At CLA, the eighth largest public accounting firm in the country, we talk about inspired careers: giving new CPAs the space to find their passions and choose their own career path with the firm. The result can be powerful and inspiring. They thrive doing what they love, our firm grows stronger and our clients get the guidance they need as they strive for continued growth and success. 

Joseph F. Hunt

Joseph F. Hunt

Joseph F. Hunt, CPA, PSA, is an assurance manager at CLA (CliftonLarsonAllen LLP) and the chairperson of the NJCPA Emerging Leaders Council.

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This article appeared in the Summer 2024 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.