Hindsight is 20/20.  The good news is that if you heed the advice and lessons of others who have already dealt with what you’re going through you can significantly improve your current vision.  So let us now apply this to the field of accounting by sharing some thoughts from people who’ve been out in the working world.

Salary May Not Be What You Expect

Coming out of school a lot of accounting students have an inflated idea of how much they’ll make.  After all, accountants are in demand, right?  This is true but you still won’t be making $100k right outta the gate.  Depending on the market and type of firm (Ex: one of the Big 4) $35 – $60k is more realistic.

Just How Busy the Busy Season Is

You hear about it.  You think you know but you don’t.  It’s surprising how much tax season is stressful physically as well as mentally.  When you can work up to 70 hours per week depending on what firm you’re at it’s obviously gonna take a toll on your life.  But it affects even smaller things like being able to pick up your dry cleaning before it closes or the marked increase in your vending machine and caffeine intake.

It’s (Very)Tough to Go for Your CPA While Working

Studying for the exam is tough enough but can feel impossible if you’re already working full time.  When you add the amount hours you’ll most likely be working to the time you need to prep for the exam it can feel like your life has been stolen.  This can not only frustrate you but also put real stress on your interpersonal relationships.  If at all possible, get your CPA before getting your first job.

You Don’t Know as Much as You Think You Do

So, let’s say you were a naturally gifted, top student who got their CPA before the first day of work.  It’s tempting to think that after all that you have it all down.  You will find out this is not the case.  Embrace your job with an open mind and you-never-stop-learning attitude.  The good news is that you’re not expected to know everything so don’t worry about it.

Take Notes

Obvious, right?  Not as much as you might think.  It’s not just client meetings it’s also internal exchanges.  You’re going to be dealing with a lot of info every day and you need to keep tabs on it.  You don’t want to be bugging people with the same question multiple times – especially the client.  This is a great way to diminish others’ confidence in you.  Plus there will be times you will thank God you did like when you make a small error and at year’s end the auditors ask you about it. Otherwise, as one accountant put it, “ you need to unravel that mess all over again.”

You’ll be Hanging Out a Lot with Other Accountants

Another obvious one, right?  But you don’t realize how much you’ll be surrounded by other accountants.  You don’t deal with other departments/groups as much as other professions.  For this same reason, you’ll end up socializing with them as well.  This can feel a little intellectually claustrophobic.

Communication Skills Are More Important Than You Thought

If you work in the public sector client development is crucial so you’ll have to be comfortable interacting with others and selling yourself.  In corporations or private companies, accountants are being called on more and more to be financial consultants/strategists as opposed to “number crunchers”.  You’ll be presenting and defending ideas both internally and to clients.  You need to be able to convey ideas clearly and directly.  .

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