New staff accountants have many challenges including learning technical skills, getting up to speed on software, meeting new people and discovering all the little things you need to know to get your work done at a new firm. A formal onboarding process addresses most of these areas. But, there is one challenge that is difficult to address in orientation.
In most CPA firms, new staff work for a variety of bosses. This model allows staff to experience a variety of clients, technical areas, teaching styles and career paths. These experiences help staff grow and develop into a well rounded CPA.
Along with the benefits, multiple bosses can create challenges for new staff. Personality differences, changing expectations and conflicting deadlines can be difficult to manage.
At Jones & Roth, new staff have a Work Buddy, Career Coach and Mentor to help maneuver through the challenges. Here are some of the tips that we use to help our new staff.
- Build Relationships. When you first work with a new person, take a little time to get to know them and tell them about yourself. How do you learn? What is their area of expertise? Share your prior work experience. Ask about their career. Scheduling conflicts, constructive criticism and learning a technical issue is easier when you have found some common ground and built mutual respect.
- Clarify Expectations. If you don't understand what is expected, ask. If you are making an assumption, share it. Here are some common problem areas to address:
- Deadlines and priorities
- Work product (specific areas of responsibility)
- Who to ask for help
- How to ask for help (emails, face to face, etc.)
- When to ask for help (as questions arise, compile a list, etc)
- Communicate Frequently. Keep up the conversation. Regular check in meetings go a long way in addressing problems, learning about work styles and building a team. If something isn't working, be willing to talk about it. Share your concerns with your supervisors, or if that is uncomfortable, talk with your work buddy, mentor or coach. Don't remain silent - this is your career.
- Keep Your Schedule Current. Manage your assignments. Keep your schedule current with changes you know about and talk to your supervisor at check in meetings about bottlenecks or conflicts. Staff and Managers share the responsibility for keeping the information accurate.
- Be Positive. Supervisors love to work with staff that are positive, want to learn and are willing to listen. Smile. Show you're excited to be here. Be someone people want to be around.
Embrace the challenge and take the opportunity to learn from everyone around you. You'll be a stronger staff accountant!
Bruce Tulgan's article (see link below) provides more perspective about working with multiple bosses.
Bruce Tulgan - Helping Young People Deal with the "Multiple Boss Problem"