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Jan 27, 2014

Surviving Your First Tax Season: Tips for New Associates

By Guest Blogger, Clare Porreca, CPA, MT

clare-photoPublic accounting can be challenging, but it can also be extremely rewarding, especially during tax season. New associates may have trouble looking past the long hours and the deadlines to realize the amazing opportunity that is in front of them.  I am about to begin my eighth tax season in public accounting, and I can honestly say that I am not dreading it; I am looking forward to it! I feel this way because over the years I have built confidence in my abilities fueled by a learned system of personal management. What follows are a few pieces of advice for not only surviving, but thriving during tax season.

Differentiate yourself from your peers.

I have known several public accountants who began their careers with the attitude that they were “just going to put in their two years” and get out. They were mainly focused on completing their assignments rather than fully understanding the work they were doing.  Try to differentiate yourself from these associates.  Show your boss that you are interested in learning and that you are not just there so you can put that public accounting firm name on your resumé.  The most successful accountants I have met are the ones who try to fully understand a project rather than the ones who complete tasks as quickly as possible.

Learn as much as you can and speak up when you do not know something. 

There is so much to know in public accounting, and sometimes managers and partners forget how much of a learning curve there is when you begin your career.  You cannot be afraid to speak up when you do not understand something.  Remember, though, that everyone is busy, so do your best to respect everyone’s time.  You will learn more and build credibility if you try to research the answer and come to a conclusion on your own, rather than asking for the answers every time. It is a delicate balance, and over time you will learn to master it.

Figure out how and when you are most efficient.

When you begin your career in public accounting, chances are you will not be the only new hire.  There could be three new hires, or there could be 30 new hires.  No matter the case, try to remember that everyone has different work styles, and figuring out how you work most efficiently will help you succeed faster.  Some people work their best early in the morning, while others work better late at night. Some people can work straight through with no breaks for several hours, while others need to get up and go for a walk every 90 minutes.

Try not to compare every single aspect of your work habits to those of your peers because some work styles will not work for you.  If you are getting your work done, asking for more work when you are available, and meeting expectations, there is no reason to stay at work for an extra half hour just because your cube-mate is still there. Reap the benefits of good planning and go home to enjoy an extra hour of sleep!

Make time for what is important to you. 

Some accountants complain about tax season instead of trying to make it work in their lives.  It is easy to get caught up in the negative attitude, but try to remember that busy season is manageable and it has an end.  You can still enjoy your life while working additional hours each week; you just have to create opportunities, however small, to have a life outside of work.  Go for a run or organize a pickup game of basketball instead of eating dinner with your firm a couple times a week; meet friends for a quick dinner before going back to work for the night; or get a manicure or sit outside and read a book (and not an accounting magazine!) at lunchtime.

There are many ways to incorporate your interests and hobbies into a busy work week. I have always found that even the smallest breaks from work make a difference in my quality of life and the quality of work I deliver.  Obviously, your plans will sometimes have to take a back seat to your work priorities, and I certainly am not encouraging you to leave every night to meet friends for happy hour. But if you make an effort to maintain some of your normal activities, you will not feel as though all you do is work.

There are many opportunities for new associates within the public accounting field.  You will get to meet and work with some extremely intelligent people; you will learn about the business world in general; and you will have an opportunity to shape a career path that fits into your life.  If you take advantage of these opportunities, you will not only stop cringing at the thought of busy season, but you will have a very meaningful and rewarding career.
Clare Porreca, CPA, MT, is a managing associate at Drucker & Scaccetti, a tax and business consulting firm with offices in Philadelphia and Scranton.

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  • Michael Leopold | Nov 23, 2015
    Thank you for the article. As a current MAcc student that will be finishing next Fall articles like these are very helpful to me.

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