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A forum for students and alumni of the Asian American UVA Community

What happened to the accountants ? And a strategy for career development.

Dear AAPAAN: What happened to the accountants ?  What’s a strategy for career development. — young accountants

Dear young accountants

Conventional wisdom is if you want a good chance for a job upon graduation, be a software engineer or an accountant.    I had heard about tech shortages but never about accountant shortages.  So when I met a small group of recent grad accountants I asked them what happened to older accountants to make room for new accountants.  We concluded that some move up in the organization but many are pushed out.  

So what to do about this harsh realization?  The “fact of life” is that the only person who really takes care of your career is you.  Don’t bank on your boss or your company planning your career.  Your boss is probably too busy taking care of his/her own career anyway.  But how do you protect yourself and prepare for and manage a move out?  The key is to develop a broad skills base and to market yourself actively.  

One strategy to build skills breadth is to learn the business.   Accountants service the operating businesses of a company and the smart accountant should make an effort to learn the business details of the operating department he/she supports.  From my experience as a former business executive, the accountants that get the best view are involved in measuring and analyzing business performance.  You get to dissect the operating numbers and see what makes the business tick.  It’s a great way to learn when you’re not part of the operating unit.  Also, make yourself useful.  Be more than a number cruncher.  Involve yourself with developing operating metrics to highlight keys to improve business performance.  If you see problems, go to the department and offer constructive help.  If you do this right, you’ll get a good understanding of what makes the department work and maybe become an extended department team member.  So when the time comes to move on, you’ll hopefully have more experience and depth and be the stronger job candidate.

Furthermore, Asian-American suffer from a stereotypic perceptive of being nerdy and lacking in leadership.  It becomes even more imperative that the Asian-American accountant work at being engaged and demonstrate leadership.  No matter how good you are, you will not necessarily be given credit and get noticed.  Life is not always fair.  You need to market yourself!  If you are proactively helping a business department and providing that something extra, you are drawing attention to yourself.  Look for opportunities to meet with management.  I’ll post a separate blog in the future about ways to market yourself.

If you work as an accountant, give me your thoughts and opinions.  If you’re not an accountant, the same strategy (i.e. understand the business in depth and be a proactive team member) will improve your employability.