Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Help an Accountant

This morning, I got this e-mail:

Is it possible for someone with an MBA (Accounting) to be looking for employment three years after graduation? I live in Georgia and have applied for hundreds of jobs, joined various networking meetings and passed my resume around, and all I am getting is tons and tons of rejection. It is now affecting my life so much that I feel that I am about to go into depression. Why is it so hard to get a job these days. Is there any way one can go about looking for a job besides those that I mentioned above?

Obviously, it's hard to answer any of these questions without knowing specifics, and I've replied asking for more details. But I thought I'd post the message here, so anyone who might have suggestions, observations, or anything else to contribute could chime in.

Meantime, I'll share the questions crossing my mind:

  • First, are you applying for jobs that are a match for your academic and work experience?
  • Second, how are you presenting yourself - Is your resume tailored for each position, are your cover letters concise, businesslike, properly formatted and proofread?
  • Third, are you working with the right networking organizations? Do their members include the kind of people you want to work for, or at least the kinds of people who can put you in touch with them?
  • Are you working on your job search as if it were a job?
  • Are you working with a coach? Should you be?
  • How about recruiters? Have you gotten in touch with any?
  • And have you considered the old saying that goes something like: The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over, but expecting a different result? (Not that I mean to imply anyone's insane, but you get the point.)
Post comments, send e-mails...

It's WAR

Take a break. Go over to Simply Fired and read how one commentator rose from clerk to assistant manager of accounting in just a few short weeks.

It was then that I found out from the accounting manager that there had been lots of mistakes in the bookkeeping and that the bookkeeper had been blaming me. I didn't get fired because during her vacation, the mistakes had stopped.

The bitch had thrown me under the bus. Well, it was on.

Promoted, Klingon Style [Simply Fired]

Things Not to Do

It must be the season to run articles about how to blow a job interview. DiversityInc has the latest example, and it's a good one. It includes some obvious pointers - for example, don't sneeze into your hand before offering it for a handshake, and don't bring a sandwich to a job interview. (These are all from real examples given by recruiters.) There are also some observations you've probably heard before but should keep in mind: Don't use a funky e-mail address and keep your voicemail messages professional. Finally, there's some good practical advice.

Practice the basics of communication before going to the interview, listening and responding and not talking over the other person. Too many applicants over-talk and don't listen to the questions being asked of them.

"I've had people come in to an interview and all they want to do is talk and not listen at all," says Jenkins. "Within the first 10 to 15 minutes I've made up my mind ... At the start, I'm looking at body language and speaking style."
5 Biggest Job-Applicant Mistakes [DiversityInc.]

Monday, July 30, 2007

Notes From a Man's World

A lot of talk goes on about the efforts of accounting firms and other organizations to recruit experienced women back into the work force. These women took a break from promising career tracks in order to raise their children, care for an elder parent or take the lead in handling other family or life situations. These efforts are a big part of the debate we keep hearing about "balance."

Today, I found a column by MSNBC's career writer Eve Tahmincioglu that zeroes in on the challenges men face if they try to do the same thing.

Men have the added problem of trying to return to work in a society that just doesn’t get why they made the decision to leave a budding career in the first place. Even though women face similar discrimination, experts say, society is more accepting of moms making such a choice. Men, on the other hand, are thought of as “unmanly” when they decide the become nurturer and take time away from the traditional hunter role.

If you read descriptions of corporate programs intended to reorient folks for a return to work, they take great pains to point out their efforts are focused on all professionals, regardless of sex. But talk to the people involved and they'll usually allow that, really, their programs are intended for women. Most of the people who've taken these breaks are female, after all, and there's a bit of a diversity issue, too. Companies today are well aware of the demographics of their workforce.

To me, this points out another rub in the arguments about balance, which sound fine on paper, but get stickier when you put them into practice. The fairest and most thoughtful policy can't control how people think and react to situations when they encounter them in the real world. In the last year, I think I've seen one research paper on this, though I'd hoped to see more.

Return to work not easy for stay-at-home dads [MSNBC]

Bad News, Good News

By the way, in the New York Daily News Carolyn Kepcher - she of former "Apprentice" fame - writes that surfing the Web at work can lead to trouble. (Of course, this is an industry-related blog, so it's okay.)

More than 25 percent of U.S. companies have fired someone in the last 12 months for violating their e-mail policies, she says, and nearly a third have a full-time staff member spending all of their time reading employee e-mail. Twenty percent have disciplined an employee for violating policies regarding social networking sites, like YouTube.

Fortunately, today's Wall Street Journal has a special section on technology, which includes a helpful item on things your IT department won't tell you. Among other things, it offers hints on getting to Web sites your company blocks and - for the road warriors among you - thoughts on how to clear your cache for any lurking spy software your firm may favor.

I'm not advocating reading things you shouldn't be reading during work, I hasten to add. Sooner or later, that's going to catch up with you, Big Brother or no. You're just not going to work as efficiently if you're distracted, and that's going to impact your career prospects directly. If you need a break, there are better ways to take one than getting lost on MySpace.

