Take the Guesswork Out of Creating a Development Plan

In my role at IMA©, I oversee the creation of management accounting educational products that help our members expand their professional knowledge and skills. These products include webinars, online self-development courses, and live events such as IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo and Leadership Academy workshops.

Before selecting educational products, it’s important to first take stock of your professional development needs for your current situation as well as your career aspirations, and then put together a plan. If you’re unsure of where to start, here are some ideas.

Take Stock in Your Professional Knowledge and Skills

Young businesswoman thinking and cloud of mind with quiestionsThe first step in creating a professional development plan is to assess your management accounting skills and knowledge. There are various ways to do this. You can ask your colleagues or manager for their perspective, consider feedback received during your performance reviews, talk with a mentor or coach, or do a self-assessment. After obtaining feedback and results, you can then determine which areas for growth you want to focus on when building your development plan.

Plan Your Development

Once you’ve benchmarked your skills and prioritized areas for improvement, you can start building a development plan that is customized to your particular needs. This involves considering the extent of what you need to learn, how much time you have to devote to expanding your skills, and what types of education you find most attractive. Remember to consider various options for development, including self-study online courses and webinars, relevant books and publications by thought leaders, blended learning solutions involving classes and online courseware, live events such as conferences or specific training sessions, networking with others, and on-the-job activities.

After researching the various learning opportunities, select those which you feel best meet your needs and record them on your development plan. Also, determine the date you want to start each of your selections as well as a completion date.

Commit to Your Plan

A critical next step is to “work” your development plan by starting and completing the activities you’ve identified to close your skill gaps. As you progress with your activities, it will also be important to update your development plan with actual results. This will keep you motivated to continue on your professional development path. Then, at certain intervals (such as quarterly, semi-annually, or yearly), you should take stock regarding the broader progress made against areas for improvement to ensure you are successfully closing your skills gap. If diligent about your efforts, you will be proud to see your progress.

Continue Your Professional Development Progress

careerdriverIMA’s CareerDriver ™ career planning tool is designed to help members assess their management accounting competencies and create personalized development plans. Whether you are looking to transition into a new role, strengthen your skills, or discover new professional possibilities, Career Driver has the right personalized approach for you.

Gaining new knowledge and skills is a lifelong adventure as well as critical to professional success in your current and future positions. The personal assessment and development plan process is a continuous discipline in which you will reap many benefits. Enjoy this important professional journey!

Written by Debbie Warner, CPLP

 

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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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Study NOW: Breaking Through Procrastination

“Stop putting it off.” “The exam date isn’t going to move, I have to start studying now.” “The books aren’t going to read themselves.” These are some common sayings you can use to motivate yourself to start studying for the big exam coming up. But, whether you’re a student working toward an A+ or a professional studying to earn a certification, telling yourself to study might not be motivational enough. Here are some ways I got through studying for the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) exam that might also work for you.

1. Make a checklist.Lao - quote - DW
Write down your goals in the order in which you want to accomplish them. Your first goal might be to read and take notes from chapter 3 of your textbook. Your next goal, say, for the following week would be to read chapter 4. Setting small goals in a relatively short amount of time will help you progress and feel accomplished. It’s like what Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

2. Reward yourself.
After you complete each small goal, reward yourself by doing something you like but have been putting off, like taking a hike or going for a run. Not only will it relax you, but it will de-stress your mind for the moment.

3. Picture success.
There’s nothing more motivating than having a clear vision of your end goal. It can be a tangible object that symbolizes your goal, like an empty frame awaiting your certificate, or an intangible one, like the increase in salary you may receive after earning a certification or college degree.*

4. Hold yourself accountable.
When I studied for the CMA exam, I set deadlines for myself and made a checklist. That way I was able to keep track of my progress and hold myself accountable for my success. I also involved other people in my journey – my family was very supportive, even though my daughter was a baby at the time, and my boss didn’t mind me studying during my lunch break.

