Managing Your Career

Whether you are just entering the profession, you have a few years under your belt, or you're a seasoned veteran, keeping your career on track requires devoted attention and careful management. These tips are offered merely as a guideline to help you maximize your professional potential.

Establish goals
Employer feedback
Continuing education
Your resume
Conduct a job search
Financial considerations
Retirement planning
Your career checklist

Establish goals
Goals not only help guide you on your career path, they also provide feedback along the way. They help you measure success and plan ahead for your next leap forward. Be realistic in goal setting - it is better to achieve a few solid successes than a long list of failures. Your goals should address:

Professional achievement
Earning potential
Lifestyle desires

Review your career and performance with your employer
If you don't have a regularly scheduled performance review with your employer, try to schedule one informally. Find out if your employer is satisfied with your performance. Are there areas to address? Are there advancement opportunities ahead? Are you on track?

Add to your educational credits
Continuing education will enhance your career and boost your earning potential. If you're not enrolling in formal credit courses at a college or university, consider attending seminars and workshops to remain up-to-date on accounting, business, and technology issues.

Update your resume
Even if you are satisfied and challenged at your current position, it's always a good idea to keep your resume up-to-date. This will help you capture critical milestones in your professional life. Reconstructing achievements years later, may, in fact, shortchange your recollection of professional accomplishments. By keeping a current resume, you'll always have an ongoing record of key dates and responsibilities at your fingertips.

Plus, if and when an opportunity does arise, you'll be prepared. Or, if the unexpected happens and you are forced to seek new employment, you'll be ready to hit the ground running.

You may want to consider using a resume service. Resume presentation is somewhat akin to fashion trends. Last year's key words and skills may be obsolete this year. Regardless of the experience you have, your resume may be overlooked because it does not appear up-to-date. In today's job market, resumes are likely to be entered into a computer database; therefore, a traditional resume may need to be changed into a scannable format. A professional resume service can work with you to highlight the skills currently in demand and showcase your talents for today's market needs.

Conduct a job search
If and when you decide it is time to look for a new opportunity, there are several ways to search, including:

Networking - First and foremost, get the word out that you're looking. Tell family, friends, and business associates that you're in the market for a job. Although they may not offer you a position, they may know of someone looking to hire. Keep your ears and eyes open for word of new hiring opportunities. If you're not a member of your local business association or professional group, you may want to join for the contacts. You never know where a job lead might come from. If your current employer is not aware of your intentions, you should be discrete in your search. The timing may not be right to announce your intentions too loudly.

Classifieds - Even if you are not actively seeking a new position, periodically check the classified section of your local newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, or professional publications. This will give you the inside track on not only job opportunities, but also valuable information on salary and benefit packages available. You can also spot companies with growth potential or high turn-over rates.

Today, there are an increasing number of Internet sites devoted to job searches. These let you see both local and national availability. However, do use caution in posting your resume at an unknown site.

Professional search firms - A search firm or headhunter can put your resume in front of the right people at the right time. Many job openings are unadvertised. The headhunter can help expedite the search process by narrowing the field to qualified prospects only. Your resume can rise to the top of the pile with the right professional working for you. Since the hiring company typically pays fees, there is usually not a charge to you.

AICPA Affinity Program ResumeMatch - ResumeMatch is an online resume referral and job posting service for CPA job seekers and employers.

Determine financial requirements
A key element of your career is the compensation and benefits you receive for providing professional services. Your employer may offer a range of insurance coverage plans as part of your benefit package. It is important to review the coverage you receive in relation to the coverage you and your family actually need. The AICPA Insurance Programs offer a comprehensive portfolio of protection plans that help you meet your total professional and personal coverage requirements at an affordable cost.

Consider self-employment
If you have reached the stage in your career where you feel ready to be your own boss, seriously investigate the pros and cons of such a venture. Reaching this goal may take several years of advance financial planning to put yourself in a position to afford the move. If you're serious, check out the informative article Starting Your Own CPA Firm.

Retirement planning
A critical element of your career plan is setting up financial resources for a secure and enjoyable retirement. Regardless of your age and professional experience, it is never too early, or too late, to begin planning for your retirement years. Next week, you can discover valuable tips and strategies to help you plan for your ultimate career move in the informative article, Planning for Retirement.

Your career checklist
Your career can be more successful and rewarding when you take the initiative to manage it carefully. With a constant eye on the future, you can make sure that your career and livelihood are always under your control. Use this handy checklist to help you reach your professional goals.

1.   Have you established goals for the coming year?
      For the next five years?
      For the next 10 years?
2.   Have you reviewed your performance and career opportunities with your employer?
3.   Have you added to your educational credits?
4.   Have you updated your resume?
5.   Have you engaged a professional resume service?
6.   Have you checked classified ads?
7.   Have you placed your resume on file with a search firm?
8.   Have you researched salary and benefits for your experience level?
9.   Have you reviewed insurance coverage provided by an employer vs. the actual needs of you and your family?
10. Have you considered self-employment?
11. Have you begun planning for your retirement?

This narrative is provided to point out some of the issues and concerns associated with life events, and it is not intended to be representative of all of the issues or concerns possibly confronting individuals dealing with such experiences. Any individuals wanting or needing additional information should contact the appropriate professional, whether an attorney, a financial planner, a retirement planner, etc., to receive such information and guidance.

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