But don't you just love it when the Daily News suggests you not do something and The Wall Street Journal tells you how?

Net surfing at work leads to wipeouts [NY Daily News]
Ten Things Your IT Department Won't Tell You [WSJ]

Last Week's Poll

How often do you think about a career change? According to last week's poll:

  • Every day: 66.0%
  • When I get bored: 17.0%
  • When I'm mad at my boss: 3.0%
  • Rarely: 9.0%
  • Never: 5.0%
That's pretty interesting, actually: Two thirds of those answering would like to get out of accounting? Realizing, of course, polls like this are far from scientific, I'd love to get an idea of what
kind of thinking is going on out there. E-mail me or post your comments to let me know what's going on inside your head.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Dressing Up

Speaking of negotiating, The Wall Street Journal had this article about how to dress for a session of hard-bargaining. Though it's all about deal-makers in the Wall Street sense of the term, negotiating your compensation is essentially about making a deal. Billions may not be at stake, but your lifestyle certainly is, and that's no small thing.

Over on our sister site eFinancialCareers, Jon Jacobs wrote about whether men going gray should color their hair. (The consensus they probably shouldn't.) A lot of people thought we were a bit nuts to post something like that, but the more people Jon talked to, the more he found it can actually matter. We all like to pretend we're above these things, but when someone shows up at a button-downed firm wearing a really bad hair piece, it gets noticed.

What I Wore to the Takeover
Gray Matters: Hiding it Can Hurt a Man's Prospects [eFC]

The Offer's Just a Step

Too many people think about career management as being about finding the next job, or simply staying out of trouble in their current one. I suppose this works in the same way the journey of life is about getting through the day, or making sure you know what your dinner plans are tonight. It works, but it's pretty dull and it sure not keeping things in a long-term perspective.

In the same vein, people think about their job hunt as ending when they get an offer. But, really, you can't look at that as being much more than the home stretch. The application process is really a negotiation, notes Jon Jacobs, and it neither begins nor ends with an offer is made. His story talks about tactics to use to make sure you get the deal you want.

Got an Offer? There's Negotiating to Do [JITM]

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Think Before You Speak

Dona DeZube writes about the tricky dance involved in trying to stand out in the office, without annoying your colleagues by being pushy or brash. Read between the lines, and her article's all about communications: introducing yourself to people, listening to what they have to say, and in general being aware of how others perceive your actions.

When I was in college, a professor of mine reminded us - again and again - that communication involved more than speaking, writing, creating Web pages or what have you. It was only when the audience responded to what you said, wrote or published that communication had occurred. Effective communication is a dialogue, a two-way street.

Communication, I hasten to add, isn't just about high-falutin' things like giving speeches or writing articles. It includes what you do in the office: the conversations you have, the memos you write, the e-mails you send to colleagues, your boss and your clients. If you want to be effective, consider the idea of beginning a discussion rather than simply making a point. Whatever the issue is, you want to show people you're thoughtful, hard-working and willing to do heavy lifting when necessary - not that you're glib.

A lot of people pride themselves on being fast-on-their-feet and "naturally intelligent." I think most people, though, are more impressed by people who work hard and think before they open their mouths. And I really don't know anyone who's hurt themselves by listening as much as they speak. You shouldn't be a wallflower in the office, but you shouldn't be a boom box, either.

How to Stand Out, Make Friends, and Influence People

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Why They Do What They Do

You've got to give the Big Four points. Employing some half a million people globally, under the microscope of regulators in several nations, and under continued pressure to recruit and retain accountants, they've developed an approach to human resources that could be a model for other global industries. (I can hear the more skeptical among you going "Say what?" Or, in more Millennial parlance, "WTF?") The Economist goes into great depth to examine the whys and hows.

The why comes down to this:

Their product is their employees' knowledge and their distribution channels are the relationships between their staff and clients. More than most they must worry about how to attract and retain the brightest workers.

As for how, it's something of a holistic approach that includes:

Time is regularly set aside at the highest levels to chew over how best to do this. Detailed goals are set: Deloitte's 2010 business plan includes targets for staff turnover, the scores it seeks in its annual staff survey and the proportion of female partners it would like to have. Partners are increasingly measured and rewarded as managers of people, not just for the amount of money they bring in. People-related items account for one-third of the scorecard used to evaluate partners at PwC. KPMG's British firm has introduced time codes so that employees can account for how long they spend dealing with staff matters. The idea is that those who devote lots of time to people-related matters are not disadvantaged as a result in pay rises and promotion.

In addition, three points pop out:

First, "Gaps in one country can be plugged with people from another." So, for example, Canadian accountants can be shifted into the U.S. to help out during tax season.

Second, "Mobility is seen as a useful way to retain and help employees develop." In other words, graduates like the idea of knowing they'll get to do some work overseas.

Third, "Retaining good people is the biggest challenge." Jim Wall, Deloitte's managing director of human resources, told the magazine that every percentage-point drop in annual turnover means a savings of around $500,000. So historical turnover rate of 15 to 20 percent means real money to each firm.

