Career Advice: The Moment That Mattered for Us

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IMA’s top thought leaders are sharing the best career advice they’ve ever received, which helped shape them into the professionals they are today.

 

JeffACE20160619-_MTMspotJeff Thomson, CMA, CAE, is IMA’s president and CEO. Undoubtedly, he has received much career advice throughout the years, but what stuck with him the most pertained to becoming a business partner:

“To add value in your position, learn the business. This gives you the context to learn, grow, and influence. Simple as that! ‘The business’ includes your industry, how value flows, your customers, how decisions are made in your company, and what are the levers to being an influential business partner.”

 

Dennis Whitney, CMA, is IMA’s senior vice president of certifications, exams, and content integration. The advice he received early in his career helped him balance his workload:

“When I was in my late 20s, a supervisor/mentor told me to work hard, but have fun, and don’t worry about the things you can’t control. This advice helped me be both more productive and happier as I work toward focusing only on what matters most.”

 

Debbie Warner, CPLP, is IMA’s vice president of education and career services and was inspired by career advice about continuing education:

“Make learning a lifelong adventure. Not only is it fun to continually expand your horizon, but the knowledge you gain is something you will ‘own’ throughout your life and helps to determine your uniqueness.”

 

Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA, CAE, is IMA’s director of technical accounting activities. The best career advice she received was in the area of advocacy:

“Take control of your career, and become your strongest advocate. Carve out and identify your area of expertise, and develop a career path accordingly. That advice is why I think I was considered for my original position at IMA 10 years ago, as director of professional advocacy. As I continue to be an advocate for my career, I am also a strong advocate for IMA and love opportunities that allow me to talk about IMA’s membership benefits, including the CMA® [Certified Management Accountant] designation.”

 

Raef Lawson, Ph.D., CMA, CPA, is IMA’s vice president of research and professor-in-residence. He was inspired at a young age to strive to reach his goals:

“One of my high school teachers wrote in my yearbook something to the effect that in order to succeed, you need both ‘smarts’ and perseverance; one of these alone was not sufficient.”

 

Doreen Remmen, CMA, CAE, is IMA’s senior vice president of operations and CFO.

“The best career advice I received was the advice I gave myself: ‘Get certified!’”

 

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? Did it help you grow personally and professionally? How else did it change you? Leave your comments below!

 

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The Importance of Integrity in a Certification Program

At IMA, we’re dedicated to quality and providing the most prestigious management accounting certification in the world: the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant). For more than 40 years, we have been building a professional certification program that is a true reflection of the management accounting profession. And over the years, the standard for earning the CMA has remained high.

I attribute this continuous high standard and respected reputation to the integrity of the CMA exam. An exam has integrity if it’s both valid and reliable, which in turn leads to consistent outcomes. When professionals pass an exam—and earn a certification—that has integrity, they have more confidence in their day-to-day work, and employers identify them as experts in the field.

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THE CMA’S INTEGRITY…

To earn the CMA, professionals need to pass the challenging two-part exam, fulfill an educational requirement, and meet an experience requirement. In addition, CMAs commit to the ethical standards in the IMA Statement of Ethical Professional Practice and an annual continuing education requirement.

To ensure the CMA validates competence in the in-demand skills needed by management accountants, we regularly update the questions and the content specification outline to reflect the most current knowledge and skill requirements.

These high standards advance the management accounting profession and the careers of those working in the field. A certification with high standards of integrity and trust is a signal to employers that you’ve taken and passed a rigorous exam and sets you apart from your peers.

 

…INCREASES YOUR COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

comp_advantThroughout the years, we’ve ensured an unwavering attention to integrity by using robust processes to ensure the questions on the CMA exam are psychometrically reliable, ensuring strong internal controls at testing centers, and committing to continuous improvement.

In addition, we haven’t grandfathered anyone into the CMA program, meaning that every professional holding the CMA has taken an exam, and no one has earned our designation by simply writing a check.

Adding those three letters to the end of your name shows employers that you have taken a rigorous, relevant, and trusted exam and have the skills necessary to drive business performance. Employers see you as a trusted business partner.

 

…IMPROVES YOUR CAREER

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Investing in your career really pays off. Not only do CMAs earn an average of 61% more in total annual compensation than their noncertified peers, but they also enjoy faster advancement opportunities and employer recognition.

