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Navigating Your Way to Career Success - CHART A SURE COURSE

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Article Index
Navigating Your Way to Career Success
Chart A Sure Course
Steer Clear of Other Major Obstacles
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s you may have found, answering the above question requires knowing the final destination and all the significant landmarks along the way. Only after you have established a concrete definition of where you're going can you chart a sure course. So, how do you know where you're going?

Taking control of your career early enables you to counteract factors beyond your control

To start, learn and understand the established positions of the accounting/financial career path. These positions, basically consistent and equivalent landmarks, indicate whether or not you are on the right skill mastery, responsibility and salary that must be attained before moving to the next level. These major positions in industry are: staff, senior, manager, controller, treasurer, up to CFO.

In public accounting the major stops are staff, senior, manager, partner and up through senior partner.

While each of these positions may be further divided into other various titles and responsibilities - depending on the company - the key is to keep sight of the big picture, constantly developing your skills to meet the requirements of the next major position. Once you have a clear overview of the profession, establish specific career goals. What brought you to the profession in the first place? What do you really want? Where do you see yourself five or ten years from now? Consider the fundamental job positions and determine which one appeals to you. With those all-important goals clarified, how are you going to reach them? Start by evaluating your current situation. Where are you now? What experience are you gaining that will help you advance to the next position? It's very important to keep developing your skills in line with where you want to go next. You can do this by making sure you┬╣re progressively building the essential accounting/financial transferable skills which are: general accounting, financial analysis, auditing, cash management, taxation, system design and implementation.


ary Stay is an oil and gas refinery senior accountant who has worked her entire 10-year career with a Fortune 500 oil company. She started as a junior accountant in the oil and gas refinery accounting department and on several occasions opted not to seek transfers out of her department because she felt it would mean more hours, a longer commute, additional pressure, and working for a more demanding manager.

Stay is a perfect example of a professional who has overspecialized by remaining in her early position too long. She is likely to be earning a salary that could not be comparable outside her company, perhaps even within her industry.
At this point, Stay has not developed necessary project control and supervisory skills to qualify for the next step in the corporate ladder. Her career is as stationary as a boat at anchor.


ow let's look at a positive example of progressive skills development. Peter Planner is an assertive and ambitious person who holds a CPA and an MBA with an undergraduate in accounting and a master's degree in executive management. He works for an international CPA firm. Peter started out on the audit staff and after several busy seasons in this capacity attained higher responsibility, which then enabled him to request a transfer into the firm's tax department. There, after a year of valuable tax experience, he was able to leverage himself into the firm's consulting practice and subsequently was promoted to partner.This principle of internal transfer and promotion applies to the private accounting sector as well where most companies specialize according to industry, such as banking, insurance, manufacturing and so on.
In order to build transferable skills in the private sector, your objective should be to target organizational departments or divisions. For instance, a large multinational, multi-site organization may have a separate insurance - or other related - operation that offers new skills development opportunities.
While you're working toward that transfer or promotion to a new division, determine if you need additional training or education to enhance your skills portfolio. If so, use your time wisely, especially if your current position has become easy.

chart.gif (5991 bytes)An individual transferring from public to private accounting also has some additional training and education to be concerned about.
For example, Joe B. Groom, CMA, CPA, had worked in a Big 5 public accounting firm and wanted to be a controller in a private company. Having been groomed as an auditor, and without the necessary skills - such as budgeting, managing numerous departments and large staffs, financial planning and acquisition experience - he developed a well-planned strategy to get aligned with a controller position in the organizational structure. He chose to start in an internal audit position where he learned the entire organization worldwide. From that vantage point the company recognized his talent and contribution and began to challenge him with various management opportunities leading up to his controllership position, thereby rewarding his ability to make large-scale decisions.