Accounting for good people [The Economist]

Counteroffer Caution

If you've given notice and got a counteroffer, you shouldn't be surprised. A lot of firms are offering up extra cash to keep good accountants on board. But before you decide to stay put, think carefully, recruiters warn.

Before you accept the counteroffer, consider why you thought about leaving in the first place, says Branthover. "Money is wonderful, (but) you need to make sure the role or the situation that made you want to leave is going to change for the better," she suggests. "Most of the time people are looking to change jobs because they're unhappy with the conditions, and not necessarily the cash."

Read Myra Thomas's full story on JobsintheMoney.

Think Carefully When Weighing Counter Offers [JITM]

Monday, July 23, 2007

More Client Experience

Tony Osude, who runs learning development for the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, believes working in mid-sized firm will give you more experience dealing with clients than you'll get a Big Four firms.
If you went to one of the mid-tier firms, one of the beauties about being there is you might not be paid as much necessarily, but you have much more hands on experience. You can expect to actually meet your clients in the flesh and have much more dealings with your clients and also, importantly, if you want to stay in practice and recognition is important to you, there's a greater chance of being recognized and career tracked.

Mid-tier better for hands-on experience says ACCA [Accountancy Age]

This Week's Poll

Last week's poll results:

The best opportunities are in
  • Tax: 19.0%
  • Internal Audit: 23.8%
  • Government: 9.5%
  • Public Accounting: 19.0%
  • Don't Know: 28.6

Our new poll asks about how often you've considered a career change. Visit JobsintheMoney and let us know.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Your Turn at Bat

I'm not sure that most people consider the fact they have as much to say as where they work as an employer does. We talk about job hunting and job applications as if we're the ones pitching and it's up to the firm to decide whether or not the ball's worth swinging at. But it's just as appropriate to look at things in the opposite way: Maybe we, as job applicants, are the ones who get to decide whether or not the ball is capable of becoming a solid hit.

(Those who think this analogy is a stretch should understand I'm a Red Sox fan. Few things are stretchier than that.)

Anyway, in an article I posted this morning Leslie Stevens-Huffman writes about considering whether a potential boss is right for you. She notes: "There's a huge correlation between successful employees and their boss's managerial skills." Why?

"Having the right boss does several things for an employee. It's the difference between just putting in time and being committed," says Jim Councelman, vice president of leadership development for Development Dimensions International, a Cleveland, Ohio-based consulting firm that specializes in leadership selection and development.

"There are a variety of studies which show that employees who are putting all of their psychological and emotional energies into the job stay longer and have higher job satisfaction," he says. "Good bosses are able to engage their employees."

Leslie goes on to describe some tactics you can use to, first, figure out what kind of boss you need and, second, to turn the interview process into a two-way conversation (something it should be, but usually isn't.) Today's job market, where everyone seems to bemoan the lack of good accountants, is a good environment to hone what she calls your "boss-election skills."

Selecting Your Ideal Boss [JITM]

Career Killers

Some good thoughts over on CNN's Web site. Though it's got a negative title - "Mistakes That Can Kill Your Career" - it offers a quick overview of why you should care about your appearance, how you treat colleagues, and why you should have goals. I don't buy everything in it - the section on personal calls, while there's some truth to it, feels like it came out of an employee manual somewhere - but it's a quick read.

Mistakes that can kill your career [CNN]

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Before You Hire That Coach

If you're considering hiring a coach to help you with your career, take a breath, suggests Robbie Miller Kaplan in this month's Ask the Expert.

Before you consider hiring a coach, you should conduct a personal assessment. Have you articulated your goal and created an action plan for achievement? Do you have milestones and perform periodic assessments of your progress? Have you communicated your interest to your manager and solicited support and feedback? If you've taken these steps and are still having difficulty, it's probably a good time to make an appointment with your boss.

I think this is good advice. I know a lot of people who've used coaches and swear by them, and I know many coaches who are extremely smart people. But before you commit to spending a few thousand dollars over the course of six months, it's important you understand the challenges you face, and to think through whether or not you'd benefit from the investment of money, and time.

Last year, Suzanne Barlyn looked at coaching from another angle, sketching out five situations where a coach could be valuable. That article's here.

Ask the Expert: A Coach or Not a Coach? [JITM]
Considering Coaching? Consider This [JITM]

IIA Award to AuditNet's Jim Kaplan

Jim Kaplan - who runs the Web site AuditNet (a JobsintheMoney partner site), and the husband of our writer Robbie Miller Kaplan - received Bradford Cadmus Memorial Award from the Institute of Internal Auditors during its international conference in Amsterdam last week. Yes, Jim has years of expertise in accounting, and the respect of huge numbers of people. He's also an incredibly nice guy, and it's nice to see him recognized.

Cadmus award winner announced [AccountingWEB]

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Networking Again

Bob Kohn, a networking and communications consultant in California, says accountants don't network as much as they should. He makes a point I've not seen before:

Accountants have a reputation as introverts. They tend to be more comfortable working behind a desk than working a room. But Kohn puts that kind of shyness in perspective: It's more the rule in the wider population than the exception. It can be overcome by approaching networking with the same systematic approach you use in your work.

