Career Progression, Part 3: Moving on

By Samantha Taylor, PME, CPA, CA
Jun 25, 2021

The first part of this series discussed reframing “quitting” with the second part focusing on skills development. This final post will discuss how to put it all together.

Closing time, you don’t have to go home
But you can’t stay here

Closing Time, Semisonic

Great: you are confidently solving problems and helping others. Your inbox has activity, your calendar is starting to fill up. What now?

Say “yes…”

As discussed in Part 2 of this series, say yes and volunteer, consult, add value within your organization. Build your skillset and say yes to offers when they come in. When a project is done, request feedback, reflect, learn, and take those lessons into your next project.

…Until you can’t

We each have our limits, and it’s important to know when we can tap into our energy reserves and when we must replenish them. The advice I follow is to say “yes” until I no longer am excited about saying “yes”. My lack of enthusiasm indicates I either had too much on the go, or it isn’t the right opportunity for me.

Know and respect your limits. You are the expert of you.  

Choose your stress

Popular author Mark Manson asks us how we’d like to suffer. As a new CPA, I chose to work, consult, teach, and volunteer to focus on building skills. I also travelled internationally and had hobbies. Once I attained some preliminary goals, I started to pull back on fixed work commitments and now have more autonomy with how I choose to invest my time. Nowadays, the types of opportunities that excite me look different than ten years ago and that is a-okay.  

You are not your “CPA”

Some CPAs choose to actively use their CPA designations in roles deemed “traditional accounting positions” while others will transition into other roles. Please do not worry, you will always have those analytical skills, critical thinking, and business acumen you honed studying to become a CPA. Warren Buffet refers to accounting as the language of business. I encourage you to see your fluency as a tool, a way to add value and communicate, rather than one path. Many CPAs leverage their designation into different fields such as project management, education, real estate development, senior leadership, and entertainment, to name a few. My point: you have options.

Lifestyle Design

Harvard Business Review (2006) discussed while it is accurate to say more choices yield a better objective result, participants reported feeling a decrease in their subjective experience. Participants were unsure if they’d made the right decision because there were so many other choices that could have been made. It is a paradox of choice: we are better off for more options, yet don’t always feel like it.

Rather than be frustrated by science, I choose to see the “paradox of choice” as freeing: with so many choices there is no wrong move. If you find yourself no longer aligned with that decision, that’s okay! You can take your experience and skills and select another choice. You have put yourself in a position to take advantage of your abundance of opportunity. 

No master plan?

You are in good company. I still don’t know “what I want to be when I grow up” and I turned thirty-five in June. Over afternoon chilled beverages many of my accomplished friends and colleagues admit much of the same. Don’t stress. Our brains are masters at creating a story that will make our career paths look more intentional than perhaps they were.

As discussed above: by becoming a CPA and earning yourself more career options, you will be statistically better off. Enjoy the ride, your hard work, and concentrate on contributing to a life for yourself and those you care about.

“I’ve never planned anything. I haven’t had any career at all. I only have a life”

Werner Herzog, Author, Educator, Filmmaker, Actor

Do you have feedback on this post or a question you’d like answered by an experienced CPAWSB educator? Please contact your facilitator or send a question to the General Topic in the Candidate Discussion forum. 

Samantha Taylor, PME, CPA, CA, is an educator and lead policy advisor for CPAWSB and a Senior Instructor of accounting at Dalhousie University. She is on a mission to understand and enable learner efficacy while eliminating doldrums occasionally associated with accounting education. Read more of Sam’s posts at the CPAWSB blog.