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What is one thing you wish you knew before becoming an accountant, auditor, consultant, and/or in the taxing career?

#tax #taxing #taxes #accountant #accounting #auditor #auditing #consulting #consultant #consultants

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Erin’s Answer

Great question, Mireia! I wish that someone told me that once you get the job the learning is nonstop. I was originally under the impression that I had to know it all before going to my first client, but I was refreshed to find that that wasn't the case. In my 2 years at PwC I have learned new things about business, people, and technology every single day. I've grown to understand that being a consultant does not mean having all the answers, but rather means having the problem-solving skills to guide our clients in finding answers to their hardest problems. consultant professional-services
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for your insight! Mireia
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Matthew’s Answer

Definitely a great question, Mireia. From a tax accounting perspective, I think one thing I wish I had known when starting my career is just how diverse the field is. There are a lot of opportunities and interesting aspects of tax accounting, and it's certainly not limited to what you'll often here as "compliance" (that is, preparing a tax return). A lot of the larger accounting firms have a variety of services within tax, so I would highly recommend prior to seeking out a certain position, you take time to look through the different types of work available and try to start in the area that interests you most.

Also, knowing how diverse the work can be can assist you in identifying opportunities to diversify your skill-base and/or work focus (much of the foundational knowledge is transferable). That is, starting in one area can open doors for transitioning to other areas once you find your niche and the option to make that change will almost always be available (I can speak from experience in that regard).

Matthew recommends the following next steps:

Search for different work focuses of tax (e.g., compliance, preparation, consulting)
Determine a general field or market you're interested in and see what tax work is available within those
Ask questions about your focus area when you're in interviews or networking
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Jasir’s Answer

Speaking with regards to auditing, the one thing I wish I did know was how truly comprehensive an audit really is. There's alot more to auditing than just testing financial statements of a company. You also have to pay extra attention as to what may not be stated on the financial statements that should be.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for your insight! Mireia
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Michelle’s Answer

What I wish I had known before starting my career in public accounting was the potential for continued growth and career development. I did not know how important this aspect would be, but quickly realized it is a critical aspect of any profession. Being able to be in a profession that continues to evolve with technology and is very interactive with clients and works in teams is a fantastic way to not only launch a career, but to continue to invest in yourself!
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Chris’s Answer

As an auditor, one thing I wish I knew is how much of the job would be focused on your communication skills both verbal and written. Public accounting jobs are heavily client facing and it is nothing like timid accountants you may see in popular TV.
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Vic’s Answer

The one thing I wish I knew was that ambiguity is innately tied to the job. Each engagement is different and you will need to learn each time.
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Jennifer’s Answer

I wish I would have known how important it is to develop your public speaking skills - people who do this well tend to move up more quickly in firms and companies. This isn't specific to accounting/consulting/etc. - this is applicable to all careers. Also, not limited to accounting/consulting/etc., it is really important to know how to sell yourself and your company - you have to have confidence that the service or product that you are delivering will benefit your client, and you have to be able to convince them buy it.
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Vincent’s Answer

Hi Mireia,

I would highly suggest you trying to pass your CPA exam while in school. This will help open many doors and will make life much easier when you start working. It will help you know what field you want to get into and will prepare you for your first year! Good Luck!!
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Bridgette’s Answer

Hi Mireia

This is a great question. I wish that I knew how fast past the tax consulting world is and how you are always learning something new no matter how long you have been in the industry. This is something that I realize I like but it was something I did not expect when starting my career. I hope this helps and good luck!
Thank you comment icon Your insight is much appreciated, Thank you! Mireia
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Sakina’s Answer

It is alright if you do not know all the tax answers, and no single tax specialist may know all tax areas as tax rules are so extensive. E.g., international tax specialist may not know state and local tax rules well. Part of being a tax specialist is to develop strong communication and interpersonal skills to identify issues, and work along with specialists from other tax areas to find best solutions. To be a good tax specialist one should learn reading tax laws, and expect staying up to date with new rules.
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Mark’s Answer

I wish I had known that auditors impact all industries, not just accounting, tax and finance. If I had an interest in healthcare for example, I would have been more inclined to focus some of my education toward healthcare, in addition to business, accounting and finance. So diversifying your knowledge in college, may benefit you in the future.