This is from an article James Rubin wrote describing a presentation Kohn made at the California CPA Education Foundation's recent conference for young and emerging professionals. It gives me an excuse to get on the soapbox - again - about networking. I won't go on too long, but I'll point out that for a group of people who tend to stay in one place even when they might like to make a change - like, say, accountants - networking can be a good way to hedge your bets.

First off, by getting to know more people you develop relationships that work for any number of reasons - from answering practice-related questions to scoping out potential job opportunities. If you're truly not interested in a new job, networking is good for your existing firm. It raises your visibility among potential clients, associates and folks who just might have some expertise you'll want to tap from time to time. And don't feel like you're being selfish - you'll return the favors.

It's remarkable painless - really. Kohn's points provide a roadmap to taking the first steps.

Networking Doesn't Have to be Hard [JITM]

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

PWC Names 55 Partners in China

China and Hong Kong accounted for 55 new PricewaterhouseCoopers partners this year – 10 percent of all the new partners that the Big Four firm recently appointed for its worldwide businesses. Of the 55 new partners, 40 were from the mainland and 15 from Hong Kong.

For comparison, PWC named 71 new partners in the U.K. this year.

The company plans to raise its total headcount in China to 13,000 professionals from 8,000, according to an article originally published in the China Daily.

PWC Partner Appointments Show China Tilt [JITM]
Local Talent Vital to China’s Economic Development [Press release]

Marcum & Kliegman Slates Acquisition

New York-based Marcum & Kliegman LLP said it signed a letter of intent to acquire the CBIZ/Mayer Hoffman McCann accounting and tax practice in New York City.

If approved at corporate level, Marcum & Kliegman will add 17 professionals and $3.5 million revenue. The combined firm would have about 400 staff, including 40 partners, and $100 million revenue.

Marcum & Kliegman says it ranks 24th among U.S. accounting firms, citing Public Accounting Report, and 7th in the Northeast according to Accounting Today.

CBIZ is a publicly traded firm active in a wide range of business services, from consulting to accounting, tax, benefits, insurance and medical practice management.

Marcum & Kliegman LLP to acquire CBIZ / Mayer Hoffman McCann in New York City [Press release]

Monday, July 16, 2007

When They're Right, They're Right

Let me say right off the bat, the Institute of Internal Auditors was right.

Last week, the institute took us to task for our summary of CFO Magazine's coverage of the IIA's international survey. We said "the magazine's independent analysis stands in stark contrast with a cheerleading press release the IIA issued about its survey findings" when CFO said staffing and future budget allocations for audit teams were stagnant.

Scott McCallum, the IIA's media relations manager, contacted us and also posted this comment to the story:

The internal audit profession is anything but "stagnant." This is a grave error on the part of this writer and the CFO.com reporter, Sarah Johnson, as both articles misinterpreted the findings of the study. Internal auditing is one of the fastest growing professions in the world today and salaries are on the rise according to the studies of several independent sources. Don't hesitate to look within the internal audit profession for jobs that are making a difference to organizations around the globe. We encourage the editorial staff of JobsintheMoney to read the report themselves (as they had not done before publishing this piece) to see that the survey results did not state nor indicate that the profession is stagnant, salaries are dormant, and internal auditors are struggling to gain respect from corporate management. This is actually all to the contrary.

In reading the original IIA study, we found a specific passage that CFO appeared to rely on in fact reflects budgets in only one area - outsourcing and re-sourcing - not for internal audit departments as a whole. So, we've rewritten the story and posted it at the top of our news.

It's a fair question to ask why we didn't read the original survey in the first place. Certainly, we'd seen the press release. It struck me that, in this age of increased regulation, auditors have been raising their profile and benefiting from an increased demand for their needs for some time, and another survey documenting that didn't seem, frankly, that interesting to financial people interested in career management and possibly changing jobs.

But a lot of people ask me how long this job market is going to last. I have no better crystal ball than anyone else, but I'm always looking for clouds on the horizon so we can point them out to our readers. When CFO, one of the mostly highly regarded magazines in the business, writes about flaws in a trade association's contentions about its sector's health, it's worth our attention. We read their report closely and decided it was worth telling our readers about.

Like most media today, we try to help users sort through the huge volume of news out there to find things that are interesting and useful. We thought CFO's points were important for JITM's readers to know, just as we've pointed out items from other publications when we think they'd be useful to people in managing their careers. The fact the report appeared in such a respected title may have made us complacent, but I'm not sure. If people want, I'm happy to expand upon why. For now, though, I'll end the post as I began it, buy saying the IIA was correct in their criticism of our story.

Higher Profile Seen For Internal Auditors [JITM]

CFO Succession - Or Lack Thereof...

Here's an interesting item from itbusiness.ca:

More than 63 per cent of Canadian CFOs said they have not identified a replacement because they are “not planning on leaving their jobs in the near future,” according to a recent poll commissioned by the Canadian arm of the global financial industry recruitment firm Robert Half Management Resources.

