As an accountant and future CPA, you have a lot of CPA career options ahead of you. How will you pick the right one, set goals for the future, maximize your opportunities, and navigate the path to prosperity? Well, there are several ways to define and enhance your career (like passing the CPA Exam), and one of them is by finding a CPA mentor.
Benefits of Having a CPA Mentor
A CPA mentor could be a senior leader in the profession who is older, wiser, more experienced, and more connected than you, but more importantly, (s)he should be someone you respect who wants to help you grow professionally and holistically by providing regular feedback.
By going to college and pursuing the CPA, you’ve already taken great steps toward a solid and successful vocation, but you shouldn’t stop there. You should begin looking for a CPA mentor so (s)he can help you do the following:
- Learn more about your job
If you find a CPA mentor who is in the same industry and a little farther up the career ladder than you, (s)he may be able to offer great insight into your current job. With previous experience in your position, (s)he can share the lessons (s)he has learned that you’ll need to learn as well. Getting this information from your mentor enables you to improve faster with less risk. Your CPA mentor can even provide powerful on-the-job training if (s)he works within the same company. (S)he can also supply the attention you need to overcome your daily challenges and take on unresolved issues.
- Develop your skills
As accounting progresses, the industry has expanded the expectations of CPA mentors to include coaching. Coaching focuses on empowering young mentees to strengthen the skills they need for growth. Your CPA mentor may help you build up your abilities by working with you on day-to-day assignments so that you receive direct, specific, and relevant input on your choices and performance. Working so closely with your mentor also enables you to learn the systems of your position more efficiently. Along with your technical skills, a CPA mentor should also include your interpersonal and leadership skills within the scope of his or her coaching, so you can receive the necessary advice on the practices, habits, tactics, and perspectives that will take you to the top.
- Get to know your company
You may be able to find a CPA mentor who works in the same company or even the same department as you. If that’s the case, you can deepen your understanding of the company’s history, mission, values, and processes by listening to the insight of your CPA mentor. This advantageous exchange equips you to better align both your mindset and your objectives with those of the company, which lets you become a prized employee. The relationship between you and your CPA mentor can thereby facilitate a closer and more effective company culture.
- Plan for your future
Your CPA mentor will not only know how you can excel in your current position, but (s)he will also have the sense of direction you need to advance to your next promotion and beyond. If you’d like to move forward in your field, your mentor can help you map out the path you should take. (S)he can also open the window of opportunity to an interesting specialty or a fortunate career shift. Having already successfully maneuvered the road to management, your CPA mentor can even help you write your resume and become more marketable.
- Explore the CPA certification
With all his or her knowledge and experience, your CPA mentor will definitely be an expert in one particular area: the CPA designation. By observing your mentor’s behaviors and tapping into his or her brain, you’ll get an essential firsthand look into the life of a CPA. Inquiring about his or her career history will reveal the places you can go with the CPA, and you can also hear about daily responsibilities. By spending so much time with a CPA, you can see just how much you’ll have to look forward to once you pass the CPA Exam.
- Prepare for the CPA Exam
Depending on how long ago your CPA mentor took the CPA Exam, (s)he may be able to give you some valuable tips for passing it. (S)he might recall his or her best study advice or even examples of what not to do on your CPA Exam journey. Even if your CPA mentor passed the exam years ago, you can still ask him or her to help you gain experience with the representative tasks listed in the CPA Exam blueprints. The Task-Based Simulations and Document Review Simulations in particular will test your skill levels with these tasks. As you’re studying these question types, politely request that your CPA mentor bring you up to speed on any tasks that are unfamiliar to you.
Ways to Find a CPA Mentor
When your chance to have a CPA mentor finally comes, take these steps to find the right one.