5. Follow your passion.
Remind yourself why you chose the field of accounting. One reason I’m sure is the job opportunities that this field offers, but hopefully you also chose accounting because you find it interesting. Studying can be tough, but you don’t have to be an accounting nerd to enjoy working on a challenging accounting problem. If you don’t cram and you pace yourself, you might actually find studying a rewarding experience!

iStock_000014804702_Large - balance6. Maintain work/life balance.
Don’t avoid the most important things, and don’t make other things more important. Earning the CMA credential was important, but family was always my number one priority

7. Guard against constructive procrastination.
Essentially, don’t wait for the perfect conditions. You don’t have to paint the room or wash the dishes to get into the right mind-set. Someone I knew in college had to write a paper but couldn’t write it until he had the perfect desk. He found the perfect desk, but it was too late to hand in the paper.

The Time to Start Is Now
Studying doesn’t have to be tiresome or boring. If you do a little bit at a time and plan your schedule, you will eventually reach your goal. And don’t forget: Other people out there are just like you. So if you’re struggling and need a push, find a face-to-face study group that might be able to help you along the way.

How do you stay passionate about something you aren’t passionate about anymore?
Have you ever procrastinated on a project at work? How did you get through it?

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

 

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What Exactly Is a Professor In Residence?

If you’re asking yourself, “What is a Professor in Residence (PIR)?” you aren’t alone. I get this question often, as my role is a bit more ambiguous than, say, a lawyer’s or teacher’s job. Typically, a PIR works at a university or college and facilitates research, teaching, public service, and other activities. But my position within a nonprofit organization is unique, dynamic, and provides so much more.

spider's web with dew drops backgroundAcademic Liaison
I joined IMA in 2006 as Director of Research after having been a college professor for quite a number of years. Three years later, I was asked to also assume the role of IMA’s PIR. I accepted, as this was an opportunity to advance the management accounting profession by connecting with students and faculty around the world and draw on my extensive academic experience to design programs aimed at meeting this market’s very unique needs.

I work with IMA to achieve these goals by helping prepare the next generation of finance and accounting professionals who will work in business. One way we do that is through our CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) program. Another is by supporting faculty teaching and research efforts.

With that in mind, one program I created that helps academics stay connected is IMA’s Campus Advocate program. Having taught at a school where I was essentially the only faculty member interested in teaching management accounting, I saw a need for a program that enabled faculty interested in management accounting education to network, ask questions, and share best practices.

Student Development
Of course, students – the future of our profession – are a key part of the picture. I’ve been able to develop several programs with the goal of ensuring that students are adequately prepared for their future roles. A key consideration has been the realization that every school has differing programs, goals, and resources, so it’s important that IMA offer a variety of programs from which to choose.fresh springs isolated

The IMA Accounting Honor Society, to be launched in March, will recognize high-achieving accounting students. Not solely restricted to students interested in management accounting, I see this society as a way of recognizing and encouraging students to pursue the diverse and rewarding careers available in the accounting profession.

Advocate for the Profession
Being IMA’s PIR has enabled me to advocate for IMA and the management accounting profession. I get to interact with people all over the world who are passionate about the future of the organization and the profession. I find this aspect of the position very rewarding, in addition to the ability to help students find the career path that is best for them.

Regardless of whether or not a student initially pursues a public accounting career, more than 75% of all accountants end up pursuing careers in management accounting. To this end I formed a Joint Curriculum Task Force with the Management Accounting Section (MAS) of the American Accounting Association (AAA), which I chair. Our Task Force has developed an Accounting Education Framework that addresses these diverse education needs and has helped inform other curricular initiatives.

Changing Your Role
The combination of passion and talent led me to my position at IMA. You, too, could get so much more out of your position. Don’t be afraid to add to your job description or expand your perspective. There’s a wide variety of career options out there for you, many of which you may never have even considered!

What aspects of your current role would you change if you had the opportunity?

Written by Dr. Raef Lawson, CMA, CPA, CFP, CFA
Follow me on Twitter @RaefLawson

 

 

Related Links:

IMA Student and Academic Members Page – IMA
Faculty Titles Directory – Temporary Non-Track Positions – University of Connecticut

Reverse Mentoring as Continuing Education

Not all knowledge comes from books and classrooms. Mentoring is a different “classroom” setting that will help you acquire skills needed for the constantly changing business environment. Mentorships aren’t only beneficial to young professionals trying to get their foot in the door—seasoned professionals have just as much learning to do.

Seasoned Professionals’ RoleSize difference
Professionals at any stage of their career can learn from their younger counterpart—called “reverse mentoring”—but they must have an open mind to do so.

