If you’re an accounting or law student considering a career in tax, you no doubt anticipate a big difference between life on campus and work in the ‘real world’.
You know there’ll be a change from focusing on theory to applying your expertise pragmatically in the context of diverse client challenges.
So how can you ensure the transition from life as a full-time student to that of a full-time tax professional is as easy and pain-free as possible?
Here are a few suggestions.
Your first job is a key step in shaping your career. Each new experience will offer an opportunity to learn, build practical skills, establish rapport with team members and expand your taxation knowledge.
So try to pick up as much information as you can by asking questions and seeking assistance as you need it. You’ll find that most of your new colleagues will be happy to help. They’ll prefer you learn the right way at the beginning, rather than fix problems later.
In many graduate or entry-level roles, you’re likely to be given a variety of tasks.
These might range from research and administration through to practical activities like preparing tax returns and business statements. At the same time, you may receive formal training, workplace mentoring or coaching by senior staff, as well as opportunities to attend client meetings and industry events.
These all represent a chance to establish a firm grounding in best practices for preparing work, building communication skills and understanding business etiquette and due diligence.
Learning to work and working to learn
In the early stages of a new job, you’ll be proving your worth to your new organisation. So prepare carefully, adhere to processes and ask questions if you’re not sure about something.
You’ll be learning to function as part of a team. It helps to be flexible and to see your colleagues and your manager as your partners in achieving a common goal.
Don’t despair if the work doesn't initially meet your expectations – for example, it may not be as challenging as you’d like. The sooner you learn all about the company’s clients and business, the faster you’ll be considered for advancement.
In particular, when you have the chance to attend meetings, use these experiences to learn from your colleagues. Observe how they explain issues to clients, manage expectations, set clients at ease and solve problems.
Updating your knowledge
To distinguish yourself from others in your field and ensure your career progression, it’s important to maintain a solid technical base and knowledge of tax law.
On-the-job training – and formal development programs offered by The Tax Institute and other professional bodies – are invaluable. Tax is a specialist area that’s subject to continual changes in law and practice, so continuous reading is also required to stay up to date.
Transitioning successfully from university life to the workplace is all about being prepared, taking time to understand the experiences of others in the profession, getting to know more about your organisation and your clients, and approaching every task as a learning opportunity.