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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Confronting the Skills Gap – IMA
What’s In Your Leadership ToolboxStrategic Finance

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

My Road to Accounting

As IMA’s senior vice president of operations and CFO, I oversee the strategic planning process; the information technology, finance, facilities, and human resources departments; and other operational aspects of IMA. My responsibilities mirror “the expanding role of the CFO,” a role that IMA and others have written much about. Like  many CFOs, I have a strong background in accounting, but each of us has a unique journey. I haven’t always followed the traditional accounting path.

From English to Accounting

When I entered college, English literature was my passion, but I wasn’t really sure what direction my career would take. My husband and I moved several times in the early years of our marriage in support of his career as a racehorse trainer. We relied on professional tax and accounting services to run the business. When we discovered that our tax advisor had made a serious error, I decided to enter the MBA program at the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada, to learn enough accounting and tax so that we would never be at the mercy of others to do that work for us. I knew I needed to understand the world of finance for self-preservation, and I discovered that the study of business was a new passion.

I landed a job as a staff accountant with Ernst and Whinney (now Ernst and Young) in Alberta, Canada, and convinced my husband to move his stable there. But, after two years in Alberta, it became clear that his talents belonged in the larger U.S. market. So we relocated to New Jersey. Our family had grown—we have three children—and, as much as I loved public accounting, I had to abandon that track to establish an acceptable work-life balance. I was very fortunate to land great jobs with progressively more responsibility.

A decade later, with a well-rounded accounting education, public accounting experience, and several years of controllership, I found myself searching for a new position when the company I worked for was sold. It was clear that I needed professional certification to obtain a desirable CFO role in an increasingly competitive job market. That’s when I found IMA® and its CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification.

Building My Brand

The CMA helped me pull together all the threads of my career—experience at a number of companies and education at several different universities—in order to present a credential that I could easily explain to potential employers.

Whenever I needed resources, I turned to IMA. Whether it was literature on best practices to streamline the finance department, implementing ethics training programs, or improving profitability by customer, IMA always offered valuable tools for me to build my personal brand and prove my expertise in the field. I was also published in Strategic Finance, IMA’s flagship publication, which helped prove my expertise.

Finding the career path that’s right for you isn’t always easy; sometimes you have to hold a variety of jobs, move around the country, or have a family to find what you’re truly passionate about. IMA helped me on my career journey, and it can help you, too.

By Doreen Remmen, CMA, CAE

Related Articles
How To Choose A New Career Path – Forbes
The Changing Role of the CFO – ACCA and IMA

Innovation: A PR Tool or Part of Business Success?

As IMA’s CEO, I fully support a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. In fact, it’s one of IMA’s Global Core Values. We live in an environment of competition, consolidation, commoditization, and complexity. An emphasis on innovation as a sustainable business process helps you reach your company’s financial and nonfinancial goals by delivering differentiated value. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself when considering innovation in your company:

  1. Why is it important?

In today’s fast-paced business landscape, companies need to innovate to stay relevant and successful. A company that fosters innovation allows its employees and other stakeholders at all levels to become involved in the innovation cycle, from ideation to implementation.

For example, after two years of having a staff innovation council at IMA, we believe innovation is built into our strategic “DNA” with incentives to take risks and build prototypes to test ideas early. We follow Cynthia Barton Rabe’s credo: “Don’t let what you know limit what you can imagine.”

  1. How will you inspire innovation?

Recent IMA research found that while companies want to innovate, they fall short on the “how-to,” which includes innovation governance and measurement and the role of the CFO. Make it part of your culture and strategy to ensure sustainability. Treat it as a body of knowledge or a business process that requires investment, governance, and reasonable short- and long-term ROI expectations.

Per reengineering expert Gary Hamel, “Radical innovation comes from generating a collective sense of destiny, from unleashing the imagination of people across the organization and teaching people how to see unconventional opportunities… Most companies devote too much energy to optimizing what is there than to imagine what could be. We need to create constituencies for ‘What Could Be.’”

  1. How will you measure innovation?

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IMA recently published Advancing Innovation by Patrick Stroh that includes a new measure called Innovation Value Score (IVS). It uses the BSC framework developed by cofounder Robert S. Kaplan, who wrote the foreword of the book. IVS allows you to assess innovation success, drive innovation in your company, and provide actionable information to corporate decision makers.

While our members, customers, and the profession are the ultimate judge of IMA’s value-added products, services, and bundles, IMA has delivered on several innovative ideas in the past year, including CareerDriver, a new self-assessment competency management tool; the Student Leadership Experience, giving qualified students an opportunity to directly participate in IMA’s Board meetings; and an “inspired technology lab,” focusing squarely on the user experience with IMA portals.

Driving Home Innovation

Don’t treat innovation as a “one-hit wonder” or PR tool to impress your members, customers, board, or other stakeholders. Instead, enable innovation governance, measurement, and role clarity to experience long-term innovation success.

Hamel put it best: “To encourage innovation, to create a real constituency for What Could Be, companies need to unleash ideas, passion, and commitment across the company. We have to move…beyond innovation as a once-in-a-while project, to thinking about innovation as a deep capability.”

