Volunteering: An Important Step in Growing Your Career
By David Jensen, CPA
Carr, Riggs & Ingram, LLC
Volunteering your accounting skills is a great opportunity for young CPAs. As accounting and tax professionals, we have a unique set of skills to offer. Many new businesses and small not-for-profit organizations have limited resources and need help with tasks such as bookkeeping, internal controls, reporting and compliance. Often, these entities are being run by a limited staff with no formal accounting experience. By volunteering your time, you have an opportunity to support an organization you believe in while gaining experience and growing your professional network.
The relationship between you and the organization you help should be mutually beneficial. You offer valuable skills to an organization in need, while they offer you an opportunity to learn new skills and explore new areas of interest. There are thousands of not-for-profits that can provide learning opportunities to young CPAs. The field is broad and the issues can be complex.
Alternatively, if you wish to gain experience in a for-profit industry, you could seek out start-ups. Many start-ups are run by people with little or no accounting experience. Limited cash flow often impedes owners from hiring qualified staff. Be patient when reaching out to organizations to ensure both parties can meet each other’s needs. When meeting with potential organizations, be sure your responsibilities are clearly defined. It is okay to take on a challenge, but if you are unable to fulfill your duties, you are doing yourself and the entity a disservice.
Volunteering provides an opportunity to grow your professional network. Developing a good reputation and being active in the community is important for a young professional. As someone providing a valuable service, other members of the business or organization will appreciate your help, and will remember your contribution. If you work in public accounting, this can be a valuable step towards building a client base. Leaders of the organization can also be valuable references when job hunting.
In many ways, volunteering is like an internship. It is a way to get new experience and make connections. It isn’t a full-time commitment and the position won’t last forever. Eventually you will move on, taking your new skills with you. It is possible that a volunteer position could turn into a paid full-time position, but more likely it will be at another organization that needs your unique set of skills. In either case, take pride in the fact that you have put your abilities to good use and perhaps furthered a cause you support.