First Year in Public Accounting
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Excelling in Your First Year in Public Accounting

Just starting off your career? Here are some things to expect.

As you move from college student to first-year professional accountant, understanding what you’re getting yourself into is an important step in successfully launching your career. 

While there are some similarities between student life and professional life, there are also many differences. Some differences will become apparent to you quickly. Others may take more than a few months, or even years. 

The key is to be prepared for the differences, embrace what it means to be a professional, and put forth your best effort each day as you dive head-first into your career. 

So, once you’ve secured the job how do you prepare for the easiest transition possible from student to professional?

Here, we will answer that question. We will also provide insight into how you can excel in your first year in public accounting.

Learn that Work Life is Different than College Life

It may be true that you could pull an all-nighter in college or procrastinate in completing some assignments or projects. However, working in a professional setting where you’re expected to get things done in a timely fashion, concentrate and work the majority of time you’re there, can be equally exhausting.

Plus, while you may have had occasional all-nighters each semester, many young professionals find it surprising how tiring it is to have to be at work on time. The expectation is that you will be concentrating and thinking for 8 plus hours a day, every day.

Taking time to take care of yourself and find activities and hobbies outside of work is very important. This can help in managing stress and anxiety. During your first year in public accounting, or in any profession, be sure to consider acts of self care to keep you alert and productive.

Learn to be a Better Communicator

When it comes to “must have” skills in the workplace, not many are more important than communication. This is especially true for someone who is in the workforce for the first time. Although it may sometimes be uncomfortable, you will find that many of the challenges or obstacles you face early in your career could have most likely been avoided if there was more, and better, communication.

By creating a habit of communicating project updates, workload capacity and realistic timelines, you are setting you and your team up for success.

Don’t Expect the Same Type of Feedback

In college, you may have taken for granted that you would receive quick and steady feedback on assignments and projects. This feedback may have come from peers and professors. While it’s probably right to expect that kind of feedback in the workplace during your first year in public accounting, this may not be the case. Many professional service firms are still evolving in this area.

Do not be surprised if you do not get a lot of immediate feedback at firs. You may have to ask for it. Oftentimes, managers and partners get wrapped up in their own workload and responsibilities that they don’t think to provide feedback.

When your manager or partner does provide you with feedback, be sure you’re open to it and learn from it. It’s not uncommon to learn the most from mistakes you make.

Learn that Things are Constantly Changing

You may have grown accustomed to being able to find or receive answers quickly, make necessary changes, and move on during your time in college. In some cases, you may have even known what many of the answers are. At least you may have known where to find them, before you get started on the assignment or project.

However, in a professional environment, there is often more that goes in to answering a seemingly simple question. This is also true for preparing for the next project or engagement. You need to understand that in the public accounting world, there is seemingly constant change in laws and standards, not to mention technology.

You must examine these changes and understand how they will affect the firm and its workflow before implementation. Be aware that what was correct last time around might not be the same this time around. Be sure to stay aware of whether or not you’re working with the most up to date information.

Immerse Yourself in Firm Culture

Taking the time to truly understand the values, norms, behaviors, and expectations in your organization is very important. These values and norms are what define an organization. While it’s true that early in your career you should focus on becoming as technically proficient in your role as you can, do not underestimate the value that is placed on organizational culture and understand what is expected of you.

Do what you can to understand how those norms and behaviors are exhibited by others within the firm and why. Take the time to get to know those with whom you work, attend the continuing professional education opportunities as well as the social ones.

Use These Tips for Your First Year in Public Accounting

Learning to move from college to career as seamlessly as possible is important. Starting your career on the right foot is important. And, while heading into the workforce doesn’t necessarily mean that the “fun” part of life is over, it does mean your life is different than it used to be. Embrace this change, learn all you can and find those moments where the “fun” still exists.

Tim Allen is an experienced professional services marketing professional with broad experience in strategy creation, branding and business development. Mr. Allen has held top marketing positions in both large, national CPA firms as well as smaller, regional firms where he has been instrumental in creating and implementing a firm-wide marketing culture. He has written and presented extensively on the intricacies of services marketing and is currently writing his first book on the transition from college to career and creating your personal brand for the millennial generation.

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