- Take charge of the process
Sometimes, a mentorship comes about rather organically. Other times, you can’t just wait for an extremely busy CPA to notice you and schedule your first meeting voluntarily. You need to own the process of finding a mentor and planning your meetings. Before you begin to search for a CPA mentor, determine your goals for the experience and hypothesize what your next career move might be so you can help your CPA mentor help you. Next, consider which character traits you will look for in a mentor and identify the individuals you know that possess these traits so you can compile a list of potential mentors. Decide to ask someone other than your boss and approach your first choice with confidence. Resolve to keep your time together focused on career development but to allow yourself to have fun as well. Finally, plan to set up the meetings and prepare for each one of them.
- Look within your company
Finding a CPA mentor within your company not only makes communicating, meeting, and staying in touch more convenient, but it also enhances many of the benefits of having a CPA mentor. If the individual you’d like to have as a mentor is a senior coworker, you can reach out to them in person and start working to eliminate any awkwardness and unfamiliarity. Before asking your mentor, you can also research his or her schedule and availability via company resources or fellow coworkers. Your human resources department may have an established mentoring program, so check with them to meet the people who are already interested in mentoring.
- Look within your area
If you work in a small firm with minimal staff, you may need to survey your greater surroundings to find a CPA mentor. Don’t ask a stranger to mentor you, but consider contacts from associations you belong to or activities you’re involved in to expand your options. Your state society of CPAs, the AICPA, NABA, AFWA, and the associations of any other accounting certifications you may have are all good places to start when looking outside your company for a CPA mentor.
- Look online
As you know, the Internet connects you with people near and far. A mentor located outside your circle of life can offer an objective perspective that complements the coaching you receive from within your organization, so don’t be afraid to search the Web for your CPA mentor. You can do a more manual search by using professionally-focused social media sites like LinkedIn. An Advanced People Search on LinkedIn can lead you to someone from your alma mater that lives within driving distance. You can also utilize a more automated tool such as the AICPA Online Mentoring Program. The AICPA’s Women’s Initiative Executive Committee and the Young CPA Network have joined forces to present this system for facilitating mentoring relationships, so take advantage of your AICPA membership and join the program.
Methods for Making the Most of CPA Mentoring
Once you’ve connected with a CPA mentor, be the best mentee you can be by doing the following:
- Prioritize your meetings
Don’t let your mentoring appointments be the first thing to slide off your calendar. Stay committed to the mentorship and don’t underestimate its value. Remember, there are many ways both you and your mentor can benefit. Try to meet in a comfortable place that affords some privacy at a time that works best for both of you, but be flexible enough to maintain the mentorship via phone or email if necessary.
- Listen carefully
You should definitely speak during your meetings, but you should also listen so that you can learn. Hone your listening skills as best you can to collect every drop of wisdom and insight your CPA mentor imparts.
- Ask questions
If you’re facing uncertainty or a lack of understanding, look to your CPA mentor for the information you need. Ask good questions so you can gain answers and solutions. Solicit feedback so you can really grow. Being inquisitive demonstrates that you’re eager and engaged.
- Be grateful
As your mentorship continues, be sure to show your gratitude for your CPA mentor and do something for him or her. Make his or her time with you worthwhile by having a good attitude, doing your best, applying his or her advice, and pushing yourself to succeed. Don’t squander this great opportunity, and don’t hide your respect and appreciation from your mentor.
- Give and take
Get everything you can out of your mentorship, then prepare to give it all back by becoming a CPA mentor yourself one day. Pass the CPA Exam as soon as you can, then avail yourself to young accountants via your company, alumni associations, or non-profits. Support those around and underneath you vocationally so you can continue to be worthy of all the support you’ve received.
The Way to Become a CPA
Finding a CPA mentor is one of the best ways you can deepen your knowledge of accounting and accelerate your success in the industry. As you know, another invaluable means of career advancement is the CPA designation. To secure the CPA designation by passing the CPA Exam, you’ll need the right CPA review course, and with our innovative and truly adaptive learning technology called SmartAdaptTM, Gleim CPA Review prepares you to pass the exam better than any other course. Discover how our course creates a customized learning plan that helps you study more effectively by accessing our free CPA course demo today.