Written by Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE
Follow me on Twitter @ima_JeffThomson

Related Articles:
How to Drive Innovation as a CFO – Jeff Thomson, Forbes
Advancing Innovation: What’s Your Role?Strategic Finance
How Crowdsourcing Delivers Supply Chain Innovation – CFO.com

Ethics Training: It Starts Earlier than You Think

Ethics is a serious topic for professionals working in business. Stories of financial professionals failing to act in an ethical manner – and the consequences – are unfortunately commonplace. It’s important for management accountants around the world to be able to understand and identify unethical behavior. This importance is reflected in the requirement for professionals holding the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) credential to earn two hours of CPE credit in ethics each year.

While we often refer to ethical issues on the job, ethics training for professionals starts earlier than you think – even before college.

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Growing up, you acquire ethical values through many avenues, including your culture, religion, family, and more. These values stay with you throughout your life. While many people would agree that ethics isn’t something that you can be taught in school, you can learn how to recognize unethical situations in kindergarten through college.

In college (and with continuing education courses), you can learn about applying your ethical beliefs in the real world, the red flags that alert you to fraud and other unethical situations, and the procedures to report these situations. Most higher education institutions require their accounting majors to take an ethics course before graduating or incorporate an ethics component in other courses. This is a great way for students to learn how to address real-world ethical situations and understand what can happen when faced with financial pressures and your business’s reputation is on the line.

If you were ever to get caught cheating in school, consequences can range up to getting expelled. But if you get caught “cheating” in the real world, the consequences can be much more serious, including losing your job, damaging your reputation, and facing criminal charges.

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After you graduate and get your first job, you’ll need to continue to develop your ability to identify unethical situations and learn how to avoid them. One way to do this is by asking for a mentor at your company, who could explain how a seasoned professional would handle such situations. How would he or she recognize the red flag? How would he or she report it? Each company has different procedures, which should be followed first. The IMA Statement of Ethical Professional Practice can also be a guide in resolving ethical conflicts.

HiRes - stepsApplying what you’ve learned in the classroom to the business world can be intimidating. But if you know the signs of unethical behavior and the resources available to you, you will be able to successfully uphold your values in the workplace and keep your company on the ethical path to success.

As a leader in upholding the highest ethical standards in business, IMA offers many resources to help guide accountants and financial professionals:

In a time when the news is flooded with stories about big corporations committing fraud, it’s more important than ever to understand your values and responsibility as an accountant to hold yourself to the highest ethical standards.

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

Related Articles:
Overcoming the Fraud TriangleStrategic Finance
The Importance of Internal ControlsForbes
Nine Steps to Make Your Company’s Ethics Training Program Stick – AccountingWeb

International Accounting Day: Celebrating Our Young Professionals

Happy International Accounting Day! I’d like to celebrate by shining a light on the future of our profession: young professionals. This year’s winners of IMA’s Young Professional of the Year Award were chosen for their outstanding and creative approaches to problem solving within the accounting and finance profession. These forward-looking individuals are the driving force behind the evolution of our profession.

adrien dubourgAdrien Dubourg, CMA, CPA, is a manager for the EPM Finance Transformation Practice at The Hackett Group. He has served as a board member of IMA’s Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter for 3+ years, including leading its Young Professionals and Academic Relations Committee. He’s also the treasurer of a nonprofit and sometimes gives lectures for CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) candidates at the University of Dallas. Adrien loves to spend time with his two sons and wife. He says that being passionate about what you do will drive you to career success.

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Ashley_2014Ashley Gibson, CMA, CPA, is a manager at Deloitte Advisory and a member of IMA’s Technology Solutions & Practices Committee. She is currently a student in the Professional MBA Program at Texas A&M University. For her, being an accountant is more than doing taxes and being a bean counter: “I try to be a superhero to the clients I serve, but sometimes I feel like a spy because I’m an outsider, who no one knows by the water cooler, coming in to save the day.”

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brian neale- headshotBrian Neale, CMA, CPA, is currently on sponsored educational leave of absence as he pursues an MBA at the Fuqua (Duke) School of Business. He’ll return to his role as finance manager at General Mills after graduation. Brian thinks of accounting as “the language of business” and works to document the company’s financials, create and manage its control environment, and provide management with useful financial information to guide strategic decisions. Outside of work and his studies, Brian loves to paint, draw, and write and record music.

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tasheeTasheé Singleton is the director of public housing operations for the Housing Authority of Columbus, Ga. She is the chair-elect of IMA’s Gulf South Council and a member of IMA’s Global Board of Directors. Besides work and IMA, Tasheé’s four children keep her active with their sports and academic activities. In addition, she’s partnering with two women to help children with hands-on learning. Her advice to others entering the field? “Be yourself, don’t be easily offended, ask plenty of questions, and seek a mentor.”

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On November 10, 1494, Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli published the first book that discussed double entry bookkeeping – a stepping stone for modern-day accounting. Today we can reflect on the 521-year history of our profession and look to its bright future with these inspiring, passionate, and driven young professionals leading the way. Here’s to another 521 years of accounting!

Written by Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE
Follow me on Twitter @ima_JeffThomson

Related Articles:
What CFOs Need to Know About Gen X and Gen Y – AccountingWeb
News: Next-Generation Job CandidatesStrategic Finance

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.

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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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“Closing and Opening Doors Successfully”Strategic Finance
“8 Common Elevator Pitch Blunders, and How to Fix Them” – Entrepreneur