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How to successfully transition into your first accounting job

Posted by Dr. Phil Yaeger on Apr 16, 2017 1:05:00 PM

When you're a bleary-eyed sweatpant-clad student studying for the CPA exam, it can be hard to imagine wearing a suit and tie the next month. In fact, it can be hard to take on a lot of the new responsibilities and different atmospheres that come with the job. The focus changes on getting a 75 or higher to getting everything right, all the time.

There might not be any more tests or flashcards, but this is because it's no longer tryouts, you're in the game. The real life implications mean a little more stress, a more rigid schedule, and people to answer to, but it also comes with the advantages of a real job. You get to focus on growth in family and life like you may not have been able to before. And unlike the CPA exam, the end goal isn't passing an exam in a few months but growing your career on a long term approach.

Here are a few tips for you to consider while making the switch

1) You might be done studying, but you are not done learning

Entering into a career as a CPA means there is now a wealth of knowledge all around you. The veteran workers at your place of work have the potential to be mentors to your career and gurus of knowledge. You are no longer focusing on reading and asking, taking in information to apply and prove yourself. Now, you are looking and exploring the information and knowledge available to grow yourself. The biggest challenge here is to stay curious. Don't let passing the CPA Exam alone be enough. Challenge yourself once a week to come up with a meaningful question. Ask the most senior employee out to lunch. Ask the newest person how the transition has been for them. Ask someone in the middle what it's been like to learn from everyone around them.

The easy thing to do is sit back and enjoy having made it, and you may want some time to do this, but don't let it last more than a week. Show interest from the get go but follow it up the second week of work with some questions and plans to start learning from your peers.

2) Pass on the social media

If you're like most students, you may have a habit of taking breaks to get lost in the world of Instagram, Facebook videos, or Snapchat stories. There is a time and place for your social media life, but be wary of letting it be at work. Consider setting aside time at lunch or on the train ride home if you want, or change out Facebook for something more professional like Linked-In articles to take a break while taking in relevant knowledge.

The worst is developing a reputation of someone who can't stay focused or wastes billable time on unnecessary internet engagement. The stereotype about millennials is already pretty hard to defeat, so reinforcing it in this way can only hurt.

3) Take on your first busy season like it isn't your first

Your first spring as an accountant won't come as a shock, but it doesn't mean it won't be hard. You'll take on longer hours, work weekends, be asked to come in early and still end up staying late. The good thing to remember is that you're all in it together. Another positive part of it all is that many firms understand the pressures you're facing and offer perks. If it's made available, make sure to take advantage of the work days at home. Force yourself to get a little exercise at the end of the day. Enjoy the catered meals and late night pizza, and give yourself a little light at the tunnel. Plan a little vacation or getaway at the end of busy season. You are going to work hard but focus on it as earning the time off and a mental break at the end of it all.

All of this is about a healthy change during a time that could prove to be very stressful. Don't worry about doing it all perfectly but know that going in with a plan will help you navigate these new waters.

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