A Guide to a Career in Accounting

An adding machine.

An adding machine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a guest post.

No one knows what the single magic ingredient is to a successful career in any field (if such an ingredient exists). Talking with experts in accounting, however, can shed light onto what qualities people need to get the best accounting jobs today and stick with them for a lifetime. We spoke to a variety of professionals to get their opinions on exactly that. Below is what they had to say.

From the financial professional staffer: Plan early

“While some people fall into an accounting career, the ones who flourish in their careers are the people who plan for it.” That’s according to Greg Menzone, an executive manager in the financial division of Professional Staffing Group. “That means deciding early that you’re interested in accounting and choosing a school that will help set you apart, i.e. a college or university with a strong business/finance reputation where you can major in accounting. Internships, especially through a co-op school, are also important. On another note about education: I recommend getting a master’s degree right away — it’s essential for a career in accounting.”

Menzone continues with advice for those recently out of school.

“After graduation,” he says, “accounting majors typically have a choice to pursue either a job in private industry or public accounting. Going the public accounting route can set you up more favorably for achieving C.P.A. status since both a master’s degree and a specific number of audit hours are required for the CPA. If you choose the public accounting route, I recommend staying at least a few years until you reach a senior level. Doing so will help your reputation and position you for the next step in your career.”

Menzone stresses that sticking with one employer for awhile instead of bouncing among accounting jobs is smarter for the lifelong career of the accountant.

“A successful career is a marathon, not a sprint, and longevity with an employer can be valuable because it enables you to build a solid network and develop trust in your position and abilities,” he concludes.

From the company president: Develop marketing skills

“With growing revenues and uncovering new business opportunities for accounting firms becoming more paramount every day, the successful accountant will need to have skills in business development and marketing,” shares Nick Keseric, president of the Marketing Seeds, a company that outsources marketing and business development initiatives for banks, law, accounting and wealth management firms.

“No longer will an accountant get by or get offered a partnership within a firm because they are only a real good technician in tax or audit. There are a million good technicians but few accountants that are good in — here comes the dreaded word for accountants — SALES. Bringing in new business opportunities and converting a prospect into a client will be the new norm for advancement.”

Keseric goes on to explain how those seeking accounting jobs at Moneyjobs.com or who are currently employed in the field can go about improving this important skill set. Among the techniques he advises are: Observing styles and approaches of those currently employed in sales and marketing; working on being likeable; studying business etiquette; and “smiling, being approachable and extending a hand first and greeting to others.”

“When accountants ADD it up,” he jokes, “business development will SAY it all for their own success.”

From the Excel guru: Master spreadsheets

Breck Carrow knows the value of spreadsheets so well he heads a company that trains people in their use and mastery: StopSpreadsheetErrors.com. He reminds people that finding and keeping good accounting jobs can have a lot to do with how well you know your Excel.

“As with any career, you can achieve greater success based on the unique value that you offer,” he points out. “Knowledge of Excel spreadsheets is a must for today’s accountants. Just knowing the standard formulas and functions, however, does not set you apart from your peers. In order to truly shine, an accountant should know how to properly structure a spreadsheet with effective controls. The resulting process efficiency will pay off many times over with more productive work, faster turnaround and less stress. Moreover, this will help you avoid a major career pitfall: embarrassing and costly mistakes that can tarnish your reputation.”

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    1. For someone who is considering a career as a “bean counter”, this tips couldn’t have come at a more opportune time! I think now I have some clarity on what I can expect and what might set me apart from my peers. For one, I’ll certainly be working on my Excel chops!

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