A majority of the respondents (72 per cent) indicated they not identified a successor for their position.

Do you know where your CFO is? [itbusiness.ca]

Who's Hiding?

Here's the results of last week's poll:

How open are you about your job search?
  • Very: 53.2%
  • I won't lie if asked: 15.6%
  • Discrete: 13.0%
  • I never talk about it 11.7%
  • I'm not looking: 6.5%

This week, we're wondering where you think the best career opportunities are. Go over to JobsintheMoney and cast your vote.

Friday, July 13, 2007

More on an IIA Study

The Institute of Internal Auditors is taking us to task for a summary we wrote of CFO Magazine's coverage of its international survey. We said "the magazine's independent analysis stands in stark contrast with a cheerleading press release the IIA issued about its survey findings" when CFO wrote:

The preliminary results show that while auditors believe they are valued by their organizations, staffing and future budget allocations for the teams are stagnant as the demand for good talent - and thus higher salaries - isn't expected to improve.

You can read our pick-up here, or CFO's article here. I also blogged about it, here.

Scott McCallum, the IIA's media relations manager, contacted us and also posted this comment to the story:

The internal audit profession is anything but "stagnant." This is a grave error on the part of this writer and the CFO.com reporter, Sarah Johnson, as both articles misinterpreted the findings of the study. Internal auditing is one of the fastest growing professions in the world today and salaries are on the rise according to the studies of several independent sources. Don't hesitate to look within the internal audit profession for jobs that are making a difference to organizations around the globe. We encourage the editorial staff of JobsintheMoney to read the report themselves (as they had not done before publishing this piece) to see that the survey results did not state nor indicate that the profession is stagnant, salaries are dormant, and internal auditors are struggling to gain respect from corporate management. This is actually all to the contrary.

Well, we will read the study, which Scott has now sent us. We'd received the IIA's original press release, but when we saw CFO's story, we thought it no small thing that a magazine of its reputation would cast such an eye on the results. The IIA believes we should have reviewed the study before running the pickup, but I think that misses the point. When one of the leading magazines in the financial world draws sobering conclusions from such an in-depth report, it's worth noting. (I don't agree with The Wall Street Journal's editorial line on the Iraq War, but that doesn't mean the it's not important to be aware of the newspaper's view.)

If any auditors have read either item - ours or CFO's - and want to chime in, I hope they'll post comments.

More coming on this, next week.

More on Networking

Yesterday, I posted about Francine McKenna's interview with the Web site Top Tier Life, where she talked about her career path with the Big Four and her own consulting firm. I keep thinking about one of the things she said:

People also think I am am a super-networker and I do know a lot of people and have some relationships that go back to my days at as an intern at a bank while in college. But I have also lost many contacts along the way. I don’t believe the saying, “Don’t burn any bridges.” I think sometimes people and jobs are best left in the dust.

We all lose contacts, for a lot of reasons. For most people, I suspect it's because we don’t have the time to just call a person or two a day "to say hello" and keep the connection warm. We keep in touch with the people we need to talk to in order to get our work done, and run into others at association or chamber of commerce meetings.

Some people we want to lose contact with, of course. There are clients who take up way too much time and then complain about their bills, or people who ask you for referrals but never seem to know anyone they're "comfortable" introducing you to. There are people who you just don't want to do business with - because like it or not, we do run into the ethically challenged from time to time. Or the people - sometimes former bosses, sometimes former colleagues - who just haven't treated you well.

In that sense, I agree that some contacts are best left behind. But otherwise, I don't think we should be complacent. Networking is one of the most important things you can do in the course of your career - maintaining relationships can help you answer some arcane tax question or show a too-good-to-be-true job opportunity in a realistic light. Our lack of time may keep us from staying in touch as well as we should, but that doesn't mean we can't try.

Easy to say, right? OK, how about this: One cup of coffee a week. Can you have coffee with someone in your address book once a week, whether you "need" to see them or not? If you can, you'll have 52 conversations a year you otherwise may not have had - and who knows where that will lead.

Decaf works too.

Recruiting, Retaining Black CPAs

Howard University, some minority-owned accounting firms and several large firms have formed a partnership to increase the number of African-Americans who become accountants, and increase the proportion of those who remain in the field. The first result of their efforts was a week-long event in Virginia, called "We're About Success!" It was intended to bring together both new hires and veterans. Organizers plan to stage similar events at other historically black colleges and universities.

Here's a story in Black Enterprise, or you can read our summary.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Texas CPA Society Elects New Officers

The Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants elected as its new chairman James A. "Jim" Smith, managing director of Dallas-based Smith, Jackson, Boyer and Bovard, PLLC.

Smith, who holds a bachelor's degree in accounting and economics from Southern Methodist University, is a frequent media spokesperson on personal finance and business topics. He has 35 years of professional experience, including audit engagements for large and small companies in a wide range of industries, and tax and financial planning consultations for closely held corporations and their owners.

