It’s no secret that CPAs can work some crazy hours sometimes. It’s a client-service business after all, and if the client needs you to work—you work. But as with any profession, the expectations and the demands vary from employer to employer. Here, four CPAs offer tips on getting the life you want while still having a career.
Pay your dues up front
If you want to work for a major company or firm and rise up the ranks, you’ll have to prove yourself right out of the gate. “At the beginning, there’s a lot of things that you’re kind of surprised about: ‘Wow, this is kind of complicated, or this is a little bit harder than I thought, or, wow, I am working pretty hard,’” says CPA Brad Schultz. But if you do it all with a positive attitude, your hard work will not go unnoticed. “It’ll really pay off later on,” he says.
Choose your firm or company wisely
Every organization operates differently. So before you take a job, make sure the company shares your values. “Feel out the firm before you join it,” says CPA Monica Lawver. “Talk with staff and find out if work/life balance is really a priority. If something comes up, does the manager work with you? Or do they just crack the whip?” Turn the job down if you don’t think it’ll be a good lifestyle fit.
Take the good with the bad
Are you really working too much? Only you can be the judge. But before you jump ship too soon, realize that many firms will compensate you for those 60-hour weeks you work during busy season. Senior Accountant Carman Smith’s firm, Mitchell, Wiggins & Company, compensates her with extra time off—sometimes paid. “In addition to the standard two weeks of vacation per year, I usually receive an additional four weeks of vacation to take outside of busy season from the overtime I’ve worked,” she says.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want
Once you establish yourself as a valuable employee, let your manager know if you’re looking for more work/life flexibility. “I currently work alongside a number of successful leaders and staff in our firm that are under flexible schedule arrangements to help accommodate family and other interests,” says Ben Ellingson, Senior Manager at Eide Bailly LLP. Most firms out there understand that you are a human as well as a CPA.
And oh yeah, this will all be easier if you’re licensed
After a while, you might find your CPA license comes with more perks than you expected, says Ellingson. “The good news is that, as a CPA, you will have credentials that designate you as a knowledgeable professional who can manage their own schedule and workload.” Good news, indeed.
See what it takes, and why it’s worth it to become a CPA.