By Jonathan Liss
When you first begin an accounting or tax career, you are probably most concerned about making a good impression and fitting in with your new organizational culture. As you advance, establishing your personal brand and building a strong network become increasingly important. An integral, and gratifying, aspect of your career will be participating in professional organizations. In my many years as a state and local tax specialist, I have found professional organizations to be extremely beneficial in helping me accomplish my career goals, expand my network, and make good friends.
A huge benefit to joining a professional organization is the opportunity to meet with colleagues who have similar backgrounds and interests. In fact, one of the greatest benefits is exchanging experiences and ideas that will help improve your job performance.
To start with, professional organizations will help you establish a place in your “community.” For example, the Tax Executives Institute (TEI) is a national tax organization for in-house tax professionals that has local chapters throughout the country. As a long-time member of the Philadelphia Chapter’s state and local tax (SALT) committee, I have attended monthly meetings and informative seminars for years. The SALT committee consists of highly respected, well-known tax accountants and lawyers from the Philadelphia area. I got to know many of the committee members very well and became integrated within the Greater Philadelphia tax community.
A truly rewarding outcome of joining a professional organization is the lifelong friends. Based in Washington, D.C., the Council on State Taxation (COST) is the premier state tax organization in the country. Led by Executive Director Doug Lindholm, COST has more than 600 members representing most of the largest companies in the United States. I was an active member of COST while working in private industry and had the privilege of being on the COST board of directors for nine years. During that time, I attended many COST events at delightful locales (Lake Tahoe, Sonoma, Beaver Creek, to name a few) and met fellow tax professionals from all parts of the country. As my mentor, the late Paul Frankel, once told me, when you join COST you make friends for life. He was right on the money. I met one of my closest friends at the first COST meeting I attended in Lexington, Ky. … over 30 years ago!
Last but not least, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) is a vital professional organization for CPAs in the Keystone State. The PICPA has more than 20,000 members, including practitioners in public accounting, private industry, government, and academia. The PICPA supports its members by providing hundreds of continuing professional educational programs annually, networking events, and opportunities for career growth (including the opportunity to write this blog). The PICPA also advocates for its membership in the state legislature and disseminates information on important legislative, judicial, and regulatory developments through its highly regarded publications.
Participating in professional organizations is important to becoming a well-rounded expert in your chosen field. It is obviously essential to develop technical skills and deep knowledge of the subject matter, but the close relationships you develop through professional organizations will clearly increase your value to your employer.
I have been very fortunate to belong to several outstanding professional tax organizations during my career. I highly recommend that you consider membership in a professional organization (or several organizations) a priority. You will not regret it!
Jonathan Liss is senior revenue policy analyst for the Philadelphia Department of Revenue. He is also an adjunct professor at Drexel University, Temple University School of Law, and Villanova University School of Law. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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