When you start searching for a credential with integrity, make sure you choose the right one for you and your career. Earning a certification with integrity gives you the confidence you need to take your career to the next level. And since the CMA is a global certification, you can take it with you wherever you go.

Nearly 50,000 of your peers in more than 100 countries have earned their CMA. We’re confident that those who have passed the exam have demonstrated competence in the management accounting and financial management skills necessary to perform at a consistently high level.

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA

 

Related articles:

“The CMA: Rigorous, Relevant, and Trusted”Strategic Finance

“IMA’s 2015 Global Salary Survey” – IMA

The CMA: A Global Passport

IMA’s CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification is in high demand by professionals around the world. More than 3,500 professionals earned the CMA in fiscal year 2015 and more than 15,000 accounting and finance professionals entered

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the CMA program. It is a globally recognized certification—a passport—that professionals can take with them from job to job and from country to country. It’s a valued, trusted certification that helps professionals progress in their careers and continue their education throughout their career. Earning the CMA means that you have passed a rigorous test, have met the education and experience requirements, and are committed to continuous learning. When I meet CMAs in my travels, I see two common themes: pride and aspiration.

Pride

CMAs take pride in knowing they add value to their company, whether they’re in Dallas, Dubai, or Shanghai and regardless of whether they work for a local company or a global brand. They recognize and embrace the credential’s integrity, rigor, and relevance. Earning the credential proves to employers your competency and expertise in management accounting and builds your personal brand.

I recently spoke about the CMA program at several IMA events in the Middle East. I was excited by the participants’ response and level of interest in the CMA credential. Many participants approached me after the session to learn more about enrolling in the program. This shows how the global recognition of the CMA has grown and continues to grow.

Aspiration

The CMA also helps change the lives of individuals both in terms of their career growth and their financial opportunities. Not only do CMAs earn more annual salary and compensation than their noncertified peers, but they’re also seen as Group of people on a seminar. Focus is on business woman receiving a certificate from a lecturer. [url=http://www.istockphoto.com/search/lightbox/9786622][img]http://dl.dropbox.com/u/40117171/business.jpg[/img][/url] [url=http://www.istockphoto.com/search/lightbox/9786738][img]http://dl.dropbox.com/u/40117171/group.jpg[/img][/url]well-respected business leaders who help shape the management accounting profession through their valuable knowledge and skill set. CMAs work in jobs that are interesting—analytical business partners supporting decisions that help organizations grow.

 

Professionals in the CMA program aspire to be Corporate Controllers, CFOs, and even CEOs of their companies, and they know that the CMA can advance their career. The CMA program is a career-long journey of continuous education, requiring CMAs to stay current on business trends and best practices in management accounting through earning continuing professional education (CPE) credits. Each year, CMAs are required to earn 30 CPE credits, including two in ethics training, to maintain the credential.

Enrich Your Career

Continuing education is vital for career progression. Therefore, earning specialized credentials, like the CMA, will help you advance your career and achieve your professional goals. Like a passport, the CMA opens up global opportunities, so get out there and expand your horizons.

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA, CFM, CAE
Follow me on Twitter: @IMA_DWhitney

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3 Things To Never Procrastinate On

Career development is a lifelong commitment of professional and personal growth. We know that staying current and improving our skills in the competitive environment is important for having a long and fulfilling career, yet many of us still procrastinate on this important area. Take some time to reflect on your career and consider three career development areas:

1. Getting Certified
As someone who earned his CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification while working full time, I advise anyone interested in pursuing a certification to start now. The sooner you earn a professional certification the better. Studying for exams while working full-time is a challenge, but with disciplined time management, it can be done. The upside potential is certainly worth it. Having a prestigious certification signals to employers your competency and expertise in your field, so why wait? Procrastinating on something as important as earning a credential can be detrimental to your career.

Students can start their certification jourstudent teacherney while still in school, too. Strategic Finance published an article in August that explains how students can complete the CMA and CPA exams within six months of graduating college.

2. Continuing Education
No matter what field you work in, you need continuing education to stay current on the job. If you hold a certification, like the CMA, you’re required to earn continuing professional education (CPE) credit each year, and you should always be thinking of ways to earn those credits. For example, make a schedule of courses or events you plan to attend throughout the year. This breakdown can show you how many credits you should earn, say, per month in order to reach your goal. IMA members have access to an online transcript that can help them keep track of their CPE. I encourage everyone to use this.