Additionally, an internal auditor audits many departments within their company. By getting exposure to many departments, you see the inner workings of the groups as well as the company in general that most employees don't get. So if a position became available, you're knowledge of the departments you audit is an advantage. My boss always said that internal audit associate and senior positions are temporary and that he loved to see people move into other roles within the company because he knew that the auditors would bring their knowledge of procedures and controls into their new role.
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Maureen’s Answer

One thing I didn't realize, but one of the reasons I love my job, is that I have to critically think through unstructured problems on a daily basis. Making sure I understand the client's overall organization processes and risks to their organization are what help me be effective in providing solutions. This type of thinking is far different than most of my schoolwork which required memorization/recall.

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Karly’s Answer

Great question! I think the one thing I wish I know before becoming an external auditor is how important your verbal and written communication skills are. When I started studying accounting, I assumed that that being accountant meant that I would sit in a cubicle and crunch numbers all day. In my day-to-day, I interact with client contacts and write about business processes way more than I work with numbers. Overall, I think that the job creates an environment in which you can become a well-rounded professional!

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Gonzalo’s Answer

Hi Mireia - I can answer for the consultant role/field, nevertheless I'm sure some of this advice is probably applicable across the other fields as well.

The one thing I would have liked to have better known is that to be truly successful as a consultant you need to have a proactive mindset and focus on building your network.

As a consultant your clients expect you to help them resolve their biggest problems not add to them. So when you see an issue or area of opportunity make sure to always come prepared with a recommendation on how to resolve that problem. Time and time I've noticed individuals in these situations merely complain about problems and not take action on resolving them. Be proactive when it comes to this and it will pay dividends.

They say your network is your net worth. Consulting is a services business and the service is the skills of its people. Your value to the organization will exponentially grow as you build your network (both internal/external). It will open up more career opportunities, allow you to properly staff and grow teams and become a multiplying force.
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Tyler’s Answer

I wish I had known exactly how broad an audit can be and better understood the role of Internal Audit in the business. Through my college courses, we focused a lot on specific audit techniques, regulations etc. While these are very useful, looking back I did not truly appreciate how the audit function fit in with the rest of the business in terms of identifying and addressing business risk. In an ever changing world, changes in regulation/accounting guidance can have direct impacts on the financial statements. From example, changes in revenue recognition policies can have a pervasive impact on business processes/related controls, as an auditor it is critical that I understand such changes in order to appropriately assess the risks in the business and ensure proper controls are in place to address them.

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Elizabeth’s Answer

I wish I had known how flexible it would be! I assummed being an auditor would result in being an auditor for life. But, since qualifying, I have been an auditor, moved into working on big client transactions and am now a consultant 8 years later. I have moved countries (I'm British, working in the US now) and can work from home when my schedule permits. I had never realised that there were as many opportunities out there as there are!

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Omar’s Answer

1. The Potential for Legal Trouble Is High
With the exception of their health and their families, there’s not much people take more seriously than their finances. If you don’t take this just as seriously as they do – more so, actually – you may find yourself in a world of hurt.

That’s because legal trouble is a real possibility if you mess up someone’s taxes, payroll or other financial information. If it’s found you prepared an estate plan incorrectly, you can be taken to court not only by your client, but heirs of your client if they pass away. Make sure a) you’re prepared for this emotionally and b) you or your employer has very good insurance.
2. It’s Possible to Prepare Taxes Without a CPA License
Many people with an interest in taxes assume they have to get a CPA license in order to prepare them for clients, but that’s not the case. If you instead become a Licensed Tax Consultant or IRS Enrolled Agent, you can focus exclusively on taxes without having to go through a bunch of accounting training (which, for some, may seem too mind-numbing to consider doing for life). You can also work as a Licensed Tax Preparer, apprenticing under either an LTC or EA.
3. You’re Not Confined to a Single Role
It is a pervasive myth that CPAs wear glasses and sit behind desks shuffling paperwork long into the night (hello, green banker’s lamp!). In reality, your options are actually considerably less narrow: You can teach, audit, help people organize their businesses for optimum success or perform expert witness services in court cases.

You can even blend careers. For instance, you might first earn a CPA, then work as a copywriter dedicated to providing web and blog content for others in the field. Or you could go into marketing, helping them establish a name, and generating clients and revenue.
4. Accountants Don’t Have to Work the 9-to-5 Shift
Just as many options exist for what type of work you can do, so do many exist for when you work. If you prefer to work at home, you’ll be happy to know that telecommuting is becoming more and more feasible. Or you might set yourself an early schedule serving people before they head to work, or late hours to accommodate those taking care of errands before they head home.
5. January Through April Will Never Be Your Own
Especially if you work as a tax accountant, but even if your focus is in other fields, you will experience significantly greater demand on your time during tax season: the months stretching from the beginning of January to April 15th. Often the season will run even later, as clients who took extensions race to catch up and file before the October 15th extension deadline (after which penalties usually accrue).

