This is the big one isn’t it?
Most of us get plenty of articles in our inbox and social media from sources such as Accounting Today, CPA Trendlines, Going Concern, AccountingWeb, Journal of Accountancy, etc., on the latest updates in the profession. But we are really only looking for a few things.
How do I get my first accounting job?
- How do I make my current job easier?
- What do I need to do to get promoted?
- Can I quit and get a better job or move to a better CPA firm?
As a result, most of you are reading this article because of one of the following:
- You can’t get your first accounting job.
- You want a better accounting job.
- You got fired.
- You are connected to me on LinkedIn (Author Note: I originally published the article on LinkedIn).
If you fall only into the last category I thank you for taking the time to read the article. If you fall into the other three options then let me show you as twenty year veteran of this business (and having a father who was a tax partner in the Big 8) how to use current technology to accomplish old style tactics to get the job that you want.
Step 1: Resume
You need to have a finalized resume on bonded paper that you can hand to a possible employer in an hour.
Reader: Huh? Bill, you are not discussing LinkedIn. I want a fancy way using LinkedIn to find my next job. Look at the title of your article.
Until you have done this step, you are not ready for two reasons.
- You need to have thought through every piece of information that you might be listing on your profile and committed to having it on paper for someone else to see. You do not want to be improvising when putting your profile on the internet. In effect, your LinkedIn profile is your online resume to the world and it needs to be treated with that level of respect.
- The speed of the online world is random. A potential employer might not see your profile for six months or they might see it in six minutes. I once had 2,000 people visit my tax preparer blog one morning because I posted one comment on one accounting website. You need to be 100% ready when employers come looking for you.
Step 2: Get an account & Setup your profile
Reader: Come on already! You put this article on LinkedIn. The only way we can see it is if we have an account. Let get going! (Auth Note: I originally published this article on my LinkedIn profile)
If you think that is true then you are missing an important point about social media. Information flows everywhere. People will print, e-mail, cut and paste, tweet, etc., any information they think any information they think is helpful to themselves or their company. If people strongly agree or disagree with this article then I would expect that they will be sharing this article inside and outside of LinkedIn within an hour of when it is posted. You should have the same mindset when it comes to your profile.
As noted earlier, your LinkedIn profile is your online resume to the world. You need to assume that everything on your profile will be analyzed by:
- Your family
- Your best friends
- Your worst enemies
- Your current employer
- Someone who wants to hire you.
Your profile needs to be the best possible presentation of your skills and credentials. You might not have the same ability to list impressive credentials like a Big 4 tax partner, but you have the same ability to give a first rate presentation of your skills and credentials. You should look at over 100 profiles of successful audit and tax professionals to find tips and tricks that you can use to improve your profile to a potential employer. I have a friend that was essentially offered (and eventually accepted) a Big 4 tax manager position last year because of his LinkedIn profile. Wouldn’t you rather have a potential employer that was so impressed by your profile that they called you instead of you having to find them?
Reader: You do not have a picture on your profile.
You are correct, but I am writing a book to make your life as an accountant easier so I am not looking for an accounting job.
Reader: That’s a cop-out isn’t it?
Yes…… Ok, moving on.
Step 3: LinkedIn Job Section
Let’s be clear about a couple of things in the LinkedIn job section.
- Most people looking for a job on LinkedIn already know about it.
- I am not expecting you to find your job this way (discussed below), but you need to use it anyway.
To use myself as an example, I clicked on the advanced search button and then clicked on the subcategory of jobs in the left hand column. Next, I typed “tax manager” in the title and a Houston area code. The search listed around 60 tax manager positions that had been posted by various firms within the last month. You should use various search terms (e.g., tax preparer, tax associate, tax analyst, tax senior, tax staff) to find the maximum number of positions available in your area and look to see if the firm you want to work for is hiring for any positions in their company.
I noted in the beginning of this section that I do not think this step will result in you getting a job. It is not because LinkedIn has done a bad job on this area. Quite the opposite. Is it because this section is so popular that those positions are frequently flooded with applications such that it makes your opportunity to get those jobs fairly small. But there is no reason to skip applying for the “officially available” positions and to use this area as a great information tool for finding an accounting job.
Reader: Thanks for the help. I found a great Big 4 job that I want. I am going to apply now!
No, you are not ready.
Reader: Huh? I have my resume from Step 1 and I see the job I want. It is time to apply!
Keep reading. Give me a couple of minutes to push the next few years of your career in the right direction.
Step 4: Building Your Network
Reader: Ugh. I do not have a network and I hate marketing. Would I be reading this article if I was good at networking? I studied to be an accountant not a car salesman.
Yes, you do have a network. You just don’t know it. Also, accountants love LinkedIn networking because you don’t have to talk to anybody.
Let’s start with your initial network. Open up a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and start listing the names of family, friends, classmates, accounting professors, coworkers, etc., on the spreadsheet. Once you have an initial list, start searching for them on LinkedIn and sending personalized invites to them.
After each person connects, take a look at their connection list (it is on their profile at the bottom of the page) to see if you have missed including a friend or classmate on your list and start the process over again. By the time you finish, you want to have at least 200 connections on your list.