Others elected as officers of the 27,000-member society for the current fiscal year are Steven R. Goodman, chairman-elect; Barbara Bass, secretary; Jeff Gregg, treasurer-elect; and Rance G. Sweeten, treasurer.

Dallas professional elected to top post of Texas Society of CPAs [Accountingweb.com]

Backlash Against 'Business Casual' ?

Relaxed office dress codes are still creating pitfalls, even though they've been around in one form or another for well over a decade.

Weighing in early this week, USA Today blamed inter-generational conflicts for causing the latest round of flare-ups over what is and isn't appropriate to wear at work.

"A backlash is brewing" against all-casual, all-the-time, the newspaper says.

The number of employers allowing casual dress days every day has plunged from 53% in 2002 to a new low of 38%.

The reason for the return to more dressed-up attire is, in part, because of the confusion generated by business casual standards. Should flip-flops be allowed? What about tennis shoes, jeans and shorts? Sleeveless dresses? T-shirts? Younger employees are more likely to push the envelope, rankling more veteran generations who have long worked in offices where ties and skirts were expected no matter the day of the week. Many employers resent becoming fashion police.

'Business casual' causes confusion [USA Today]

McKenna on Careers

Francine McKenna, she of re: The Auditors, one of my favorite blogs, was interviewed about her career by Top Tier Life, a Web site for Big 4 employees and alumni. What I like about Francine and her blog is she (they) are witty and insightful. Her interview is witty, insightful and honest. She debunks several career flavors of the month, including:

People also think I am am a super-networker and I do know a lot of people and have some relationships that go back to my days at as an intern at a bank while in college. But I have also lost many contacts along the way. I don’t believe the saying, “Don’t burn any bridges.” I think sometimes people and jobs are best left in the dust.


I do not believe in the concept of work-life-family balance. What I mean is that you should always be moving towards convergence of all of your interests, aptitudes and passions. Making a living often takes a lot of time away from family and other hobbies or interests. Wouldn’t it be nice if the work, the vocation you choose, is also an expansion of your interests and in synch with the lifestyle you want to lead, whether that is a solo existence, with a partner or spouse, or with a big family? Writing about professional services is finally a way to mix what I know, what I’m good at, and the opportunity to be around other people whose interests I share.

Interview Series - Part 3 [Top Tier Life]

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Graying Workforce Is Another Pressure

Risk, tax and audit firms in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are enjoying good times with plenty of work on the horizon. But the graying of their workforce may present problems in the near future. Mike Wexler, director of finance operations for Jefferson Wells, told Myra Thomas: "The market here is just more dynamic than many areas of the country, and this area is still fast growing. There's plenty of opportunity, as well as competition, and it's creating an even greater demand for those in our profession."

Myra's regional roundup is here.

Not in OUR Profession

This might be another reason to earn a CPA instead of an MBA: Investment bankers can be dangerous:

Investigators are looking at disgruntled former Goldman Sachs workers as possible suspects in their efforts to find the person who mailed dozens of letters threatening the investment firm last month, federal officials said Tuesday.

The letters, handwritten in red ink on lined, loose leaf paper, dealt a terse threat: "Hundreds will die. We are inside. You cannot stop us," authorities said.

Whoever they are, I'm betting they're not very bright.

Ex-Workers Eyed in Goldman Sachs Threats [AP via Yahoo News]

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Did They Ask for Your W-2?

The Wall Street Journal has an item today about companies who ask for W-2s ahead of making a job offer. It tends to happen more for sales people and other rainmakers, but the upshot is while you're not required to share the form, declining to is almost certain to end your discussions with a prospective employer.

Employers' Asking For a Potential Hire's W-2s Is Common in Some Fields [WSJ - $]

Taking A Role at a Small Firm

On JobsintheMoney, James Rubin profiles Scott Hofferber, controller of Farmdale Creamery in San Bernardino, Calif.

While there's no question that larger organization - whether corporations or public agencies - offer solid career paths, a number of California accountants continue to find success in smaller, family run businesses. And, because they play a bigger part in their company's performance, these CPAs believe their experience has been more professionally rewarding.

In the best cases, they're involved in discussions about strategy and influence key decisions, and they claim better work-life balance than they'd have at bigger companies - especially publicly traded ones facing increasingly complex financial issues.

Hofferber says accountants must take care when considering a family-run employer and offers the following advice:
  • Understand what your getting into
  • Look for a moral compass and sound financial record
  • Look for flexibility on pay and work schedules
  • Find people you respect and who respect you

The full story is here.

Keeping Railroad Audits, Um, On-Track

Across the Midwest and West, railroads like Union Pacific are looking for help - including professionals in the corporate finance office, acording Oregon's Corvallis Gazette-Times. Interesting article, and it's worth taking a peek at Union Pacific's Web site to see how they approach online applications and describing responsibilities, pay and benefits.