So there you have it: the good and the bad. Of course, there’s much more to learn about accounting, so stay tuned here and feel free to ask questions of program directors at your intended school.
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Amra’s Answer

Besides the fact that learning NEVER stops, I wish I knew that people skills are as important as technical skills. Auditors usually focus their attention to the audit techniques and technical stuff (accounting, tech, industry specific knowledge), but it is important to understand that learning communication and dealing with variety of different personalities is just as important. So, do not forget that:)
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Jason’s Answer

Hi Mireia,


One thing I wish I knew going into my career as public tax accountant is how different it is learning on the job as compared to how you learn in school. The group I work in is very compliance based so we prepare tax returns for our clients to file to the IRS or state tax authorities. Our process starts when we receive various information from the client in order to prepare the returns. While on the job we are creating workpapers and using tools and programs in order to provide support for the information we include in the tax return. Some of what I learn while on a job may not be very tax technical like learning from a textbook in school, but it involves acquiring skills in using programs to create workpapers (such as Excel, Alteryx), and knowing the ins and outs of various tax preparation software. Overall, the process on the job is how to create quality work in an efficient way for our clients, which is quite different than learning tax specific material in your college curriculum.

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Vito’s Answer

One thing that I think is helpful for people to know about the bigger consulting firms especially is that the model is somewhat similar to college. In the same way that you are less marketable for internships and full time positions with a 4.0 and no extracurricular activities, your performance related to your client work is only one piece of the larger puzzle of your career growth and development. To truly succeed in these environments, you need to excel in your client work, participate in business development, or other 'reinvest' type opportunities that can be related to any number of things including learning, employee resource groups, fundraising, etc.
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Corey’s Answer

Hi Mireia,


One thing I wish I knew before starting my career as an external auditor is how important communication skills are. Not only are you working in a team environment with people of all levels, but you are also communicating with the client on a regular basis (a lot of the time that is multiple times per day), along with different internal teams such as valuation, tax and technology. For someone looking to enter this career, I would definitely encourage you to continue to develop these skills so that when you start your career you are in the best position possible to succeed.


Good luck!

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Erin’s Answer

Great question - the one thing I wish I knew before was how much relationships and people matter. Not a day goes by that I reach out to my network for some help and also reach out to my peers for advice. Important skills about building your network and relationships and how to do deal with people is just as important as the technical side of things
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Mahmoud’s Answer

I wish I knew that accounting standards were in continuous changes and modification.
I thought what you learned at college was enough, however, an accounting career requires you keep up with all the new regulations and laws coming up.
So I advise you to keep an eye out for all the updates in the field.
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Sophie’s Answer

Great question! One thing I did not know it that actually, the real learning process starts when you start working in the tax field. And it never stops! Everything you work with is constantly evolving and changing, and it's a lot a work to keep up with it.

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Amra’s Answer

Besides the fact that learning NEVER stops, I wish I knew that people skills are as important as technical skills. Auditors usually focus their attention to the audit techniques and technical stuff (accounting, tech, industry specific knowledge), but it is important to understand that learning communication and dealing with variety of different personalities is just as important. So, do not forget that:)
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Simeon’s Answer

I wish I knew about some of the work-life balance concerns. It helps to know ahead of time that crunch season will often ask you to work 60-70 hours a week, especially during January or February. People will sometimes try to play down this reality, but working til midnight and putting in full days during the weekend is not uncommon. Granted, if a project is going well, this won't be quite so bad.
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Bret’s Answer

I wish I had understood how important communication skills are to success. Both verbal and written. These careers aren't just about the numbers, and understanding complex things -- being able to communicate clearly and write articulately are critical.
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Tammy’s Answer

Hi Mireia! I wish I knew that it is okay to make mistakes. If you do not make mistakes in the beginning, you do not have many lessons to learn. You cannot be perfect at every single thing that you do and colleagues and peers will quickly accept this. I have dwelled on my past mistakes for so long, wishing that I could change them. In the end, they make great memories since I can look back on them and not make these mistakes again. I also have more and more great stories to tell because of them. As long as you put your best effort in and try your hardest, you will have a good result and continue to persist.
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John’s Answer

Be honest with yourself about your priorities, strengths and weaknesses. Working in public accounting vs. industry is very different, in terms of lifestyle and necessary talents/skills. As hard as it is, try to look 5 or 10 years in the future and ask yourself what you want to be doing - and look at people who are there already and compare yourself to them.
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