'We all know what we're working toward...'
Transitioning to a leadership role: I can attribute my career success to hard work, relationship building, and a little bit of luck. I'm always willing to roll up my sleeves and charge toward an issue, especially when I'm part of a team. There's a sense of accomplishment when you're able to come up with a solution or provide a deliverable. I've also amassed a group of mentors, whether peers or more senior-level people. When there's a challenge or I need to talk things through, those people help put things in perspective. Last, I recognize that I didn't have full control of every aspect of my career. Markets change, strategies change, people move on — these things can impact your career outside of your own plan. I've leveraged those events into opportunities to move my career forward.
Being an effective leader: Being a leader is about putting myself in the shoes of the team. I try to get to know the members of the team — who they are and what motivates them. They may not all want the same things or be in the same place in their career. It's also important to share the goals for our group and explain how that fits into the broader picture. That way, we all know what we're working toward. Over time, I've seen for myself and with others, the job that I'm doing today may not be the job I want to do forever. Work with leaders who can acknowledge that and help you work toward your goals to get the best out of yourself, even if it means you may change teams or roles. That will motivate people and helps the overall culture of the team.
Be prepared for different roles: The concern I hear most from young professionals is, "Is my current role the right place to be in my career?" That role is one opportunity of many. They should expect that they're going to change roles in their career. As they look at the current opportunity, do they think it's a place where they can learn? Is the organization interested in their growth and development? Each role is an opportunity to decide what they do and don't enjoy and to assess what they do best. Use those first few opportunities as learning experiences.
Volunteering: For most of my professional career, I've volunteered with the National Association of Black Accountants. Today, I serve on their national board of directors. I see a direct impact to my profession as well as my broader community, all while providing me the opportunity to leverage my strengths. Volunteering is also a great way to hone my skill set and try new things. CPAs who are considering volunteer work should consider what they're passionate about, what skill set they can bring to the organization, and what skills or relationships they're hoping to gain from the experience. Once they find that opportunity, start small so that it's not too much responsibility at once, and add responsibilities over time.
— As told to Lea Hart, a freelance writer based in North Carolina. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Ken Tysiac, the JofA's editorial director, at Kenneth.Tysiac@aicpa-cima.com.