There are many ways you can earn CPE credit. IMA offers a wide variety of courses and webinars in our online store that are worth NASBA-approved CPE. For example, the IMA Ethics Series: Blinded by Pressure is our latest interactive course, which also fulfills the annual ethics CPE requirement for CMAs.

3. Planning For the Future
No matter where you are in your career, planning is essential for a bright future. Young professionals can outline a development plan for their skills and careers – where they want to be in five, 10, and 15 years. Mid-career professionals can develop a plan to get to the next level, whether it is to earn a certification or higher-education degree. And individuals looking to retire have an important job to do for succession planning.

To aid in this journey, IMA just launched a new career development tool called PrintCareerDriver. The simple three-step process allows you to evaluate your skills, build an actionable development plan based on your “Areas for Development,” and explore new career paths. This is a valuable tool for anyone looking to take control of their career and take the guesswork out of career planning.

“A Goal Without a Plan Is Just a Wish”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, a French writer during the early 20th Century, had the right idea. You can’t be successful in your career if you don’t plan for success. Planning CPE courses or exam study time throughout the year can help you set (and achieve) small goals. Waiting until the last minute to earn CPE credit or enroll in the CMA program can be stressful. So don’t wait until the last minute to start your career journey and get to where you want to be.

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA, CFM, CAE
Follow me on twitter: @IMA_DWhitney

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The Elevator (Pitch) of Success

An “elevator pitch” is a short 30- to 60-second sales pitch for your business, your product, or yourself. The term derives from the image of meeting someone in an elevator and having to sell them on your product or yourself in the time it takes for the elevator to get to the next stop. It’s especially important for students and recent graduates to craft their own personal elevator pitch before they enter the workforce and know how to use it throughout their career.

Create ItBusinessman hand touching going up sign on lift control panel
Start off by writing down the goal of your elevator pitch, basic background information about yourself, and what characteristics give you a competitive advantage in the marketplace. This shouldn’t be more than 100 words long. Here’s a sample elevator pitch that I might have used many years ago:

“Hi, my name is Dennis Whitney. I’m currently studying finance at Fordham University. I really enjoy the analytical nature of finance, but I also like to write. My professors have encouraged me to look into an internship at a financial publication or finance-related not-for-profit organization. I would love an opportunity to use my knowledge of accounting and finance, as well as my strong analytical and writing skills. If you know of any such opportunities, please let me know. Here’s my business card.”

Practice It
After you’ve organized your thoughts, practice your speech verbally in front of someone. Your family and friends can help you identify what’s good and what needs improvement. As you progress through your career, you’ll become better at writing your pitch and speaking more comfortably in front of people. Outlining it on paper allows you to think about the details before verbally practicing it. You don’t necessarily have to memorize the speech, but you should memorize the outline: introduction, skills and interests, what you want, and why. Also, be flexible. You might want to customize what you say depending on who you meet in the “elevator.”

Professionals use elevator pitches in their day-to-day work. Whether your boss asks you to pitch a new product to the team or go to a trade show to acquire new clients, you will always need an elevator pitch to help you along the way.

iStock_000011097997_MediumUse It
Once you’ve created and practiced your elevator pitch, you can use it nearly anywhere. In-person events are the best place to use your pitch, since your passion and the first impression you make play a large role in how your pitch is perceived. Using it online or on your résumé might not be as impactful. Recent college graduates looking for their first job can use it to promote themselves at a job fair, networking event, or even the supermarket to build contacts. And no matter what industry you decide to work in, you’ll use elevator pitches throughout your career – whether you realize it or not!

It has been said that it only takes seven seconds to make a good first impression. Make them count by dressing professionally, making eye contact, and being respectful, and don’t forget to smile.

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA, CFM, CAE
Follow me on twitter: @IMA_DWhitney

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De-MYTH-defying the Accounting Profession

Over the years, the accounting profession has accumulated a number of misconceptions, and it’s important for students choosing their career path to decipher the facts from the myths. Let me help you de-myth-defy the profession to clarify the role of the accountant and help advance the profession.

1. All accountants do taxes.
This is one of most common misconceptions about accountants. Although most people attracted to accounting like the numbers aspect of it, there are so many other paths you can take with an accounting or finance degree – becoming a tax preparer is only one of them.