Earning a certification shouldn’t be the end of your professional development. Continuing education, experience with special projects, and mentoring can help you advance your career even further. Young mentees can teach more “seasoned professionals,” for example, how to leverage new technology and use social media in new ways. The generational gap should be used to better the business rather than create barriers of status, power, or position.

You can also harness young mentees’ fresh, outside perspective about processes “you’ve always done” to make them more efficient. Just remember to be open to change and give honest feedback to their suggestions.

Young Professionals’ Role
Most of us know the basics of a mentorship: They help young professionals learn about their new industry, learn tricks of the trade, and work on their career development and leadership skills from seasoned professionals.

origami birds - Large_tealIn a traditional mentoring role, young professionals learn problem-solving skills, how to manage a staff, essential skills for performing well on the job, and more. But these skills aren’t acquired overnight. Mentees must be patient because these skills are developed over time, and there’s always something new to learn. After all, learning is a lifelong journey.

Sometimes mentorships are undervalued because “students” aren’t learning in a traditional classroom. But real-world exposure is arguably the most valuable learning tool for young people.

As someone who recognizes the benefits of reverse mentoring, I encourage you to find a mentee as soon as possible. Become active on social networking sites to be proactive with making these contacts. You will be glad you did.

Have you ever participated in a mentorship? What were your experiences?

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

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4 Ways to Manage Continuing Your Education While Working Full Time

As the school bells ring in the near distance, we’re reminded that the school year is upon us. No matter your status, you should always be thinking about continuing your education. Whether you’re studying for a professional certification or going back to school for another degree, keep in mind that continuing education is important for a constantly changing world.

stacked_books Studying for and taking certification tests while balancing work and life is difficult. (I know, I’ve been there.) A few things, however, helped me stay focused and sane.

Budget Your Time
When I was studying for the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) exam, I had a seven-year-old daughter and a toddler. It was difficult to manage my time between family and studying, but with good time management skills and a schedule in place, I found the time. Budgeting my time while I was on airplanes for business trips, a half hour before and after work, and during lunch was critical to my success. Set up a study plan with ample time so that you can prepare a little bit each day instead of cramming the month/week/day before.

It’s also important to schedule time to relax. Find an activity that will relieve your stress, even if it means going for a walk, going to a ballgame, or watching TV with your family. This will allow you to unwind and return later with a clear mind.

Put Things Into Perspective
For me, my family always came first, then my job, and then studying. It isn’t the end of the world if you don’t pass. You’ll always have another opportunity to take the test, and life is too short to stress over it. Sometimes you might wonder, “Is this ever going to end?” But six months isn’t a long time compared to the larger picture of your life and your career.

Learn How to Study and Take a Test
It’s important to determine which way of studying works best for you: studying by yourself online, in a group online, in a classroom, or by yourself. There are many resources that can help you stay focused, including practice questions, reading material, and flashcards. No matter how you choose to study, the most important part is that you do what works best for you.

Blue coffee cup, glasses and office suppliesNot all people are good test takers. Some have to study for hours to get good grades, while others absorb information naturally. The important thing is to not overthink and to know that tests are imperfect tools that aren’t the only measure of your knowledge and who you are. Go into the test-taking room with a clear mind and positive thoughts.

I was out of school for a while when I took my first certification test, so I had to mentally get back into test-taking mode. That meant relearning how to manage my time and quickly and efficiently answer questions.

Build a Support Group
Having a support system is really important for being successful in this endeavor. If you’re trying to balance work, life, and studying, you have to have family buy-in. The support of your family, friends, and coworkers will bring you encouragement and motivation.

Another option is to find a mentor who has been through the process and can provide guidance. When I started studying for my CAE (Certified Association Executive) certification, I found a mentor in IMA’s President and CEO, who had also just achieved the CAE. He provided me with additional notes to study from and encouragement along the way.

Dream Big
Continuing education, including additional college degrees and professional certifications, signifies the next step in your career and your dedication to your profession. It isn’t easy to achieve a professional certification while working full time and having a family, but if you have the right balance, prepare the best you can, and have a calm mind, you will surely succeed.

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA, CFM, CAE

Follow me on twitter: @IMA_DWhitney

 

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