Long behind us are the days when the stereotype of becoming a CPA linked you to a career working alone at your desk. Not only has the economy and technology progressed, but the accounting profession has evolved as well. A CPA in today’s society requires much more than fulfilling a college credit requirement, passing a four-part exam and gaining years of experience through monotonous days of “crunching those numbers.” The evolution of the profession and the meaning behind the license has transformed the goal of an aspiring CPA to become the long-term, most-trusted advisor to clients or their company.
With this newfound role comes a key quality that each CPA and aspiring CPA should develop and continue to foster: being adaptable. It would shock many whose perception of CPAs is solely based on the individual who prepares their tax return, or the auditor who comes around annually asking for paper documents, to learn that almost no day repeats itself. The role of advisor provides CPAs with new challenges and opportunities to service our clients or company on a daily basis through the complete life cycle of the business.
Adaptability in this profession is like an onion — it has many layers. It means not only being able to respond to the changes required in the accounting industry, whether that be due to economy shifts and new regulations (e.g., new grants, tax credits and various programs that were the result of the COVID-19 pandemic), but also adjusting to the internal changes that occur. These internal changes can be due to disruptive technology software updates or conversions, opportunities for innovation, shifts in leadership and changes in firm structure and ownership.
However, the most unexpected, and yet most important, meaning of being adaptable is adapting to the people you work with, those you report to and those you lead. There are many types of personalities and work styles and being able to pivot between them on a daily basis depending on the team, client or project, while remaining effective, can propel a career. Why is this so important? The behind-the-scenes source of an accounting team’s success is their ability to consistently and cohesively take on the challenges that will inevitability accompany the work. Clients’ expectations and preferences for receiving their deliverables may be completely different from one another, while the varying teams’ collaboration on achieving the same result may also be unique. How one adapts successfully to the variety of personalities they interact with, styles of work and challenges they face on a day-to-day basis enables the best possible client service and overall leadership within.
Those who come into this career expecting to have a steady and predictable day to day will have to adjust their mindset. CPAs bring much more to the table than the typical visor-wearing, loud-calculating figure portrayed in cartoons. CPAs offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise across every measure of running a successful business. To become that trusted advisor for our clients or company, we must adapt the services we provide, whether that be advisory and outsourced accounting, human resources, business valuations, estate planning, wealth management, forensic or many others.
CPAs can complete technical trainings and have an abundance of knowledge, but the ability to acclimate to this ever-changing career is a developed skill that is sometimes overlooked as the reason for the success of many leaders. With your CPA license, you have ample opportunity and career path options. And you may find that where you start is not where you end up. Every individual and every business relies on smart financial decisions for success. Executing the details of those decisions will bring many challenges. Adapting to navigate these challenges can lead to a rewarding and long-lasting career.