Because many college curricula focus on public accounting – hence the misconception – it’s sometimes difficult to decide your path while you’re still in school. Once you’re in the field, however, the hands-on experience will help you decide what specialty is right for you.

S11_LENA_0432. Accounting is a male-dominated profession.
Contrary to popular belief, the field is actually dominated by women. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women accounted for 61% of accountants and auditors in 2014. And women are earning the majority of bachelor’s degrees (52%) and master’s degrees (54%) in accounting.

3. Accountants don’t make important financial decisions.
Management accountants are increasingly becoming strategic business partners for their companies. Not only can we interpret the financials of the company, but we’re also able to advise top management on opportunities to grow the company, impacting the overall direction of the company and helping to maximize profits. Our skills in performance measurement, analysis, and risk management help organizations prosper in a sustainable way. We have gone from “bean counters” to “bean growers.”

4. You can’t make good money as an accountant.
IMA’s Global Salary Survey reveals that accountants’ average annual salary is $100,000 in the U.S. (the map in the survey report (Figure 1 below) shows the average salary and compensation rates from all over the world). Top management like CFOs and controllers are some of the highest-paid employees in a company – and they are accountants!

Also, holding certifications can increase your annual salary and compensation. This year, professionals holding the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) credential reported earning an average of 63% more in total annual compensation than their noncertified peers. Certifications help increase your salary because they demonstrate your mastery of the critical skills needed on the job today.

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For the Future
Accountants are in high demand, and the benefits are considerable. When starting your career in accounting, consider the various opportunities open to you. One last myth to note about accounting is that it’s boring. It is anything but – believe or not, a career in management accounting can actually be exciting! Our work with budgets and strategy help a business drive value and make the work of nonprofit organizations possible. The accountants of tomorrow have an enormous opportunity for growth and career enrichment. How will you impact your future?

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA, CFM, CAE
Follow me on twitter: @IMA_DWhitney

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Get the Most Out of Your Conference Experience

In the past I’ve talked about how continuing your education by earning certifications and participating in mentoring programs can be beneficial to your career. Another important form of continuing education is attending a professional conference. Conferences should be a fun, engaging experience where you learn new skills and make professional contacts. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your next professional conference.

Personal Development Plan
Before you go to the conference, spend some time reviewing the program and choosing the sessions you want to attend. Think about this in the context of your career goals. Write down what you want to achieve in the next few years (e.g., job change, promotion, etc.). Then do a self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, and choose sessions that will help you address the needs you have identified.

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I’m a huge advocate of lifelong continuing education, and conferences are great learning forums. Conference sessions offer a variety of educational opportunities and, depending on your area of interest, can include discussions of top industry trends, how-to sessions, and motivational presentations. Not only can you learn from leading experts in the field, but you can also get inspired by hearing motivational life stories.

Attending the session is only the first step. What is perhaps even more important is applying what you learned on the job. That is how you reinforce what you’ve learned, improving your skills and helping you be more effective in your job.

Networking
There are so many opportunities for networking at conferences. It can be intimidating at first to start a conversation with someone you don’t know, but when you do, you’ll be proud of yourself for stepping out of your comfort zone. You might also make a valuable contact who will help you a great deal in your career, solve a current business problem, or offer career advice.

10458451_10152330358455829_6042484930867715104_nNetworking is also about helping others. Your knowledge and experience is valuable, and sharing it with someone else could help them in their job and perhaps help them advance their career. And you might also make a lifelong friend! Many of the attendees of conferences I attend, including IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo, became friends when they met at the conference. Conferences almost always build in time for social activities that keep it fun.

Many conferences now have mobile apps that allow you to not only plan your session attendance on your mobile device but also connect with other attendees both before and after the event.

Something for Everyone
Conferences are offered in nearly every area of interest. I attend IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo nearly every year and find it to be a great way to stay current in the field of management accounting. Every couple of years, I also attend conferences for testing professionals and association management, since I have to stay current in those fields as well. Attending conferences helps me stay connected with the latest industry trends and techniques and to other professionals in the field.

If you haven’t been to a conference yet, I encourage you do so as soon as you can. When you ask your boss for approval, be prepared. Show him or her which sessions you plan to attend and what skills and resources you intend to bring back to your job. IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo is coming up in June, and we can’t wait!

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA, CFM, CAE
Follow me on twitter: @IMA_DWhitney

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