A few weeks ago, I spoke with the members of the NYSSCPA's Manhattan/Bronx Chapter about "Chatting with a Purpose". The NYSSCPA is doing great work helping new CPAs and those on the path to becoming a CPA prepare for the workplace. Before holding the NextGen Accounting Career Fair, the NextGen committee holds several sessions on networking and resume preparation to ensure that CPAs are ready to navigate the process of finding and successfully applying for a job.
My particular session focused on making contacts and turning those contacts into relationships. There were two aspects to this conversation. The first is how to take relationships from the virtual to the actual. The second was how to navigate the process of meeting people in person and establishing productive relationships.
Now, I am a big champion of social media, including Facebook, everyone's punching bag. I have been fortunate to travel and meet people from all over the world. I have found social media a very effective way to keep in touch. In recent years, I have become more active on other social media platforms and I have worked to balance the pros and cons in order to leverage social media in positive and productive ways. With NextGen CPAs, however, social media is hardly the challenge. Connecting and communicating in virtual realms tends to be the default of our modern age. The real challenge is translating interactions on social media into real world relationships and we had a great discussion about how to make this happen.
A second challenge for many of us is how to find ways to meet people, talk to people and turn those first conversations into something that lasts longer than that moment. There are many things that people struggle with, for instance:
Following Chatting with a Purpose, the NYSSCPA hosted a cocktail hour where we all practised the skills we had been discussing.
Careers are not solely about becoming qualified and being knowledgeable. A very important aspect of a successful career is the relationships a person establishes and maintains, not only virtually but also in real and tangible ways.
In 1987, the New York State Society of CPAs (NYSSCPA) developed the Career Opportunities in the Accounting Profession (COAP) program to "expose promising, underrepresented minority high school juniors to accounting and business careers." In addition to the exposure to the career options, the NYSSCPA seeks to support minority students and inspire them to pursue the CPA license. For the past two years, I have spoken with a group of these juniors at St. John's University in Queens, New York about career options in forensic accounting.
I and 32 students from all over New York City discussed forensic accounting as a possible career path that a CPA can follow. Despite the endless law and crime shows on television, including shows that focus on forensic work, there is very little mention of forensic accountants. So, my challenge was to give the juniors an idea of what a forensic accountant is and some of the work that a forensic CPA might engage in.
I approached my COAP session with a mix of nerves and excitement. I do get nervous, and a touch fearful, at the though of standing before 32 teenagers. I want to be able to hold their attention enough so they can learn the value of the CPA license and the many places, professionally, the CPA designation can take them. I know when they are not interested in what I have to say - teenagers tend to be people who will not pretend to be interested if they are not. Because I feel strongly about the information I am sharing, I want to be sure they are listening.
After covering the basics of what forensic accounting means, with the help of references to popular culture, we moved on to an interactive discussion on interviewing as part of a financial forensics investigation. The students learned that there is more to forensic accounting than looking at numbers; an understanding of the business and interactions with those in the workplace are vital parts of an investigation.
We closed out the session with an interactive, and enjoyable, case study where three students volunteered to play roles in using interviewing skills in order to solve a theft. The class was very responsive and asked thoughtful questions that expanded the scope of our conversation. This is when I get very excited. I am inspired by the interest and passion with which the juniors participate during the COAP session. Every student that I spoke with is thinking about their future and options and they are intrigued by the new career paths that they discover during the COAP session.
Recently I attended my college reunion at Mount Holyoke College and a current student asked me what a CPA is. I also have countless stories, as do fellow CPAs, about fiends and family who believe that the sole and core skill of a CPA is tax preparation. I welcome the opportunity to let young people, especially those who are underrepresented in the profession, know that there are a myriad of career options that open up with the CPA credential. Knowledge is power and I am always honored to be able to share with people planning their futures and let them know that they have access to the support and encouragement provided by our State Society.