By Nelson Ogallo
ISN’T IT TIME WE TOLD THEM WHAT WILL KEEP THEM RELEVANT IN THE ACCOUNTING PROFFESSION?
We read from the good book that mourning lasts but for a night, but joy comes in the morning. This Biblical phrase has never made more sense among students than around the time they graduate from college.
Talk of life bustles of raising school fees, doing supplementary papers, having to be in class for long boring
lecture hours and even sitting for exams that most of the time intimidate one’s ability to see the rising of the sun in their desired profession. With all the weeping and pangs of education, comes the moment of
The moment graduands are conferred with different qualifications to conquer the world in the career paths of their choice, people celebrate, with everyone putting forth their best wishes for the new kids on the block. The new professionals. The freshest of the vine of education. Among these varied groups of professionals are of course our very own, the newly qualified accountants fresh from the baker’s oven. With all the optimism young graduates carry from their classes ready to get down to work. Isn’t it time we told them what will keep them relevant in the accounting profession?
After you have qualified as an accountant, facing an uncertain future can be daunting, but there
are solid steps you can take to help you choose the right career path. If you just graduated from the university or as an accountant, I would be unjust if I fail to congratulate you. You did well to have managed the challenges to be at the finish line, bearing in mind there were many who you probably began with
but somehow when the race proved tough, opted out.
At least in the beginning you have papers to show for the time you spent in college which I am sure will shape your career path of choice. But amidst the celebrations, there is an array of mixed feelings coming your way. Feelings that carry with them tides of worry about the uncertainty of the future. Like a kid learning to walk, you are so cautious of any move and step you want to make because falling is inevitable due to your undeveloped muscles. Even with these superfluous fears, there are key actions you can take to help you work out what you want to do with your life.
1. Preset your trajectory.
At the very onset of your career, it is essential to set patterns. For a path to exist someone must have passed through a bushy area several times stepping on shrubs and the overgrown grass. Set your foot on the accounting path you want keep by to the end. See the end from the beginning. Do you want to work in
Practice or Industry? Accounting as a practice is different from accounting as an industry though they are
all efforts geared towards the same direction. Practice involves working for a firm, whether that big firm you
have always admired or that smaller one you are looking forward to set. In practice, you can be sure it will be a more client-based role that will give you a leeway into rubbing shoulders with clients across
different sectors and industries.
On the flip side industry accountants work in the finance teams of
specific companies, government departments and ministries to help them reach their desired objective.
Industry accountants working for banks and financial institutions earn very decent wages, but
not-for-profit organizations are areas you cannot give a cold shoulder. Traditionally you may want to
be an accountant in a room busy balancing books and making payments, but it is also important to
know that there are many ways to kill a cat and so activate your preset button for the path you want to
2. Aim at your target
You have done well to decide between the practice and industry trajectory, but it is not over yet. One
desire brings forth another. The more you chase all the birds at once the higher the likelihood of hitting
none. Ask yourself, where exactly within these two areas do I want to be? For instance, do you want to work in audit, tax, advisory, or consultancy? Are you longing for something specific like forensic audit? I know you are spoilt for choice. Just like in a buffet, you cannot eat everything, but you can eat a combination of different foods that complement each other. The same applies to the accounting profession. The earlier you know your target the easier it is to achieve your vision. Many accountants have spent countless years of non-productivity because they skipped this step.
3. Continue building skills
While attending graduations, I have heard professors repeat this phrase to graduands; “You have been given the license and power to read” —-. One may say, but I just completed reading. The truth is we
are just beginning to read. It’s time to begin building your skills. Studying and learning does not stop
when you qualify as an accountant. You will need to keep yourself abreast with the newest development in the profession including the evolving technologies. Whether it’s presentation skills, time management, or knowledge gaps that you want to improve on, you can improve these by actively dedicating some of you time at work to them. Take a course, ask for senior guidance, and put yourself into situations where you can be doing this regularly, so you can improve.
The importance of technical accounting skills cannot be overemphasized but you cannot only rely
on them to thrive in the accounting profession. You need to build positive synergy through networking and linkages. As you work towards impressing your bosses by delivering on the deliverables, take time to build important relationships with colleagues and clients within and without your organization. While I may not advise you to be a party animal to network with people, it is a good practice to spend some time at some work-related event. Who knows? That connection you innocently develop may come back to help you. Networking is not only an opportunity to be mentored by seniors in the profession but also a platform for you to enjoy your job and being ready for challenges coming ahead of you in your profession. Just don’t forget to check in regularly with the people you meet so they remain good contacts.
5. Fix doors but not without hinges
Doors determine accessibility to a place or a room but if they are fixed without hinges, easy accessibility is
not possible. As you begin your career, plan well but make sure you are flexible. What makes doors
flexible to move swiftly upon pulling or pushing is the existence of the hinges. As a young accountant.
looking forward to better prospects in life, set the ball rolling by planning what you want but should
things not work your way and there are other opportunities which you can seize as you wait for your plans
to materialize, don’t shy from them. You might think you want to work in audit and end up in tax because you become interested in a certain area or an unmissable opportunity arises. Don’t assume you won’t
change your mind as you go along. Essentially, be thinking about your future and set yourself goals, but be
prepared to bend and flex as new opportunities come up. In other words, don’t be rigid because sooner or later this may cost you a fortune.
6. Join a pool of professionals.
Upon leaving school, you dive into a new world of professionalism. Life is all different in this world. While
you may have been the brightest student in academics, you can be sure people contributed to your success in one way or another. Now that you are in a new environment, you need a home with people who have examples you can follow. While your colleagues at work may be the perfect fitting shoe you may want to try in the earliest opportunity, you may need a better pair of shoes, and which is a professional body. Membership of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya is one of the things that separates a profession from a conventional job. It is a key element that defines a professional. Membership in one’s professional organization is expected of all professionals. It is important to support the advancement of one’s profession and becoming a member of the professional organization is part of that advancement.
Involvement with ICPAK will afford you an opportunity to network with other colleagues in industry and
practice. Making connections with others who have similar interests reinforces why one has chosen this career. It enables new professionals to associate with senior members of the profession and learn from them. Joining ICPAK is critical in keeping abreast of the latest knowledge and practices locally, regionally, and globally. It helps you to stay abreast of current issues and opportunities and will also assist in personal
advancement for the member who becomes involved.
ICPAK offers continuing education, seminars, and lectures along with other opportunities for learning. An
active participant will have the opportunity to serve in professional development. Working with people
outside of one’s own firm and volunteering will build leadership skills. There are events that will call
for public speaking skills and professional visibility which will assist in moving one’s career to
another level by connecting with other professions and local leaders in the area. The profession will
benefit from members’ service and the members will be rewarded in return by such things as personal
fulfillment, professional enrichment, and building a stronger resume as a result.
Further definition of the professional responsibilities and ethical practices will come in part from
being a member of ICPAK. It is a central core for regulation, education, revitalization, networking, and
service. Joining ICPAK provides occasions and experiences to renew one’s enthusiasm for the profession.
The interaction can be both inspirational and enlightening. Remember, being a member of ICPAK is a
symbiotic relationship between the Institute and the member that will benefit them both.
Nelson Ogallo is a writer with the Accountant Journal. He works as a communication officer at ICPAK.