Embarking on a career in public accounting can be both exciting and daunting. Whether you're a student contemplating your future in the field or a professional considering a switch, there are nuances and intricacies that often remain veiled. Drawing from my firsthand experience working closely with public accountants, I unveil six crucial aspects that might not be apparent from the surface. Understanding these intricacies can equip you for a smoother transition into the world of public accounting.
1. Embrace the Learning Curve
Insight: Everyone Struggles in the Beginning
Transitioning from an accounting degree to practical application in public accounting can be a colossal leap. Despite having a solid educational foundation, the intricacies of public accounting unfold on the job. It's crucial to recognize that the learning curve is steep, and feeling lost in your initial days is part of the process. Embrace each day as an opportunity to learn, build your skill set, and don't shy away from asking questions. Remember, your employer hired you with confidence in your abilities, and the journey is about continuous growth.
2. The Multitude of Bosses
Insight: Be Prepared to Report to Many Bosses
As a young accountant, expect to report to various supervisors. The hierarchical structure in public accounting often means answering to managers, seniors, and even partners, especially in larger firms. The dynamic nature of assignments may have you working with different partners each week. Each supervisor will have insights into your performance, contributing to your yearly performance review. Adaptability and effective communication become key as you navigate the diverse expectations and feedback from multiple bosses.
3. Mundane Tasks vs. Career Progression
Insight: You May Get Stuck with Unexciting Tasks
Entry-level accounting tasks may initially seem mundane, but they lay the groundwork for career progression. While routine data entry tasks may be outsourced, your role evolves as you climb the career ladder. Larger firms often shield entry-level accountants from monotonous tasks, allowing them to focus on reviewing outsourced work, assisting seniors, and engaging in challenging projects. The trajectory of your responsibilities transforms over time, with more vital and stimulating tasks becoming integral to your role.
4. The Power of Interpersonal Skills
Insight: You'll Need to be Nice to Everyone
Beyond technical prowess, interpersonal skills are paramount in public accounting. Working collaboratively in teams, fostering positive relationships with co-workers and clients is indispensable. The significance of interpersonal skills amplifies as you climb the ranks. Building a network of peers not only provides support but also facilitates knowledge-sharing and collaboration. Treating everyone with respect, from colleagues to clients, becomes a cornerstone of success in the dynamic world of public accounting.
5. The Challenge of Turnover
Insight: Turnover is Fairly Common
Public accounting, marked by demanding hours and high expectations, witnesses turnover rates higher than anticipated. Long hours, particularly during busy seasons, contribute to the mental and physical challenges accountants face. The INSIDE Public Accounting reported an average staff turnover of 13.7% across all firms in 2020, with some firms experiencing more than 20% turnover. The transient nature of colleagues in larger firms is a reality, necessitating resilience and adaptability to navigate through the evolving professional landscape.
6. Opportunities Beyond the Firm
Insight: A Client May Offer You a Job
Performing commendably in public accounting can open unexpected doors. It's not uncommon for high-performing accountants to receive job offers from clients. Building strong relationships with clients is not only integral for successful projects but can also lead to exciting career opportunities. Treating each client interaction with professionalism and respect lays the groundwork for potential job offers. Networking, in the form of casual lunches or coffee meetings, becomes a powerful tool in creating lasting impressions on clients.
Final Thoughts: Navigating the Public Accounting Odyssey
Embarking on a public accounting career without a comprehensive understanding of its intricacies is a common narrative. While the journey is demanding and at times challenging, it also offers rewards and personal growth. Recognizing the learning curve, mastering interpersonal skills, and adapting to the dynamic nature of the profession are key to navigating the public accounting odyssey successfully. Every challenge presents an opportunity for growth, and by staying resilient, you can lay the foundation for a fulfilling and prosperous accounting career.