By becoming a certified public accountant, you have done more than just demonstrate your knowledge and skill level. Putting in the time and effort to study for and pass all four parts of the exam, demonstrates that you are clearly dedicated to the field and invested in your career. However, this momentum shouldn’t end once you attain your certification.
“As you climb the ladder throughout your career, you should continuously make the effort to further develop your skills while acquiring new ones,” advises Kyle Wilkinson, a Director within The Execu|Search Group’s Accounting/Finance division, who is a CPA himself. “The role of an accountant is ever-evolving, so it’s important to ensure your skills are up-to-date with these trends. In the past it was easy to do your assigned work without understanding the bigger picture, but today, you need to be able to think and act strategically if you want to advance your career.”
In recent years, there has become a greater need for CPAs who can perform more technically complex tasks. In fact, 2017’s newly designed CPA exam aims to specifically assess such skills. While future CPAs might have to develop these advanced competencies earlier in their careers, more experienced professionals looking to enhance their marketability should also make the effort to gain exposure to these bigger picture skills.
To get you started, here is a list of skills that Kyle has seen his clients ask for when searching for new hires:
- SEC reporting: It can be easy to work on an audit of a publicly traded company without getting any exposure to SEC reporting. To be more proactive, Kyle suggests asking to get involved in an upcoming 10Q or 10K filing.
- Revenue recognition: Ensure you do not become complacent in an industry with evolving rules and regulations by keeping abreast of new standards on revenue recognition. “New guidance on revenue recognition will be going into effect,” notes Kyle. “In fact, some companies have already had to adapt to this change.” As a result, CPAs with clients on the forefront of the new standard have already found themselves at a competitive advantage.
- Financial product knowledge: Whether you want to move up at your current firm, or go to another company, financial product knowledge is a highly valued skill amongst employers. “To accurately identify and understand red flags in an audit, you must possess a strong understanding of popular financial products, including credit products such as distressed debt,” says Kyle.
- Waterfall models: If you audit private equity funds, being able to read through the partnership agreement and understand how it applies to a waterfall model can set you apart from your competition. According to Kyle, “this is a bigger picture skill that can help you understand the complexities of the audit.”
- Tax Provision (ASC 740): Although accounting for income taxes continues to pose challenges for many individuals and businesses, this is a skill that many tax accountants lack. To increase your marketability, you should know how to do the deferred tax rollforward and calculate the effective tax rate within the provision.
Financial product knowledge: Understanding more complex book to tax differences as it relates to financial products is another skill that can make you a more valuable employee. “You should have a proven ability to analyze client brokerage and financial statements to identify (and adjust allocations for) possible disallowances by the IRS,” says Kyle. “Different types of transactions have different rules, so aim to diversify your knowledge base. For example, gaining exposure to wash sales, straddles, constructive sales, short sales, QDI, DRD, Section 1256 and Section 988 transactions is a great starting point.”