Careers can get on track [Corvallis Gazette-Times]

Monday, July 09, 2007

Job Security and the Pay's Not Bad

Among the professionals sought by the U.S. government are accountants: The Partnership for Public Service says about 21,000 positions for accountants, tax examiners, auditors and budget and financial analysts, will need to be filled at the Internal Revenue Service, elsewhere in the Treasury department, and in other agencies through 2009. More details are here.

Mobility in Texas

It's easier to set up shop in Texas now that Gov. Rick Perry has signed a new CPA mobility bill into law. The measure, which was endorsed by the Texas Society of CPAs, cuts the red tape involved for out-of-state CPAs who practice in Texas. While CPA firms will be required to have a state license to perform audits on Texas companies, CPAs with qualifications that are substantially equivalent to Texas's may practice in Texas without notice or license for all other services. TSCPA Executive Director John M. Sharbaugh said he hopes "other states return the favor by passing similar legislation.”

Texas Governor Signs CPA Mobility Bill [TSCPA]

Getting Them Early

Minority high school students in the Rochester, N.Y., area got an in-depth look at accounting careers, courtesy of the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants and SUNY Brockport. The Career Opportunities in Accounting Program was intended to help students "envision themselves as future CPAs, all before the senior year of high school," in the words of the college's director of Business Career Services, Jeff Taylor.

Program attracts minorities to accounting jobs [Democrat and Chronicle]

Friday, July 06, 2007

Life is Good

We keep hearing about "the pipeline" and how groups like the AICPA are trying to fill it up with accounting-minded graduates. In the Washington Post's view, riding the trend is a gas.

"These firms are so crunched for workers that they've become really aggressive in their recruiting," said Lindsay Terry, who works in the office of career management at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. "Students are getting serious internships by the time they're sophomores. The top seniors have had jobs lined up for years -- and that's after deciding between 12 offers."

And there's this on tactics:

(F)irms have tried to figure out what today's college students, dubbed the millennial generation, are looking for in a career. The Big Four -- Ernst & Young, Deloitte & Touche, PricewaterhouseCoopers and KPMG -- have nearly tripled the size of their recruiting teams and budgets over the last three years, partly to finance youth-oriented seminars, campus leadership programs and edgy marketing campaigns. Some firms have posted jobs on Facebook, a social networking Internet site popular among college students.

Beers & Cutler hired a consultant to get inside students' heads. Last year the firm gave $250,000 to the University of Maryland and George Mason University to provide scholarships to accounting students. Partners at PWC now spend part of their week on college campuses to teach classes and chat up students. Argy, Wiltse & Robinson, with headquarters in McLean, promotes a generous reward system, including 20-percent bonuses and rapid promotions. Grant Thornton, a firm with a major office in Tysons Corner, offers sign-on bonuses to interns and sends welcome letters to their parents.

Graduating With a CP-Yay [Washington Post]

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Second Peek Behind the Lines

A couple of weeks ago we excerpted an article by a California HR consultant that bore the eyebrow-raising title, "Increasing Offer Acceptance Rates When Your Company Pays Crummy Wages, Part 1 of 2."

Electronic Recruiting Exchange has since published the second installment. It contains Dr. John Sullivan's advice to HR and hiring managers on how to burnish a job offer even if the pay is, to use his word, "crummy."

Sullivan's unusually candid writing style led us to anticipate something juicy – as in, sneaky or worse -- as we said when discussing Part 1. But as it turned out, we found nothing scandalous, or even remotely unethical, anywhere in his two-part article. Still, we think candidates can benefit from hearing what an HR and recruiting guru is advising those who sit across the table from you in the interview process.

In Part 2, Sullivan details a variety of non-salary components that he says can affect an offer's odds of being accepted. They include: Expedited salary review after three or six months instead of the usual 12; delivering the job offer in person, even during an interview, instead of with a phone call; having the CEO appeal directly to the applicant to "join the team"; having prospective co-workers ask the candidate to sign on; appealing to a candidate's family members by sending information, a simple gift, or product sample; and of course, repeatedly stressing things like benefits, relocation assistance, performance bonuses, stock options and the like.

Other perks that could sway a candidate include "a title, working at home, a dress-down atmosphere, the opportunity to work on a 'wow' project, great equipment, rapid learning, the fact that you are a 'green' and socially responsible firm, or that you provide an opportunity to make a difference in people's lives." Drilling down into this area, Sullivan lists more than 30 "non-monetary" elements, grouped into four broad categories (the job itself, flexibility, the manager and the company), that he says can help take the focus off compensation.

So, if you've applied to any lowball employers, or expect to be on the receiving end of an offer from any employer soon, both articles should provide food for thought. Forewarned is forearmed.

Increasing Offer Acceptance Rates When Your Company Pays Crummy Wages, Part 2 of 2 [ERE.net]
Increasing Offer Acceptance Rates When Your Company Pays Crummy Wages, Part 1 of 2 [ERE.net]

Say "Zai Jian" to the CPA Shortage?

Not long ago our main site, JobsintheMoney, ran a story headlined: "Job-Market Forecast: Not a Cloud in Sight."

Well, make that one cloud.

