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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3 thoughts on “From Cap and Gown to Suit and Tie

  1. As a soon-to-be new grad, I am definitely feeling the anxiety of entering the work force as a young professional. So I’m so grateful to hear these 5 tips from someone who knows the industry inside and out. I’d like to know, from your own experience Dennis, what gave you your competitive advantage?

  2. Thank you for your excellent question Kristina. I believe that an unwavering commitment to learning is what has helped me most in my career. This thirst for knowledge does include the technical skills, which I have sharpened with a graduate degree in finance and several certifications, but it also includes the soft skills. I often think back to my years studying philosophy. Those classes had a real impact on my critical thinking and communication skills. I also love to read – everything from management books to classics in World literature, which have helped me learn about new approaches to business issues as well as different ways of seeing the world. And perhaps most importantly, this thirst for knowledge and self-improvement has encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and participate in programs like Toastmasters, where I learned to be more comfortable and effective as a public speaker. After 20 years at IMA I am still learning every day.

  3. Pingback: How to Ace the Job Interview: Essential Do’s and Don’ts | Welcome to the "Real World."

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