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5 Things I Learned in My Six Months at a CPA Firm

By July 19, 2016 August 5th, 2020 No Comments

Author: Lannon Unick, Staff Accountant

I can easily look back and remember my interview with Brickley DeLong. I tried my best to smile the right way and hoped my palms were not sweaty as I shook hand after hand, names and faces blurring together.  The sharp spike of excitement when they made me an offer—I’d been working towards this moment for years and it seemed like my hard work was about to pay off.

In reality, the hard work was only just beginning.

Next week, I will have been here six months. I want to offer five words of wisdom for those starting, or looking to start their career in public accounting.

  1. Take notes.
    I cannot stress this enough.  Take notes… of everything, all of the time.  Don’t walk into a meeting, a training, or an informal “I want to go over X with you for just a moment” without having a binder, a note pad, post-its, or anything.  The early days will be a blur of training sessions, new computer systems, new co-workers, and new rules (both official and unwritten); and, unless you have a proper system in place for taking and referencing your notes on a subject, you’ll be stuck asking the same questions over and over again while you try to explain to a boss or a supervisor that you’re not normally this much of an idiot.
  2. Try to see the bigger picture.
    When you’re starting, you’ll probably be handed lots of little pieces of things to do.  This is to give you the ability to easy into your work, allow you to apply you studies to the real work, and to minimize too much confusion. In the middle of this, it’s very easy to only focus on the form or the documents directly in front of you as you struggle to remember that one class three years ago that discussed the finer points of a Schedule D.  However, you will be doing yourself a favor if you take a moment to step back and consider where this tiny piece of the financial puzzle fits into the bigger picture.  How does this item affect the overall tax form?  Why is this particular item tested in this particular audit?  If you allow the work in front of you to help you develop a more complete vision of all the moving parts involved in your specialty, it will help you predict next steps, identify potential problems, and make learning the next step of the process that much easier.  And along those lines . .  .
  3. Take your time.
    Your first weeks or months on the job you are allowed, or even encouraged, to work a little slower, just to make sure you understand what’s in front of you.  Learn how to do it correctly, push yourself for accuracy instead of time.
  4. Get to know your co-workers.
    These are the people down in the trenches with you.  Make friends, eat lunch with people, and get to know who to go to for help. Keep snacks in your desk and be willing to listen when the people around you are offering advice or bits of wisdom on easier or better ways to do the work or interact with a particular client.
  5. Remember to breathe.
    No, seriously.  Work is whirling around in your head and making you absolutely crazy?  Feel like you’re teetering on the edge of a nervous meltdown?  Stand up from your desk and go walk around the parking lot or find a quiet corner and put your head between your knees.  Take off your suit jacket and run up and down the stairs a few times.  It’s better to step away from your work for five whole minutes of “you” time than to sit staring at the computer screen while your mind races, your eyes cross, and absolutely zero work gets done.

These are just five of my takeaways. Public accounting is truly both a challenging and a rewarding field. For more information about working at Brickley DeLong, please visit our career pages.