Career Tips for Terps


The Best Accounting Career Advice Straight From Accountants

Don’t Be Scared Off By Numbers

If you’re interested in accounting but wouldn’t consider yourself a “math nerd,” don’t despair — accountants today are so much more than number crunchers, especially now that they have fancy computers and digital tools to munch most of the numbers for them. What is important, however, is a desire to understand and apply accounting concepts, so strong conceptual thinking is a must. As John Watkins from accountancy firm PKF told the Guardian Professional, “Unless you want to do financial modeling work or pursue a more actuarial route, there is no need for sophisticated mathematical expertise.”

Pick Public Versus Private

Outside of government and non-profit work, accountants basically have two routes to choose from: Public and private. In private accounting, you’re employed by a single company, whereas in public accounting you work for a firm (think one of the “Big Four” like KPMG) that has a roster of clients that use the firm for their accounting needs and — gulp — auditing services. Which, says accounting manager Carol Holmes of Dugan & Lopatka, means public accounting isn’t for everyone. “You have to be sensitive with people,” Holmes told My Footpath. “Auditing means asking people hard questions about their financials. People that don’t like that aspect of the job can still find work in private accounting departments.” Public accountants are also more likely to work crazy long hours, while private accountants can maintain more of a work-life balance, which should factor into your decision.

Banish Boring

Don’t buy into the myth that accountants are boring; in fact, failing to turn on the charm and intrigue can hurt you during your job search! “When recruiting for Wellers, one of the main attributes we look for is that candidates are far from boring,” revealed Christina Nawrocki, a partner at Wellers Accountants, during a live Q &A chat at “The accounting industry is now very focused on client service and relationships; gone are the days when accountants sat behind a desk with a calculator all day, since we now have computers to do all that for us. With the nature of the business changing to be very client-facing, I would say if you are boring then accountancy is not the right path!”

Build Up Relationships

Earning client trust isn’t the only thing future accounting superstars should be focusing on — building rapport within your own company is big, too. Writing on LinkedIn, management consultant and CPA Eric Butts says that he tells aspiring accountants all the time that connecting with peers, mentors, bosses, and office staff is crucial. “Your ability to communicate and develop a rapport with all of these groups will make you indispensable to any company and ensure you’re always gainfully employed,” he writes. “How you do this is by joining communities like your local state CPA society, professional groups on LinkedIn or Google+, and contributing to discussions. Share your experience. Add value to conversations. Engage in other people’s questions, and you’ll notice your network growing organically.”