Within just the past 18 months the accounting profession has changed dramatically. New legislation has altered once-traditional business practices, and some specialty areas are now booming. As a result, students currently entering the profession are facing issues far different from their predecessors. These challenges have also led to new opportunities.
Below are five things to keep in mind when looking for a new position in today's accounting environment:
Stay up to date on industry trends. Your familiarity with accounting issues and their practical implications will demonstrate to hiring managers your commitment to the profession and to advancing in your career. It's not enough to know that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was passed in 2002, (which increased corporate governance awareness). You'll also need to understand how the Act has changed business practices for prospective employers and the roles for which you're applying.
Go beyond your comfort zone. Companies need employees who are flexible and willing to try new things. Whether it's in the classroom, through temporary assignments or during internships, gain as much as experience in as many areas as possible. Volunteer for extra work, even if it falls outside of your normal responsibilities.
Stand out from the competition. You'll most likely be one of a number of applicants for open positions, including some who may have more experience than you. As a result, you'll need to do everything you can to distinguish yourself. Beyond the job-searching basics, expand your networking efforts, which will help you meet new contacts and learn about industry trends and potential job opportunities. Also consider working toward an advanced credential, such as a certified public accountant (CPA) or certified management accountant (CMA) designation, if you haven't already done so. According to a Robert Half International survey, 85 percent of CFOs said professional certifications are valuable for career advancement. They can also increase your earning potential.
Specialize. Many employers need staff who fit practice-area niches. For example, positions in internal auditing and forensic accounting are in demand now as companies react to changes in the marketplace. Obtaining experience in an array of areas will help you determine which one you're best suited for and enjoy the most.
Never stop learning. As recent events have proven, the accounting field is constantly evolving. So even if you find your dream job, keep researching the issues facing the industry. Participating in professional associations is one way to stay current on recent trends.
© 2003 SmartPros Ltd. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.