Tips for Mentoring Young Accounting Professionals

 

My alma mater, the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) recently announced a mentoring program and I jumped at the opportunity to participate.

It paired alumni with accounting majors still in college. The great thing about this program is that it is a nine-month program instead of a one-shot deal. So, I met monthly with my mentee – Kamille Fajardo, a junior accounting major at UIC, throughout the past year.

Although the focus is a little different from mentoring programs offered by CPA firms to their young, full-time staff, the approach taken and the topics addressed are quite relevant and applicable.

Early sessions
I defined what mentoring is and how it can help her. I promised that our sessions would be 100% confidential and told her that the best way to benefit from our relationship is to be totally honest, open and candid with me. I asked her what she would like to get out of our time together, implored her to be curious. I explained my background to her. We agreed how often to meet, for how long, best location and always ended each session by scheduling at least two meetings in advance.

I learned as much as I could about her:
We discussed Kamille’s background and I reviewed her resume. She told me the courses she had completed. I asked her why she chose accounting. We reviewed her personal and professional goals, including whether or not she was interested in working at a CPA firm or in industry upon graduation.

Every session I asked:
What would you like to talk about? How is school going? What courses are you taking and do you like them? What worries you? What are you curious about? How can I help you? How is the job going in terms of feedback, the work you are assigned, relationships with supervisors and co-workers? (I helped her get an internship with a client of mine).

Agenda items throughout the year:
We discussed the keys for  young staff people to be successful at CPA firms; how to advance, how CPA firms work. I defined the various CPA firm services. We discussed ethical issues that CPAs face. I helped her improve her present resume. We reviewed the results of a forum I convened of 16 young staff from local Chicago CPA firms, who talked about the firms they work for, what they like and dislike about their jobs, etc. I coached her how to interview for a job.

I arranged for Karin Knoerr, partner at The Hechtman Group, to administer a personality profile test called the Culture Index and analyze the results in a one hour meeting with Kamille.

Kamille asked me for help in finding an internship with a local CPA firm she could work at while attending school full time. One of my oldest clients, Jesser and Ravid, hired her for the tax season and it worked out great. They have hired her for the summer as well.

Obviously, everyone must develop their own style and approach. But CPAs who are passionate about mentoring can make an enormous impact on young staff. It was an eye-opening experience for me to get to know Kamille and discover what a wonderful young lady she is.  Our monograph How CPA Firms Work: The Business of Public Accounting is the industry’s most popular resource for educating young professional staff in the workings of a typical CPA firm.

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Marc Rosenberg is a nationally known consultant, author and speaker on CPA firm management, strategy and partner issues. President of his own Chicago-based consulting firm, The Rosenberg Associates, he is founder of the most authoritative annual survey of mid-sized CPA firm performance statistics in the country, The Rosenberg Survey. He has consulted with hundreds of firms throughout his 20+ year consulting career. He shares his expertise regularly on The Marc Rosenberg Blog.

Posted on Thursday Jul 23
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