Career advancement comes with being noticed for the talents you bring to the workplace. Whether you are vying for a promotion, eyeing the top rung of the career ladder, or just looking for opportunities to grow with new and challenging experiences, making a good impression on management is paramount to your success.
"The best employees go beyond their job description and engage in what are called organizational citizenship behaviors," said Ronald Riggio, Ph.D., professor of leadership and organizational psychology at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif., and author of numerous books and articles on leadership.
"These behaviors include helping others, volunteering to take on extra tasks or learning new skills, and talking positively about the company and the boss to others. In other words, this means going above and beyond the call of duty," he added.
It's obvious that good habits like arriving at work on time or even early, dressing professionally, and being productive are the hallmarks of an impressive employee, but a CPA can do other things to attract notice. Leadership experts and experienced CPA managers recommend the following ways to make a great impression at work:
- Maintain a positive attitude. Having a good attitude at work is half the battle, according to Meagan Wellbrock, CPA, principal at Adams, Brown, Beran, & Ball in Hays, Kan. "Having a positive attitude has helped me along the way, and I often see other young CPAs get to where they want to be because of their attitude," said Wellbrock, a 2017 graduate of the AICPA Leadership Academy.
- Take initiative. A.J. Hurst, CPA, senior audit manager at Frazier & Deeter in Atlanta, is always impressed with employees who are willing to go the extra mile. "I notice employees who take on challenging assignments, help those who are buried in work, and assist other employees who report to me. Dedication to their team and always striving to be at their best is what impresses me," said Hurst, a 2017 graduate of the AICPA Leadership Academy.
Jodi Glickman, CEO and founder of leadership development firm Great on the Job, located in Chicago, said she advises employees to be proactive — to offer to jump in and help out without waiting to be asked to take on tasks. For instance, offer to draft the agenda for a meeting, start on an analysis for a client, or pitch in on a new engagement. "Anticipate the needs of your boss and your team," she suggested.
- Be transparent. "If someone asks you to do something and you don't know how, let them know," Glickman said. "But at the same time, express enthusiasm for learning."
Wellbrock noted that it is important to be realistic and transparent with bosses, co-workers, and clients about deadlines. "It's fine to push the envelope and to push yourself, but don't underestimate the amount of time it will take to complete a project," she said.
- Work smart. Whether you are in public accounting or business and industry, working smart is important. Hurst has witnessed employees burn out by thinking they have to work crazy hours just to please their bosses. He's even been there himself. "Superstars are those who are focused more on what they are doing than how much time they spend doing it," he said. "I was a big offender, but I learned that it's the quality of the time more than the quantity of time you spend that is important."
- Own your work product — even the mistakes. Admitting to your mistakes is difficult but important, Glickman said: "Take ownership of those mistakes and go the extra mile to fix them."
- Communicate. Glickman recommended communicating regularly with management to make sure your priorities are aligned. "Make sure you are on the same page as your boss and check in periodically," she said. As Riggio noted, "Responding quickly to emails, phone calls, and assignments shows you are on the ball."
- Show gratitude. Express appreciation when your boss has done something positive for you or the company, Riggio suggested.
- Remember that work is a team sport. Put your team first, Glickman said. "Ask yourself: 'What is the most helpful thing I can do to advance our collective agenda?'," she said. "Be laser-focused on what's best for the team and the boss, and don't be selfish. If you make other people better, in the long term the benefits will accrue to you."
Being a generous co-worker benefits everyone, Riggio observed: "Helping others triggers them to reciprocate and help you when you need it."
Teri Saylor is a freelance writer based in Raleigh, N.C. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Courtney Vien, a senior editor at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.