If you’re considering a career in public accounting, you’ve probably envisioned yourself meeting with clients, chatting with co-workers, and losing yourself in a well-designed spreadsheet. But life at a CPA firm—at least at JAK + Co.—often extends beyond the office walls. This is especially true if you choose to join a professional association.
Professional associations are organizations that offer networking and professional development opportunities for professionals within a specific industry. CPAs often join associations specific to the accounting industry, such as the Minnesota Society of CPAs, and they also join those specific to their clients’ industries (for example, the Minnesota Subcontractors Association). Collectively, JAK team members are involved in more than 25 professional associations!
Professional associations can enhance your accounting career in more ways than one. Here are a few benefits of becoming a member of a professional association.
Unique opportunities for professional development
The education and professional development opportunities provided by professional associations can leave you with a well-rounded education outside of what your CPA firm can provide. Some associations will even give you a chance to earn CPE credits. (Don’t forget, CPAs need to earn a certain amount of these each year to retain their license!) Of course, participating in professional associations outside of the accounting realm will allow you to learn about different industries.
Learn from others
One of the best things you can do for your career is to find a mentor; somebody you can learn from. Typically, a professional association will set up its new members with a knowledgeable “member mentor” who can show them the ropes.
At JAK, we match junior staff who join a professional association with a JAK manager or director who is a current member. This individual will help the junior staff member understand the association’s networking process, JAK’s elevator speech, and the right questions to ask association members.
By joining a professional association, you’re likely to meet people from all walks of life—and potentially find a mentor you never thought you’d have. This could be someone who walks with you throughout your career and gives great advice or even refers clients your way.
If you stick with a professional association long enough, you’ll have the opportunity to be a mentor and share what helped you in the early stages of your career. As we like to say: The more you teach, the more you learn.
Greater knowledge to solve client problems
Being in an association allows you to share experiences and ideas with others and what has and hasn’t worked on certain projects or problems. What’s more, when you’re in an accounting-focused association, you have access to experts outside of your firm. These external perspectives can be especially valuable when you’re aiming to solve complex client issues.
Networking opportunities for recruiting and clients
Of course, one of the biggest benefits of joining a professional association is the opportunity to network. Maybe someone in the association is looking for tax preparation or financial statement preparation for their business. Perhaps someone else just bought a business and wants to get a succession plan in place. If you’re a member of their association, they’re more likely to meet—and work with—you.
This is also true for recruiting. We’ve met and recruited many a new staff members at association networking events!
Get out of your comfort zone and have fun!
Speaking of events, the ones hosted by professional associations tend to be fun. Some of our favorites have included an outing to Top Golf, clay shooting, happy hours at local breweries, and even digging with heavy equipment! Attending these events allows you to get to know other professionals on a more personal level—and to have fun while doing it.
Feel supported by your firm
At JAK, we know how important professional associations are to your career, which is why we support staff members who wish to join one. This could be anything from paying for a membership or event admission to compensating you for your time while you’re at the event.
Being involved in a professional association is also part of our personal development program; if you’re involved in an association, we ask you to write out your goals for involvement each year to provide accountability and help you make the most of it.