Bruce Pounder, a management accountant whose main business is teaching professional development seminars for CPAs and CMAs, sees a grave, albeit not necessarily imminent, threat to the U.S. accounting profession arising from convergence to International Financial Reporting Standards.

"Convergence" refers to the movement, now picking up steam in the U.S. and elsewhere, to abolish country-specific accounting standards in favor of a unified worldwide standard. In a Q&A interview published on AccountingWeb, Pounder wrote that convergence

is likely to globalize and commoditize the accounting labor market….

U.S. accountants could find themselves to be small fish in a big global pool of accountants – all of whom will be qualified to compete against each other for jobs anywhere in the world, and most of whom will be willing to work for far less compensation than U.S. accountants now enjoy. This phenomenon, coupled with the increasing ease of off-shoring accounting and financial reporting work, is a major threat to the continued employability of U.S. accountants.
See JobsintheMoney for the full story.

Standards Convergence: Further Spur to Offshoring? [JITM]

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Many CFOs See Hiring as Top Challenge

While CFOs are slightly less optimistic than a few months ago about both the economy and their own companies' finances, many expect to have an even tougher time finding good candidates to fill job openings.

That's our takeaway from the latest quarterly CFO survey by Financial Executives International and Baruch College.

Both hiring expectations and economic optimism dipped compared with the first-quarter survey. At the same time, though, a stunning 26.5 percent of CFOs (mostly from private companies with under $500 million in sales) said their greatest business challenge is "finding qualified workers." A year ago, 24.3 percent answered the question that way.

Finding good candidates ranked way ahead of other challenges, including expense control and even regulatory issues.

For the full story, visit JobsintheMoney.

CFOs Scramble to Find Qualified Workers [JITM]

Monday, July 02, 2007

Negotiating a Flexible Schedule

What happens if you need to scale back to part-time and you hand in a well-thought out plan that addresses your company's needs as well as your own – but an inflexible boss gives you a thumbs-down?

That question was posed and neatly answered in a recent post on the Management Issues Web site by work-life balance author Cali Williams Yost. A questioner wrote to Yost saying his boss had rejected a carefully prepared proposal to go part-time with the comment, "You're too valuable to the company and I need you here full-time."

Yost sensibly points out that the manager's remark conveyed the no doubt unintended message, "You're too valuable to me, so you need to leave." This type of self-delusion is, unfortunately, all too common among managers – especially those unaccustomed to flexible work arrangements.

So how can you overcome your boss's delusion without creating bad blood? Here is Yost's advice:

Take the knowledge of your value and use it as leverage to restart the conversation. In a very non-threatening way, point out that you hope the two of you can come to some agreement on your proposal because it's very important to you. And, calmly tell him or her that if you can't, then you may have to consider alternatives that would give you more of the flexibility that you need.

Once the reality that you might leave without more flexibility sets in, you will be pleasantly surprised how fast your negotiation restarts. Be patient, and emphasize that even though you will not be physically in the office a couple of days a week, you will still get your work done. And set a review date in six months to sit down and review how your new arrangement is working.

Too Valuable to Be Flexible [Management Issues]

Held Too Many Jobs? Adjust Your Resume

Several years ago, a Business Week cover story on "The New Job Market" included a striking illustration. A pair of fictional resumes appeared side by side. One, "Lawrence Ladderclimber," embodied the old, purportedly outdated approach of spending one's whole career with a single (preferably large and paternalistic) employer. The other, which the magazine presented as a career path in tune with the modern era, bore the title, "Jennifer Jobhopper."

It's true that frequent job changes are less of a liability today than they were in, say, 1975. But on balance, "job hopper" still has negative connotations. So if you've held five jobs in eight years, it makes sense to consider some resume tweaks.

A recent Wall Street Journal CareerJournal column by Dana Mattioli provides some worthwhile tips. Among them:

- Place a "tailored summary statement" at the top of your resume. This lets you "guide the recruiter through the document and influence how they interpret your job changes," Mattioli writes. A good first sentence would state your years of experience in a broad field, such as marketing, and then list a few related areas of specific expertise.

- Lump together any employers that proceeded your three or four most recent ones, into a "summary of previous employment" section that lists just a single start and end date for the entire period. Within that section, limit each job to the company name, title and a one- or two-sentence description.

- To create coherence, the column explains how to make your job changes tell a story of career advancement:

You may have to leave out positions that don't relate to the direction you're going in or are "too distracting," says Marci Alboher, author of One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success. If you've had jobs across different industries, focus on the connections between them, she says.

Try to show progression and that you've taken on increasing levels of responsibility with each jump.

- If you were downsized or merged out of a job, your resume can be worded to make clear your move wasn't voluntary. (Of course, that can raise issues too.) One expert quoted in the article recommends listing the current name for a merged former employer, and stating the pre-merger name ("formerly ABC Company") in brackets to the right.

Other suggestions include leaving out months from your job chronology, placing dates at the right of the resume where they're likely to get less attention, and using a "hybrid" resume format instead of the traditional chronological one.

Tips for Creating a Resume That Downplays Job Hopping [CareerJournal]