From Cap and Gown to Suit and Tie

Suit and TieLooking back to when I graduated from Manhattan College, I can recall the excitement of limitless potential and the anxiety of joining the workforce. I know many new grads and young professionals find themselves in the very same position today, but I’m here to tell you that transitioning from cap and gown to suit and tie doesn’t have to be a daunting experience. Here are 5 things I wish I knew then that can help prepare you for a rewarding career in accounting or finance.

1. Soft Skills help pay the bills

Today, employers are looking to hire applicants with well-rounded skill sets such as technical, industry specific (hard) skills and workplace, interpersonal (soft) skills. While acquiring hard skills is fundamental, challenging your personal development through soft skills is becoming more and more significant. Find opportunities to master skills in communication, teamwork, and time-management now in both professional and social situations. Doing this early on in your career will make maintaining these skills easier in the long run.

2. Get Certified
Earning a professional certification, backed by a rigorous exam process, shows that you’ve gone the extra mile in your professional development. Accountants who earn IMA’s globally-recognized CMA, for example, demonstrate a mastery of financial planning, analysis, control, decision support, and professional ethics. These tools will help you perform on the job while helping you earn a higher salary. IMA’s Annual Salary Survey shows that accountants holding the CMA credential have greater earning potential.

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3. Continue Your Education
Mark Twain once said, “Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.” Graduation does not mean your education has ended. Stay abreast of current industry trends, changes in accounting standards, and modern software and programs. Attend events, workshops, and conferences, specifically designed to keep you relevant, both personally and professionally.

4. Have a Mentor, Be a Mentor
It’s always a good idea to learn a thing or two from someone who’s been there, and done that. Now, you can reciprocate, providing fresh information through “reverse mentoring”. Many organizations see the value in hiring young professionals to keep their business up-to-date on current and constantly evolving technology, social media, and consumer behavior trends, so take advantage!

5. Consider Company Culture
Every organization needs accounting and finance professionals, but not all corporate cultures are created alike. Some companies may be driven by profits, others, by mission. Some departments work exclusively within their own job function, while others work cross-functionally. Finding the opportunity to work in the industry of your interest and the company culture that aligns with your values, can begin the solid foundation of a long relationship.

Looking ahead, with the projected rate of employment growth among accountants growing past 16%, new grads and young professionals already have a great starting point. Ease the transition with these 5 tips and you’ll be prepared for a rewarding career in the accounting and finance profession.

Do you have any other tried-and-true career tips to share?

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA, CFM

Follow me on twitter: @IMA_DWhitney

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What’s so Big about Small Business?

For many years, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and other regulatory bodies have focused on accounting issues—ranging from business combinations to fair value—largely revolved around the needs of large publicly traded companies. Recently, however, standards setters are recognizing that small private companies need guidance on technical issues as well.

You may wonder why we place attention on the needs of smaller enterprises. Wouldn’t the needs of large companies work for all? The answer is “no.” The needs of smaller organizations, and the information needed by those reading their financial statements, are much different. Inarguably, all companies need to be accountable to their stakeholders. But the complexity of standards that work for large organizations need to be the right size to work for small organizations.

Big things come in small packages

Small businesses (500 employees or less) in the United States actually play a large role. It’s a startling fact that, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, in 2010 there were 27.9 million small businesses, making up 99.7% of U.S. employer firms. Small firms also accounted for 64% of the net new jobs created between 1993 and 2011 (or 11.8 million of the 18.5 million net new jobs). From 2009 to 2011, these companies accounted for 67% of the net new jobs. The health of small private companies is important, whether you own a small business or get your paycheck from one.

Small businessesWhat I do…

As IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) director of market advocacy, I oversee this association’s volunteer committees that monitor the pulse of accounting and business issues. The lifeblood of IMA’s Small Business Financial and Regulatory Affairs Committee (SBFRC), for example, is to ensure that the voice of the small business sector is heard by the FASB and other regulatory organizations. The committee works with these organizations on behalf of IMA’s members and the many small businesses that make up our economy.

Looking out for small business

Recently, SBFRC submitted a letter to the FASB’s Private Company Council (PCC) and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) about proposed frameworks they have developed for private company financial reporting issues. The SBFRC’s general message is that there should not be two sets of U.S. GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) to be followed by public vs. private companies. The SBFRC is committed to ensure that small business needs are considered as the frameworks are developed further.

As the U.S. economy recovers from the economic downturn, the voice of the small business owner must be heard. Tell us your thoughts on what topics should be addressed by the FASB and other regulatory bodies that affect small business.

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA

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