Accountants are not exempt from the dilemma of stalled careers, especially if they do the bulk of their work as tax preparers. However, there are things you can do to get a raise, a promotion or a better-paying job elsewhere. If you find you love what you do but you’re not going to advance in your career, it’s simply a matter of making yourself a more experienced and more educated job candidate.
Earn an Advanced Degree
Your first step should be to find out more about online graduate tax programs. The more educated you are, the more attractive a candidate you are to prospective employers — or to your current employer. Showing your current employer that you’ve taken the initiative to attend classes in your free time while working may be enough to get recognition, more responsibility and better pay.
Having not only an advanced degree, but a specialization, makes you a more valuable employee. It also helps you stand out if you decide to apply elsewhere. Specializations make you more likely to get assigned to important accounts or to find yourself on committees and boards. Some accounting graduate specializations include:
- Tax law
- Business law
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are fewer than 60,000 tax preparers in the U.S., but there are more than 868,000 people employed in the accounting, bookkeeping, payroll and tax-preparing industry. If you specialize, you grow beyond the tax-preparer job market and allow yourself access to any of the hundreds of thousands of other jobs in the field. These jobs will keep you busy year-round, not just at the start of the tax season.
Shadow a Mentor
Ask to shadow an accountant with more seniority and help with their accounts. Observe how they deal with clients, take note of how they actively seek new clients and take a look at the kinds of accounting they do throughout the day. If you shadow a mentor before choosing a specialization, the experience may help you decide to choose a similar specialization as your mentor — or conversely, to avoid one you don’t think you’d like after all.
Don’t forget to pay attention to your work as you shadow a mentor. The point of the experience is to prove you can tackle more responsibility and that you have an interest on what goes on in the office. It’ll backfire if you fail to perform your responsibilities.
Speak to Your Manager
Sometimes rewards don’t simply fall into a person’s lap. Perhaps your employer values forthrightness and is waiting for you to ask for a promotion or additional responsibility. Once you’ve earned your degree — or even while you’re earning it — and have shadowed a mentor, speak with your manager or HR rep about qualifying for better-paying jobs with more responsibility. Ask your mentor, if they have clout in the office, to back you up with your request. Some companies want to know who’s interested in advancement before doling out promotions.
Seek a New Position
If your current employer doesn’t appreciate the effort you’ve put into educating yourself and getting more experience, you’re not going to advance where you are. Look for other jobs using your new degree and experience to set your apart from the competition, but don’t let your current employer know you’re looking until you’ve secured a new position elsewhere.
There are many times in life when you can’t sit back and wait for change to come to you — you have to do what you can to make change happen. Accounting and tax preparing is a fairly competitive industry, so if you hope to advance, you need to make yourself a more valuable employee. Become more educated and tackle new experiences, and you’ll determine your professional future.
About the Author: Howard Walker is a CPA and owner of an accounting firm. He’s been called to speak at a number of business conferences around the country.