Career Options for New CPAs

You may believe that once you’ve earned your CPA certification, finding a career will be effortless. While this can be the case for some individuals, the truth is that accounting can be a competitive career field, and it can take quite a long time before you receive a decent job offer. Getting certified is an important first move, but it is by no means the only step towards an accounting career.

As with any career path, patience and perseverance are necessary when looking for a good accounting job. Outright rejection is a fact of life, and may even come as a refreshing change of pace after being ignored by countless other employers. The individuals who find gainful employment aren’t always, or even often, the best suited for those jobs; they’re just the ones who were able to keep looking and applying for jobs longer than the others.

From these statements, it’s clear that the best strategy for finding the career of your dreams is to last the longest. Finding an accounting job is a marathon, not a sprint. However, not everyone has the luxury to spend a great deal of time looking for work, and will need to find employment in a shorter period of time. Fortunately, there are some methods you can use to speed up your job search. The effectiveness of these strategies varies from person to person, but the one constant among all these variables is how focused you are on your goal.

Social Media and Online Resources

The most important social network you can join for advancing your career is LinkedIn. Filling out your LinkedIn profile and connecting with your peers and past employers will help you establish an online presence that makes you visible and viable to potential employers. LinkedIn’s free services will give you access to public boards of fellow accountants, which can provide valuable advice and potential job leads. However, springing for the premium features will give you a leg up on other applicants, with their dedicated mail service and priority job application. When using other job board sites, and even when applying for jobs directly through a company’s website, you can usually submit your resume through your LinkedIn account, which can speed up the application process.

Another popular social network that is valuable for accountants is Reddit. A very popular discussion board and link aggregator, Reddit hosts many user-run boards focused on specific topics and interests, known as subreddits.

Browsing and posting on subreddits such as /r/Accounting and /r/FinancialPlanning will provide you with input from professionals in the field, help you avoid common pitfalls when pursuing an accounting career, and can connect you with potential references and job leads. However, understand that these are social networks dedicated to casual discussion, and not professional resources. Temper your expectations, and treat it more as a friendly discussion than a business conference.

There are a few other websites to look into when searching for jobs and planning your career path. Indeed is one of the most popular job posting sites, with a multitude of job postings as well as discussion boards for those seeking career advice. CareerBuilder is another job board site, with regular blog posts discussing popular employers and a convenient talent network organization feature.

Finally, Glassdoor is a job searching site that also features reviews of each company written by its employees. The reviews discuss the competence of upper management, the potential for advancement, and average salaries for specific positions. Using these online resources can ensure you not only submit a high volume of applications in a short period of time, but that you also pick reputable companies that have decent benefits, reasonable salaries, and competent management.

Internships and Temp Work

Pursuing an internship or temp job is a great way to gain experience in your chosen field while padding your resume. This step is most easily accomplished while pursuing your education, as many colleges that offer accounting programs also have resources you can take advantage of to pursue these opportunities. Job boards and job fairs can often be found on campus; to find more information on when are where these will occur on your campus, you can usually find out from your professors or school administration. Many of these resources are even available to non-students, so visiting your local university is recommended even for those who have finished school.

Nowadays, internships are one of the best methods to obtain a full-time offer from a company. Many college programs in business, finance, or accounting will have internship programs, and may go so far as to require that students pursue an internship in their chosen field as credit towards their degrees. If you’re interested in working for one of the Big 4 accounting firms and earning one of their coveted salaries, chances are your school or one close to you has relationships built with them. Recruiting for these larger accounting firms usually starts in junior year of your undergrad, as interns take positions in the summer afterward.

When interning at a company, your two main goals should be to acquire references and knowledge. Asking a lot of questions is a sign of initiative, and can ingratiate yourself to professionals that may offer you work further down the line. Sometimes, these internships can turn into a full-time job offer, but even if they don’t, you can consider it a success if you’ve learned a great deal and made some new connections.

Temporary or part-time jobs are best suited for individuals who need some flexibility in their work schedule. This is what makes it appealing to students, as they can gain experience in their chosen field while still having time to pursue their education. Going to a temp agency and talking with an agent is a terrific way to find temp work, as the agent can connect you with potential employers.

Additionally, some of the online job boards listed above like Indeed and CareerBuilder have postings for temporary jobs, so you can refine your search terms to find them. Something to keep in mind when working temp jobs is to avoid relying too heavily on them. Finding one or two temp jobs during your education looks good on a resume, as it shows initiative and ambition, but having too many temp jobs in your past can make you look flaky and unreliable to employers.

Other Tips

Some options for individuals looking to start their accounting careers quickly may not fall into the categories listed above. These are some alternative, unconventional methods you may not have considered that can also speed up your accounting job search. One strategy you can try is to start your own accounting firm. This is only recommended for individuals with prior experience in accounting, who may be between jobs but still have access to clients they have worked with in the past. Bringing these clients into your own company is possible if you have fostered great relationships with them in the past, but the risks are higher since failure will fall squarely on you. Another possible danger when pursuing this avenue of employment is difficulty in finding lower level jobs in the future, as some employers may consider you overqualified for entry level positions in other firms.

If employment opportunities have run dry for you in your country of origin, another potential strategy is to relocate to another country. As the world grows increasingly connected, many professionals have been able to find employment in different locations around the world, as major accounting firms open offices in these locations and demand for accountants increase in these countries. Areas such as Eastern Europe and the Middle East can present excellent opportunities for professionals, with countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Singapore actively seeking accountants from other developed countries such as the US and UK. For individuals in English speaking countries trying to avoid culture shock, Australia and New Zealand are other countries looking for international accountants that can provide an easier transition process.

For those pursuing accounting careers that don’t have the necessary experience to run their own firm or seek employment in other countries, a potential strategy for building up their resume and work experience is to focus their employment search around tax season. Many temporary jobs open up around this time every year, as the demand for accounting work is highest during this time. This may mean that you will need to find another way to make ends meet during the off season, but once spring time rolls around, seasonal employment may be easier to attain. In addition, these temporary positions can turn into full-time employment if you show competence in your field and the company you work for likes you enough.

Conclusion

As a general rule for accomplishing any great task, you have to choose two out of three factors: fast, easy, and good. You can accomplish something quickly and easily, but the end result won’t be of high quality; you can accomplish something well and quickly, but it won’t be easy; and you can accomplish something easily and well, but it won’t be quick.

This maxim applies to seeking gainful employment as well. If you are looking to find a career in accounting and speed is a necessary factor, you have to choose between finding employment easily or finding quality employment. Starting your own firm is quick and can yield great results, but it certainly isn’t simple. Finding temporary work is quick and easy, but the work may not be very good and the longevity may be limited. Finding a satisfying, well-paying career will take time, so understanding that and devoting as much time as possible to finding the best career for you is the best strategy. Hopefully, these tips will help you reduce the time needed to find it, but the best practice is to be patient and willing to put in the required hours.


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