Volunteering is always a worthwhile pursuit and use of time, regardless of whether you work in the CPA profession or in another field.
Giving back to our local communities and contributing our time and our abilities are a great way in which we can help ourselves feel more fulfilled as practitioners and individuals.
CPAs and other accounting professionals, whether they are employed within industry or public practice, possess a variety of skill sets that are valued by the marketplace.
The ability to quantitatively analyze and report information, communicate with stakeholders, and help management make strategic decisions all fall within the scope of accounting professionals. Technical training and education, reinforced through continuing education and credits, form the cornerstone of the accounting profession.
There are numerous opportunities for CPAs, who can leverage their existing skills and competencies, to volunteer and give back in ways that directly add value to their professional portfolio.
This is something that I know a bit about based on first-hand experience, and I am happy to share with you.
Let’s take a look at two examples of how volunteering can be personally fulfilling and lead to professional development.
Many Languages, One World
In the past four years the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), in collaboration with ELS Educational Services, has sponsored the Many Languages, One World (MLOW) program.
The core of this program seeks to bring together participants, selected through a rigorous competitive process, to share ideas, cultures, and do so in the six official languages of the United Nations.
This year, after realizing that the presentation focused on an area of my personal expertise, sustainability and sustainable development, I was fortunate to participate in the 2017 event—by helping students prepare their presentations and accompanying them to the United Nations.
Such an event—linking together the themes of sustainability, a global mindset, and the importance of developing action-oriented goals—provided a fertile environment for me to leverage my CPA skills in a unique manner.
As a three-time alumni at Fairleigh Dickinson University, I have consistently tried to maintain an active involvement with the school.
As a CPA, it can be difficult to imagine how we can give back and volunteer our time to school, but the reality is that virtually every institution would be happy to have a quantitatively oriented professional involved in a volunteer capacity.
I was looking for a way to give back to the institution that had given me so much, and I came across the Board of Governors, an alumni-based group of individuals who consult with the administration and other stakeholders of the university.
During the application, interview, and approval process, I was reminded of the multiple benefits of my accounting background. The ability to organize, analyze, and report information never goes out of style, and I am happy to say that I am able to use these skills as a Board member.
This group, in collaboration with higher administration and other university stakeholders, is active in the strategic planning process for the school going forward.
This, I believe, demonstrates how CPAs can deliver value, be involved on a day-to-day basis, and develop a professional portfolio of engagement over time.
As I embark on my first year on the Board, I am looking forward to challenges, conversations and opportunities for professional development while giving back to my alma matter.
Taking That First Step
CPAs can face a variety of obstacles as they try to provide top quality service to clients and at the same time develop a professional portfolio or volunteer and service activities.
While this may present a challenge, that does not mean it should be ignored or not be viewed as an opportunity for professional development.
In a business environment that increasingly focuses on the ability of business and management professionals to make decisions in a rapid manner, volunteering and becoming involved with a variety of organizations can add a unique differentiating factor to your portfolio.
Volunteering, participating in different professional activities, and engaging with your local business community can open the door to new opportunities that you never knew even existed.
Being proactive, taking that first step, and becoming involved in activities that might be beyond your traditional wheelhouse are just a few of the ways that you can develop yourself and add value to your professional portfolio.
If you ask me, that sounds like a good deal, and something every CPA should explore.
About Dr. Sean Stein Smith
Dr. Sean Stein Smith, DBA, CPA, CMA, CGMA, CFE, is an assistant professor at Lehman College, part of the City University of New York. He is a member of the NJCPA Content Advisory Board, Student Programs & Scholarship Committee, Young CPA Council, Nonprofit Interest Group, and Accounting & Auditing Standards Interest Group. He can be reached at [email protected].