How to optimize the 6 stages of your accounting career

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We can probably agree that this year has brought more than its fair share of challenges. No matter where we are in our professional journey, it’s also given us time to think about where we’re headed. Professional growth doesn’t happen by accident. Being purposeful about your career goals can help you reach them sooner and achieve greater success. There are six stages of professional development, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Here are some tips that can help you achieve your professional goals at every stage of your accounting career.

Stage One: Assess Your Options

Graduate degree in hand, your next career move should be to determine which certification to pursue: A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license or a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification (learn more about the differences here). Self-awareness is a valuable character trait at this first stage. Focus on garnering feedback from those who know you best to gain a 360-degree view of your strengths and weaknesses. Identify a mentor who can offer advice, share best practices, and help guide you along your career path.

Stage Two: Investigate Opportunities

Preparing for the CPA Exam is a process in its own right. Here’s a quick guide on how to apply. The CMA Exam requires specific qualifications and preparation as well, which you can find here. At this stage, your most important task is to master the concepts needed to pass the exam. A comprehensive review course for CPA or CMA Exam prep will provide you with the tools, resources, and support you need to pass. This is also a good time to start networking with peers and more seasoned accounting pros who can help kick-start your career.

Stage Three: Rise Through the Ranks

Once you’re certified, you can focus on rising through the ranks of your industry. Look for opportunities to gain experience in different areas of accounting to increase the breadth and depth of your knowledge. Sharpen your Excel skills, explore other markets, or transition from privately held companies into the public sector with Continued Professional Education (CPE) courses. This stage is about building the experience you need to move to the next stage of your career. Taking a strategic approach to your professional development will allow you to transcend your station to bigger and better opportunities, garner recognition in your field, and earn higher compensation commensurate with your growing experience

Stage Four: Commit to Your Career

You’ve gained valuable experience and have found your niche in the accounting field. At this stage, arm yourself with data-driven insights and solutions to individual accounting challenges that can position you as a valuable resource to your clients. Focus on your leadership skills and take the initiative to build a name for yourself as a reliable, trustworthy professional. Consider a CPE subscription package that not only allows you to accumulate necessary credits but provides unlimited access to streaming on-demand courses and live webcasts. These can keep you up to speed on various ethics topics from AICPA codes to whistleblowing, as well as NASBA fields of study, including accounting, auditing, tax, and management services.

Stage 5: Retain Your Value

Many professionals grow comfortable at this stage, content to ride out their leadership years. At this stage, though, you have the ability to bring innovation and value to your company. That requires you to continue growing, improving your skill sets, and staying current with industry standards. Transform your offerings and create more proactive business recommendations with a CPE subscription that provides deeper, industry-specific insights. Attend prestigious industry conferences, mentor young professionals, and speak at industry events where you can provide wisdom to aspiring colleagues while delivering ethical and insightful guidance to your clients.

Stage 6: Transition to What’s Next

At this stage, it’s important to look beyond the numbers to assess, anticipate, and analyze what comes next. As a seasoned professional, your peers and clients look to you for wisdom and answers. Remain at the forefront of current events with an unlimited CPE subscription that includes courses on the latest laws, rulings, and announcements as well as hot topics like AI and Blockchain. Access to critical updates in tax, accounting, audit, government, and ethics will help you remain not only relevant but vital to your clients’ and your company’s success.

The decisions you make at each stage of your career will shape your journey to becoming an Enlightened Accountant. Learn more about how you can achieve your professional goals through the constant pursuit of CPE, and by leveraging economic trends and maximizing the use of industry resources. Download a free copy of The Enlightened Accountant: Your Guide to Navigating Career Change.

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