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How to Become the Driver of Your Career Development in Accounting

Gusto Editors  
Young businesswoman presenting to the team.

Do you know how to be proactive about advancing your accounting career?

Accountants can drive their professional development, but many are unsure where to start. When you practice self-reflection and identify the steps you need to take to move forward with your career, you can enhance your professional development. 

Gusto, along with our partners at CPA Academy, presented an edifying webinar featuring Amber Setter, executive coach and inactive CPA, and Dr. Cara Miller, owner of Inquiry Partners. Inquiry Partners is a management consulting firm that uses developmental coaching and adaptive consulting to assist businesses. Amber and Dr. Cara are both highly skilled in giving accountants career advice, and they provided actionable tools for advancing your accounting career. 

In addition to reading this article, you can also watch the entire webinar titled, “Become the Driver of Your Career Development,” here

In this article, you’ll learn all about how you can become an expert in your development and how to reach your accounting goals.

You are the expert on your personal and professional development

Accountants need to be able to self-reflect and grow to further their development and improve their ability to assist clients. Amber observed that people can become experts in their personal and professional growth. You know yourself better than anyone, so you already have the tools for determining your goals and how you’ll achieve them. 

“You know your goals better than anyone else. You know what keeps you up at night. You know the clients you enjoy working with, the colleagues you enjoy working with, [and] those you don’t. You know those things that scare you, and you know your life experiences. The coaching experience is really designed to help you uncover those things, to look deeper inside of yourself and say, ‘Hey, where am I today, and where do I want to be?’ Then, design a plan of action to get there.”

Amber Setter

Amber is an expert executive coach, and she noted that the best thing coaches can do for their clients is give them the tools for self-reflection. With those tools, you can gain expertise in where to go with your accounting career and how to get there. 

Businesswoman looking outside the window thinking.

Dr. Miller noted that many people don’t like the idea of being experts of their own lives. They’d rather push the responsibility to something external to avoid being accountable for their own development:

“[People think,] ‘I actually don’t want to be the expert because if I’m the expert, then I’m accountable and responsible for what happens. I would rather leave it that someone else is the expert, that someone else is responsible for my [development] so that I don’t have to look in the mirror and say, “I am stuck,” or, “I can’t dream any further.” … I’m not fit to be the expert. … What I ought to do is sit down and wait for the experts to move me, teach me, lead me, invite me, push me, [and] give me opportunities.’”

Dr. Cara Miller

Rather than pushing the responsibility to someone else, you can recognize your potential to become the expert of your own life. You don’t need to wait for permission from others to develop your accounting career. 

Career drivers for accounting career development

A significant part of driving your accounting career forward is asking yourself the right questions. When Amber coaches a client, she initiates their progress by encouraging them to ask themselves questions so that people can become accustomed to taking control of their career paths:

“When my clients come to a coaching conversation, … I ask, ‘What do you want to get out of the conversation? What’s going to make the hour good for you? What do you need?’ This act of having people constantly look in and ask for what they need really moves one from the socialized mind to the self-authoring, ‘I can get responsible for the path.’”

Amber Setter

You are the driver of your career path and personal development, so it’s important to practice self-reflection to determine where you want to go with your growth and how to get there. 

“How do I become the driver of my own development? … Where would I like to take [my] life? … If you had a magic wand, what would you create? If you could create anything and there were no limitations, what would that be? ‘If I wasn’t scared, I would [do] what?’ What would you change?”

Amber Setter

After you ask yourself these questions, you can reflect on your existing opportunities to work toward your goal. You can also be proactive in how you pursue what you want professionally. Dr. Miller suggested that people think about the conditions they need in place in order to achieve their goals. 

“’I’d like to take my life in this direction, but I can’t do that until [something else happens].’ … Let yourself come up with all of the conditions. Some of them will be very logical, and they will demonstrate the technical things you need. [For example], ‘I need a different kind of certification.’ … Some of them will be technical, and you’ll need to just get those onto your future version of your resume. Go get those opportunities.”

Dr. Cara Miller

You’ll likely need to achieve technical qualifications or gain particular work experience to work toward your goals. Although some conditions are logical and necessary for your career development, some are rooted in insecurities: 

“[You may say you can’t do something until], ‘I feel more confident. When I own a home or I have a steady partner. … When I’m older, and I feel more deserving [to achieve the goal].’ I think [when] testing some of your rationale that pops up when you answer these questions, [you] make sure [to remove] the ones that sound like excuses … and go figure out what built them.”

Dr. Cara Miller
Employees listening to confident business coach at meeting.

Some of your conditions for achieving goals may be excuses that come from insecurities and harmful beliefs about yourself. You can practice self-reflection to determine what beliefs and insecurities are holding you back so that you can grow and move past them. 

Dr. Miller noted that people can move past insecurities by challenging whether the insecurities are true and recognizing their ability to change. 

“What are the fears? Where do those come from? Are they true today? … We are encouraging you [to] actually develop the capacity to [change] and be forgiving with yourself while you’re … in transition. … If I challenge these things that I used to believe about myself that actually aren’t true now, what am I predicting is going to happen?”

Dr. Cara Miller

Rather than predicting that you’re going to fail because of your insecurities, you can change your predictions and have confidence in your ability to achieve your goals. 

Reaching your accounting career goals

When it comes to progressing within a firm, accountants often wait for opportunities offered by management to advance. It doesn’t have to be that way. Rather than waiting for an opportunity, you can develop a plan for how your career development will benefit the company. 

“It’s moving from waiting for feedback and waiting to be given progression to the expression of your own desire for growth and your demonstration of how that benefits the system that you’re in. … [You can say], ‘Here’s my desire to progress. Here are the required elements that I see. Here are the benefits that it would provide and evidence [for the benefits], and, therefore, here are some of my requests.’”

Dr. Cara Miller

Present your progression within your firm as something that will benefit the firm itself. Rather than relying on performance reviews and asking management how you can progress, you demonstrate your value to the company by presenting a plan for how your professional development helps the business. 

“Your supervising partner or your boss can much more easily and confidently respond to your request [when you present a plan], … rather than saying, ‘I want to be a managing partner; tell me what I need to do.’ It requires so much imagination, creativity, and good faith to have somebody design that for you in the moment.”

Dr. Cara Miller

When you’re willing to present an actionable plan for your firm that involves your career progression, you increase the likelihood of advancement. You can be proactive in your career rather than hoping management will eventually promote you. 

Learn more about driving your career development

As an accountant, you are the expert of your own career path. You can self-reflect, determine what you want, and create an action plan for how you can get there rather than waiting for it to come to you. While you strive toward your goals, you can address and overcome your insecurities so that you can move forward with your personal and professional development. Be sure to check out Part One of this webinar article series. 

Looking for more ways to advance your accounting career? Consider partnering with Gusto. With Gusto, you can provide better resources for your clients so that you can strengthen your professional relationships while increasing your revenue. When you become a Gusto partner, you get exclusive access to tools and resources to support your clients into the future. Streamline payroll and benefits, and start advising your clients in valuable new ways. Join Gusto’s Partner Program today.

Updated: April 4, 2022

Gusto Editors
Gusto Editors

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