Employment conditions for accountants, auditors, and financial specialists are favorable in the United States, particularly at a time when millions of Americans feel confident enough to quit their jobs and look for better ones.
The U.S. Department of Labor projects the number of accounting and auditing jobs will increase by nearly 7% this decade. The number of jobs for financial specialists is expected to increase by 5.2%.
If you are mulling a change in your financial career, consider these four strategies:
Update your résumé. Even with statistics tilting in the profession's favor, "a great résumé is one of the best ways to improve your odds of success," said Bob Berchtold, CPA, host of The Abacus Show, an accounting career podcast.
The standout résumé will tell a compelling story of professional growth and expanding skill.
"The process of writing your résumé also forces you to think about your accomplishments, but make it clear, concise, and easy to read. Use paragraphs to describe general job duties. Save bullet points to emphasize your biggest accomplishments in each job."
It's smart to vary résumés depending on the jobs you apply for, Berchtold added. "You get most of the benefits of a custom résumé by creating just two or three foundational versions tailored to the different job types you're applying for, such as senior accountant, cost accountant, or financial analyst."
Another important thing to bear in mind is what's known as "résumé optimization." Many companies, especially larger ones, now use digital systems to scan for key terms and thus winnow out numerous candidates. To clear this computerized hurdle, customize your foundational résumé with each application to closely match the job description.
Go entrepreneurial. After a stint at a larger accounting firm earlier in his career, Tom Wheelwright, CPA, was inspired to follow a self-styled career path. Today the founder and CEO of WealthAbility, Wheelwright recalled that within a year of starting his own business, "I was making a much better income than as an employee." He added that going the business owner route can produce another tremendous benefit: "A CPA firm is an asset that can be sold later on."
You can aid your entrepreneurial journey in several ways. One is to leverage first-degree contacts via LinkedIn or to contact others who know and trust you, to find prospects for freelance work or get recommendations on prospective clients.
Second, consider lines of part-time financial employment to serve as an income base. "Self-employment as a fractional controller is a great option for many," said John Madison, CPA, a personal financial counselor at Dayspring Financial Ministry in Ashland, Va. "Fractional controller work is nice, as you don't need as large a client list and tax seasons are much easier to handle."
Finally, get focused on where you can excel. "Understand who to target for clients and what services you'd like to provide," Madison said. "Is it businesses or individuals? [Will you offer] full accounting services, including taxes and tax planning, insurance coverages, banking, payroll, etc.?"
Educate yourself. Training in the burgeoning field of data analytics, for example, will put you ahead of the financial services curve.
Explore training and develop new skill sets, enroll in continuing education initiatives, or brush up on best practices in areas ranging from audit and assurance to firm practice management.
"Use the time to stay current and meet your CPE requirements," Madison said. "Keeping your mind engaged is important."
Education "should be directed toward your skill set or desired skill set. I have focused my CPE on taxes and financial planning, areas of interest to me and more importantly to my clients," he added.
Take a timeout. Though it may not seem like a productive path, pause, reconsider career goals, and align to deeply held values. Jumping on the first opportunity could in fact derail you from discovering riches of a different kind.
As Wheelwright put it: "Time off gives you time to think about your future and what you really want out of your career and life."
— Lou Carlozo is a freelance writer based in Illinois. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Andrew Adamek, senior editor, at Andrew.Adamek@aicpa-cima.com.