Time Management for Early Career Professionals
Time management is a skill almost every professional works to improve upon at all levels of their career and especially when just starting out. In a fast-paced environment, you won’t always be able to predict what will fall on your plate or what unexpected issues may arise that will require undivided attention. The ability to appropriately manage your time and account for the unforeseen could be the differentiator between falling significantly behind and being able to come up for air.
When coupling the need to allocate your time to meet deadlines and deliverables with the significant learning curve in accounting, you may feel overwhelmed. The transition from college to the business world can be jarring as you learn how to juggle time spent with family, friends, exercise, travel and hobbies with your new duties which can include simultaneous projects, multiple deliverables and immediate deadlines.
Accountants in the early stages of their career have much to learn about the industry itself, as well as the dynamics of a corporate structure, the workings of the firm, business etiquette, their individual responsibilities and what is expected in their performance. This is a lot to take in, not to mention the pressure to do it all well which can make the starting line of one’s career quite daunting. It is almost always necessary to shuffle priorities and make sacrifices when moving from preparing for your career to beginning your career.
Proper time management also ensures you are not overwhelmed. Having a firm handle on your workload and the time it will take to complete your commitments will bring a more structured approach to tackling your to-do list and allow you to get a lot done without burning out.
Making Time for the CPA Exam
What’s the best time to obtain a CPA license? As soon as possible. The time between graduating from college and starting work is ideal for studying for and taking the CPA exam. Once the demands of a full-time job settle in, making time for the CPA exam becomes that much harder and will become a stressor and could even impact your work performance. Those who obtain their CPA license are naturally viewed at a higher level than those who have not – and getting this milestone of the way early on will only help you advance your career.
Getting a CPA license is a large undertaking. Many firms offer incentives, such as a customized work arrangements to allow time to study for the exam, study programs, partial or full payment of exam fees, and a bonus for passing the exam. Sometimes these incentives will even kick in before the your start date to encourage you to take advantage of the time you have before starting work.
Time Management Tips
Here are some additional time-management tips for new professionals:
- Prioritize. Prioritizing your duties in order of importance is essential to time management. Numerous jobs and tasks can pull you in a number of directions. Taking time out each morning to identify what needs to be accomplished that day or week, knowing the level of importance of each responsibility and estimating the time each project will take will help you effectively and efficiently structure your time.
- Be realistic. Many new professionals are tempted to say “yes” to all requests in order to assist other team members and gain more exposure and experience. However, it is important to be realistic and take care not to stretch yourself too thin. Communication is key. There is no shame in respectfully explaining that you have a lot on your plate and won’t be able to address that assignment until a later time or asking a colleague for help to share the workload. Working hard and demonstrating a great work ethic does not mean you need to pull your hair out. On the contrary, learning how to communicate honestly about your workload will allow others to understand your time commitments and help set reasonable expectations you can meet.
- Plan and track your time. As an accountant, you need to be cognizant of budgets and the amount of time allocated for a client and project. It is important to ensure you are meeting your time requirements and that you do not overlap your commitments. Set time aside on your calendar to account for the work that needs to be done and the amount of time it will take. Carving out this time allows you to plan and track your projects accordingly to complete tasks and to have a firm handle on your time, responsibilities and deadlines.
- Schedule downtime. In addition to allocating time to your specific projects that are priorities, set time aside for yourself as well. There are 24 hours in a day, and a great deal of that time is spent in your job function. It is easy to have your work schedule overlap with personal time — but it is essential to keep them separate and hold an equal importance for both. Balance will be a driving factor for your overall success in all areas of your life. Don’t burn yourself out.
Creating a Roadmap
While you are adjusting to the professional world in the early stages of your career, you should establish a roadmap for where you want to be in five years and what it will take to get there. Use this information to better identify your priorities and their order of importance.
For example, if a you would like to be on track for a manager position within five years, you will need to develop marketable skills and have adequate work experience. This requires exposure to as many projects as possible, participation at networking events and taking advantage of training opportunities. This may require time outside of your day-to-day responsibilities. Knowing this, you can appropriately plan and prepare for what lies ahead so you fulfill all your obligations while positioning yourself to obtain the desired outcome.
Priorities shift over time, so a roadmap such as this is a work in progress. Preparing for your future and setting yourself up for success requires time management and dedication. Managing your career appropriately and strategically is a task worth committing to.
Sharon Bleibtreu is the director of human resources at Sax LLP. She has over 20 years of experience in performance management, employee relations and succession planning, and she consults on management of strategic staffing plans, compensation, benefits and internal training. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.