Getting the most from live CPE training

Smart CPAs are doing more than just fulfilling their state board requirements, they are trying to squeeze the most value out of their continuing education.

Though accounting has often been called "recession-proof," no job is completely safe. That's why career advisers urge accountants to develop skills that will make them difficult to replace by carefully choosing the best training options.

Forbes magazine reported that the Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook projects that employment of accountants and auditors should grow by 18 percent through 2016 to handle changing laws and regulations.

Keeping up-to-date is critically important.

Keith Ferazzi, a writer for Monster.com, the careers Web site, advised employees to become a "conference commando." He writes, "Take time weeks before the conference to think through and write down why you are attending. What do you want to achieve? Who do you want to meet? The more clearly you articulate what you want and need, the more likely you can plan and execute your mission." He also recommends networking with conference attendees and asking questions at meetings.

Charmaine McClarie, president of McClarie Group, an executive-development consultancy, told Monster: "I recommend clients write their own takeaway list of the three to five things they would like to get out of a professional development workshop first. Then, find a best fit by comparing your ideal takeaway list with workshop offerings."

Use your network to find the best instructors out there. Don't ignore a bad review from a colleague. Other homework should be done in advance. In addition to checking out the instructor, look into how teaching is done. "Avoid `spray and pray' training that throws lots of information at you and hopes some of the knowledge sticks and is actually used someday," says Ted Demopoulos, founder of Demopoulos Associates, an IT consulting and training company. Think about working on your weaknesses by picking a training program that will challenge you.

Some accountants are adding credentials to their CPA. Trycia Arenciba, a Miami CPA, also earned a CAM, a professional license for community association managers.

Trycia told Monster, "I keep my CPA license active through CPE credits and it [the license] enhances us as professionals and is an invaluable tool." This way, she manages accounts from both an accounting and operations standpoint.

And don't forget the so-called soft skills, which are best taught in a live setting. At WithumSmith+Brown, for example, the entire firm gets training on business etiquette, dressing for success, and working with different personality styles, according to JobsintheMoney.com.

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