By Christopher Lindberg
The cap and gown are put away. You've spent the last 17 years or so of your life in a classroom: grammar school, middle school, high school, college. As a new hire in the accounting profession, there is no longer a traditional teacher, a traditional classroom, and a traditional way of learning.
Everything you will learn henceforth professionally will come from multiple sources, and you need to decipher these varying sources to become successful. While transitioning to the professional world is an individual experience, here are 10 key lessons I recently learned:
1. Find a Mentor with a Personality Similar to Yours
The best advice will come from a mentor who "speaks your language." Advice from a mentor is only effective when the pupil can fully interpret the message being conveyed. If you can't find a mentor at work, attend one of the many CPA society events. There, you will meet all kinds of potential mentors with a personality to match yours.
2. Dress Well
First impressions are lasting ones. A polished look can be the difference between getting and not getting an interview. Once you get a position, the old adage "dress for the position you want, not the one you have" has some merit. However, never lose sight that it's ultimately your performance that is going to take you where you want to go.
3. Like the People You Work With
You spend more time with your co-workers than with your family. When interviewing with a prospective employer, try to meet as many of your potential co-workers as possible and determine whether you could work alongside them.
4. Know Your Company Well; Know Your Clients Better
Public accountants are in the business of keeping clients happy. Seasoned practitioners are fully aware of the services provided by their firm and are knowledgeable of their clients' needs and are able to seamlessly integrate the two.
5. Don't Rush a Promotion
Those senior to me were promoted for one reason, they earned it. They weren't promoted because they hit a certain 'promotion date' on the corporate schedule. They displayed the necessary level of competence and maturity. Work toward self-improvement and increasing your knowledge base, and promotions will happen in due course.
6. Find a Balance
A close friend of mine has mastered balancing his life as a new hire. He is dedicated to making time for his firm, studying for the CPA exam, his friends and family, and having fun. While his seemingly effortless work-life balance makes me envious, I also view him someone to emulate.
7. The Most Respected Team Members Are Intense
They are serious about their work responsibilities, committed to their personal and professional relationships, and have mastered a work-life balance. They don't second guess their abilities, and those around them come to depend on these high performers.
8. You Can Learn a Lot from Your Mistakes
My father taught me this when I was younger, but it also applies for those beginning their careers. As a new hire, mistakes are accepted, even expected. It's what you take from those mistakes and the experience not to make that same mistake again that counts.
9. People Talk
Most people love to gossip - it's human nature. But there are no benefits to this type of conversation, and it should be avoided at all costs. Do you really want to be known as the firm's gossip king or queen? There is greater prosperity to be had for those who remain neutral when it comes to office scuttlebutt.
10. There Is No Roadmap to Success
Most college students feel as if life is mapped out for them. After graduation, this is not the case. You control your own destiny, and you're free to plan your own personal and professional goals. And that's a pretty darn good position to be in.
About the Author
Christopher Lindberg is a graduate of Rowan University and is currently working as an Advisory Associate for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.
Reprinted with the permission of the New Jersey Society of CPAs