Informational Career Q’s

by Cathy on 05/25/2014

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Just a week ago, a prospective accounting student from the University of Washington e-mailed me with questions regarding my field working as a bookkeeper and analyst. It’s a little strange to acknowledge that you’ve been in the field long enough to give a little narrative on experience, since I was asking these questions just a few years ago. Responding to her questions reminded me of all of the questions I had when I first went into the field, which I initially thought was a cube with a massive pile of paperwork. (It doesn’t have to be!)

Even at the Five Year mark, I still have tons of questions.

Never be afraid to ask!

  1. I saw on LinkedIn that your current position is a bookkeeper. What is your work like?My current position is bookkeeper and office manager for an architecture firm in Seattle, which includes a small store and gallery. My work consists of full-cycle bookkeeping: A/R, A/P, payroll, insurance, banking, all account reconciliations, and supply checks. My office has a very manageable volume, and I always have access to a CPA when questions arise so it’s hard to fall back on work. Unlike other offices, I would say that my position is dynamic because it encompasses retail, billable service hours, and non-profit accounting, which is all part of the same entity.
  2. Can you also tell me a little bit about your experiences of working as an accountant? 

    My accounting work started in A/R (billing and collections) due to the firm being somewhat understaffed at the time. I was given the job because I had taken accounting classes, and realized that I enjoyed accounting very much. This was during my first or second year of college. Prior to my current job, I also performed analysis (cash/ exp/ rev) and tax for a small marketing firm.

  3. What do you like most and least about your about the position? 

    Bookkeeping is pretty easy if you know your accounting principles and GAAP procedures, but sometimes, there are complications. Areas that I struggle with usually involve tax law, misinformation from vendors/ customers/ staff/ owners, and volume of work that accumulates during the busy season. Also, if you make an incorrect journal entry and need to make an adjustment, never be afraid to let your boss or the CPA know because you don’t know if they’re making decisions based upon your past entries. It will be harder to rectify down the line.

  4. What skills, abilities,and personal qualities are most important to succeed in your work? 

    Being stern but tactful is very important for the job. Items that are intuitive to you won’t be for those outside of your department. There will be multiple questions everyday, so never be afraid to ask! You need to emphasize deadlines (e.g. B&O tax, the net of an invoice, end-of-the-week timesheets) to your staff and principals. Collections from customers who are struggling to pay or contacting a vendor who has erred on your invoice requires patience.If they can’t pay, send it to collections. If a vendor made a mistake on your invoice, don’t pay the bill, but avoid second guessing your educated decisions.It’s important to note that there is no such thing as too much accounting knowledge – stay curious. Even if you specialize in, say, A/R, try to understand tax as much as possible too. You never know when you will need to address it.

  5. What advice would you give to someone still in college, aspiring to a career in your field? 
    Network, network, network, and be sure to show gratitude to your connections who have helped you! If you make smart and ambitious friends who you consider professionally ethical and good at their work, you will never be unemployed. I think the longest I have gone without employment was two weeks between jobs. A colleague would always come through and refer my services to a new firm or client, but blind prospecting rarely occurred (Seattle is very small!)Over time, narrow your prospective industries and specialty. Do you want to specialize in long-term assets? Do you like A/P more? Is working in the tech industry your dream? What is your ideal company size and culture? These types of questions are important to evaluate and develop. Specializing will maximize your employment potential, especially at the 5 – 10 years of experience mark. You will like your job more too if you enjoy the industry 🙂