Understandably, as newly minted ac-
countants, we are all focused on the dif-
ficult technical skills that are required in
our profession. Learning the technical
skills is a baseline requirement there
are no shortcuts, and mastery is criti-
cal. So many of these complex con-
cepts are learned on the job, requiring
long hours and intense concentration.
In addition, many are studying for the
CPA Exam or other national certifica-
tions. It makes sense, then, that for
most just beginning their career, work-
ing on the softer skills such as per-
sonal development is farther down the
list, or not even on the list at all. I hope
this article will help shift your thinking
to consider the nontechnical skills that
can make you an even greater success
in your career.
Below are a few ideas for you to con-
sider in your own personal develop-
ment journey. Many of these concepts
discussed below are not new to you,
but you may believe that they can wait
until your career is more mature. My
view is that these nontechnical con-
cepts should be woven into your pro-
fessional development contemporane-
ously with technical skills very early in
Learn effective written and
oral communication skills.
I have heard it over and over. "I ma-
jored in accounting, not English or
communications. Writing skills are for
poets and lawyers." Unfortunately, the
numbers do not speak for themselves.
Often written reports and memos must
accompany and explain the numbers,
offer opinions, or support our research
Abbreviations, incomplete sentences,
and the lack of proofreading that ac-
company email and texts have not
helped everyone's writing skills. We all
struggle with writing, myself included. It
requires intense thinking, creativity, and
mastery of basic grammar skills. Busi-
ness writing is a skill typically learned
on the job. Nevertheless, there are
some excellent resources and books
that can move you in the right direction.
Good business writing should be tar-
geted to the audience. For example,
a memo intended for a nontechnical
audience should not be strewn with jar-
gon or statutory citations.
Oral communication is also a critical
personal skill. After the initial visual
introduction, the spoken word is the
first real expression of who you are.
Accountants and tax professionals
sometimes struggle to explain a com-
plex matter to a client in a face-to-face
meeting. We may get lost in our own
detailed knowledge of the subject and
have difficulty narrowing a response to
its salient points.
Communicating complex issues to
non-finance or non-tax people is an art
that requires continuous practice. In
anticipation of a live conversation, my
suggestion is to first write down what
you will say and practice it out loud. It
would also be helpful to ask your su-
pervisor if you can lead a meeting or
explain the issue at hand to a client.
Don't be shy this is an important skill
"Work harder on yourself than you do on your job."
I wish I had heard those words during my college commencement address
or soon after beginning my first tax job. These are the words of the late,
famous business philosopher Jim Rohn. His simple message is that personal
development and self-improvement will lead to greater success than merely
learning the necessary technical skills required to perform on the job.
By Paul N. Iannone, JD, CPA, MST,
Tax Professional and Founder, Tax Career Advisor