As you begin your journey as a staff accountant, have you ever doubted yourself and your abilities? It’s a common feeling that many don’t express to others, but you are not alone. Starting a new job can be intimidating as you begin making new connections with colleagues and developing skills and knowledge to improve yourself and your work product. Throughout your professional life, you will continue to develop and learn indefinitely.
Here are three key factors to consider that are essential to becoming a successful staff accountant.
- Time management. “Time is of the essence” is a quote many accountants live by throughout the busy season. Every minute working on a client is a minute closer to completing their return and moving on to the next. To continue the flow of work, it’s a best practice to actively review and update your schedule on a weekly basis. It also helps to consistently reach out for upcoming work on your schedule so you know what to expect and are able to smooth out your workflow over the course of busy season.
It’s important to connect with your team in advance to let them know what’s on your calendar and whether client outreach is necessary for documentation (if not already received or communicated). Our schedules are not definitive, but regularly communicating with our teams allows us to manage our time more efficiently and work on clients that are ready to begin. Busy season includes a lot of movement between clients, but managing your time allows you to be adept at discussing a timeline for completion of work.
- Organization. As the days go by and we get closer to each deadline, managing the status of each of your client’s returns can be difficult. For instance, there could be open items holding a return from being completed. Other returns might not have documentation yet. Being a preparer for a plethora of returns can be challenging to track, so it’s important to figure out how you can stay organized. It might be by using a spreadsheet to track all of your engagements, or by using sticky notes, notepads, and reminders on your calendar. There’s no specific formula that works for everyone. It might take a bit of time to figure out what works for you, especially as you begin and get comfortable with each engagement. However, it’ll benefit you in the long run to keep team members up to date and remind them which clients and/or items are outstanding.
- Communication. Communication with your team members is vital for every engagement. Not every member of the team has direct contact with the client. However, it’s necessary to discuss significant changes that will impact the client’s return, the timing of when you can begin preparation, and when the return will be ready for review. Any issues, concerns, or questions that arise while working on a client should be expressed to members of the engagement team. It may take you longer to complete a return than expected and that’s okay, but make sure to explain why it might be taking more time so that your team can understand if it’s client related or a learning curve.
Each client has an expectation of when their return will be finalized. Most often, it has been expressed to whoever oversees their account. This can create internal deadlines outside of the government imposed due dates. If your internal deadlines become overwhelming with multiple returns due at once, communicate with all engagement team members to make them aware of your other commitments. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, because at the end of the day everyone is a team player and will help get the job done.
Starting a new job can feel overwhelming, but remember, all seniors, managers, and directors were in your shoes at one point. Your team is here to help you grow and succeed. While there is no formula for success, there are skills that can help strengthen you along the way. Managing your time, maintaining detailed notes of your clients, and speaking to your colleagues regularly will help you thrive as a staff accountant and prepare you for your next endeavors in your career.
Elizabeth Hawrylack is a Senior Accountant in Kreischer Miller’s Tax Strategies group.
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