Keep in mind that I do not mean that you need to have 200 people that you talk with on a regular basis. But they should be people that you could send them an e-mail and they would immediately recognize who you were as well as possibly do a minor task that you requested of them. Feel free to connect to others as you see fit, but your list of 200 connections should be people who know you personally.
Step 5: Endorsements & Recommendations
Reader: I am fine with giving endorsements, but I feel a little ackward about asking for them. There are also people that want to trade endorsements. Based on my ethical standards as an accountant, I do not feel right about it.
I agree with you on both points. Let’s take a moment to discuss the issue.
If you are reading this article as someone just coming out of college then you can pass on this section for now. Future employers do not expect you to list skills and get endorsements from your college years. If you find someone that wants to give a recommendation that is fine, but it is certainly not required.
However, if you have worked for at least a year in accounting then you should list at least five skills (e.g., GAAP, tax preparer, CPA) and start getting endorsements for them (try to get at least 5 for each skill you add). Usually, if you ask friends and coworkers they will be happy to take a couple of minutes and click the “+” button for you. If you truly feel ackward about it then endorse people whose work you respect and see if they will do the same for you.
To be clear, this is not the same as trading endorsements. In my example, you do not require them to get your endorsement as payment for endorsing you. You should be ok with the idea that they might not ever endorse you.
I only give endorsements to people that I know or I have seen their work. You should feel free to do the same. But most people as a coutesy for your endorsement will take time from their busy schedule to consider if they should have previously given you an endorsement for your skills. Therefore, you may need to be more active in giving endorsements that you would have given anyway if someone has asked you about that person.
Step 6: Choose Your Firm Not the Job Opening
Start searching the internet for accounting firms in your city where you would like to work. For example, I typed in Google “Houston top 25 accounting firms” and found several pdfs of the Houston Business Journal Book of Lists page for accounting firms. Another option is to look at the top 100 firm list put out by Accounting Today. You need to review the firm’s website and any other information you can find to determine if this firm is a good fit for you versus whether you can force yourself to work at that firm. You are going to spend 2,000 hours a year at your new firm. You need to like working at the firm or you will not last long.
Reader: Bill, you stopped talking about LinkedIn. I am also confused. Why am I researching firms to apply for positions that do not exist?
Patience, grasshopper. Patience. Let me let you in on a little secret only known to every partner and manager in every accounting firm.
Every accounting firm is always hiring. They just don’t always have an official opening.
Hiring another person to get more work done at a lower level means the partners have more time to get more business. Therefore, only question for the firm is whether you have the skills to make the firm more money. This means that you want to apply for a job at the firm for two reasons.
- It is a firm where you want to work instead of a place you are applying for the job merely to pay the bills.
- No one else is applying for the unofficial position. Therefore, you are competing only against yourself instead of a stack of resumes on the Human Resource partner’s desk.
Step 7: Lunch
Reader: Ok, I have located several firms and positions where I would like to work. Do I send them my resume now?
No, you can’t just send several CPA firms your resume and hope for the best for two reasons. Your resume is likely to wind up on a stack of resumes in the HR department along with people who sent their resume to all of the top 25 firms. You hope that one of these firms has your dream job, but you do not know enough about the firm to be certain and you need to apply the right way.
As a result, you need to go through your LinkedIn contacts to see if any of them works at the firm you wish join. If none of your contacts work at that firm then see if any of their contacts work at that firm. In both situations, it would be better if they worked in the department you want to join, but it is fine if you are a tax person and the person you know is in the audit group. If you still don’t find anyone then keep thinking through who you might add as a contact. If you cant find anyone then go to the LinkedIn groups option in Step 8.
At this point, you invite your contact (or get your contact to invite their contact) to lunch to discuss the firm in general, its culture, people to work for, people to avoid, etc. You need to know whether the firm is growing firm with great opportunities or a sweathshop that is barely holding on the its clients. Your contact is going to give you much better information in a casual setting outside the firm then you are going to get at the firm from a couple of firm interviewers.
Reader: It is nice to know more about the firm. But are you sure my contact is going to help me instead of only handing my resume to human resources?
Nothing is certain, but my guess is that the employee will invest their time and effort to get your resume to the right person because of the money involved. CPA firms are paying their employees anywhere between $1,000 – $10,000 for referrals of people that get hired by the firm. It might sound like a lot, but the cost is much cheaper than paying a recruiter fee for an employee. Trust me. The employee will invest the time to try to get you hired by skipping around human resources and getting your resume to partner or manager that would be interested hiring you.
Step 8: LinkedIn Groups
If you had absolutely no luck with finding any of your contacts or their contacts working at the firm of your choice then start joining LinkedIn accounting groups (see my profile for examples) and joining the discussions to develop additional contacts. In addition, you can search the member list in these groups (click on the title “Members” within a group) to find members that work at the firm you wish to join. It will take a little longer using this method to build a relationship with your contact. But it is still a good method for finding out opportunities at the firm.
If you enjoyed reading the article then please consider sharing it on LinkedIn or at least clicking the Like button on the LinkedIn version of my article. It is a great help to me and you might help a fellow accountant to get their next job. I also hope you will check out the preview of my upcoming book The Tax Preparer Skills Guide and connect with me on LinkedIn. I like connecting with people that are interested in the accounting profession.
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