I was conducting an interview to hire a tax season intern, and across the table from me was a college-age applicant who was eager to impress and interested in learning more about the real world. I flashed back to my own internship interview almost 20 years ago, and a case of self-reflection filled my head. With all that I have experienced and learned along the way, what would I tell that younger version of myself?
After the interview, I returned to my office and what came next was this letter to my younger self.
I am writing to share some insights that will serve you well in establishing and developing a successful career as a CPA. Keep these in mind as you begin your journey, and use them as reminders along the way. They will differentiate you from all others in the room.
- Be reliable – If you say you are going to do something, do it. Show up on time, be prepared, and meet your deadlines. Communicate in a proactive manner that lets people know that you value their time. Bookend tasks and projects with strong starts and finishes. You will gain trust by behaving well, working hard, and being trustworthy.
- Be kind – This effort is so simple, yet it is forgotten by so many. Kindness is like a muscle that functions best when trained properly. When you enter the office, greet your colleagues with a smile. Be considerate, praise others for work well done, show appreciation, and listen when you ask someone how they are. Your behavior has the power to influence and inspire.
- Be accountable – Create a personal brand that is built on the foundations of responsibility and accountability. Responsibility is taking initiative. Accountability is following through and owning the results. You will also achieve more if you think beyond the scope of your piece of a project and consider the entire puzzle.
- Be honest – There is no simpler way to say something than to tell the truth. Rely on your personal values and the CPA profession’s code of ethics to guide your decision-making. Being honest with yourself is just as important as being honest with others. Rethink positions and choices you’ve made, and honestly appraise whether or not they’re right for you. Be honest about what you want and do the work to get it.
Your Future Self
Careers ebb and flow. Not every day goes as planned, but I can say with certainty that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
Whether your career is brand new, coming to an end, or somewhere in between, reflect on what got you to this point and how you define success. Think about what your letter would say, and maybe share it with others.
Elizabeth A. Wilson, CPA, is chief financial officer of Valley National Financial Advisors in Bethlehem. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.