Tuesday 29 November 2016

Tips for professional email

As you embark on your career as a tax practitioner, you only ever have one chance to make a great first impression with each prospective employer, client or other stakeholder.

If that chance happens to be via email, it’s useful to know how to correspond in a professional manner.

Particularly when applying for a job, a work experience opportunity or a position in a graduate program, your initial contact probably will be by email. Your initial application, cover letter and any associated requests will be in writing and will be delivered to the hiring manager’s inbox.

To smarten up your email correspondence, consider these suggestions:


  • Use the subject field to clearly summarise the contents of your email message: This helps the recipient to categorise your email immediately. Many people won’t even open an email that has an ambiguous subject line.
  • Open and sign-off formally: Err on the side of formal rather than casual or familiar. If addressing an employer called Michael Chen, best not to open with ‘Hey Mike’. Better to begin with ‘Dear Mr Chen’ and end with ‘Sincerely’ or ‘Kind regards’. The reply (usually less formal) will indicate the level of engagement the recipient prefers. Try to avoid going below that level.
  • Start a new paragraph for each new idea or action item: Each paragraph need only be one or two sentences long and should serve a purpose. In fact, the entire message should be as concise as possible. Even if the recipient only scans the email, they should clearly understand who you are and what you want.
  • Check your email before sending it: Make sure your spelling, punctuation and grammar are acceptable, and that any attachments mentioned are actually attached. You may even want to read the email aloud before sending to ensure it makes sense.
  • Use an email signature block: Even a basic signature that includes your contact details looks more professional than none. It helps the recipient to have your contact details at the ready.


  • Use an email address that may reflect badly on you: Remember that email address you had when you were 15 – perhaps skaterboy007@hotmail.com or pinksunset14@yahoo.com? Best not to use it for professional correspondence.
  • Use emoticons, slang or curse words: Even if you know the recipient well, the email may be forwarded to others who don’t know you.
  • Forget why you’re sending the email: The email has a purpose. Make sure everything in it serves that purpose, whether it’s supporting your application for a position or trying to elicit a specific answer to a question.
  • Pester the recipient: Just because an email is easy to send doesn’t mean you should repeatedly ask for updates. If you’re concerned at the lack of response – especially if the recipient said they’d get back to you by a certain time – pick up the phone and call them. If the recipient is unavailable, you may be able to speak with someone else.

Learning to use email in a professional manner will serve you well beyond the application stage.

Developing good habits now will help you communicate with clients and colleagues in a more effective way for years to come.

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Tuesday 22 November 2016

Accepting a job offer - what you need to consider

Congratulations! You've received a formal offer for a job.

Before you sign on the dotted line, however, take a moment to assess what you're getting yourself into.

Most people react to a job offer by accepting immediately – they’re so relieved to put the hard work of applications and interviews behind them. But don’t allow the excitement of the occasion cloud your judgement about whether the role is ultimately the right one for you.

Here are some questions you should answer first:

1. Do you want the job?

If the position offered is your dream job, this question may be moot. But it’s worth considering any reservations you may have about accepting a less-than-perfect role.

If the job description causes you to hesitate, consider other factors:

  • People and culture: Do you think you’ll get along with, and learn from, your new colleagues and boss? Will the organisation’s culture suit you? Will you feel comfortable there?
  • Position and expectations: Do you anticipate the role will be interesting, or will it lead to more interesting positions down the track? Will you be able to perform to the standard the organisation expects? Is that standard realistic?
  • Pay and benefits: Is the pay fair? If the pay is mediocre, are there other benefits that offset a lower remuneration? Will the organisation invest in you in other ways – through, for example, further training?

2. Under what conditions should you accept the job?

Still hesitating? Weigh up the opportunity cost of taking this job (which may mean you miss a chance at others) versus the possibility that a little sacrifice now could lead to genuine opportunities to progress in the near future.

Don’t be afraid to speak with the organisation about your concerns – the hiring manager clearly likes you enough to make an offer. If you haven’t raised issues such as pay and benefits, you can use this opportunity to negotiate such variables, or to secure a career pathway.

3. What’s in the contract?

Make sure you understand the terms of the contract. If you don't, ask your prospective employer for clarification. Also check that anything you've negotiated verbally has made it into print.

Be practical when you receive a job offer and treat it in a business-like way. Employment is, after all, a major part of your life. Only when you’re satisfied that you've made the right decision to accept should you pop the bubbly and celebrate.

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Friday 11 November 2016

Preparing for your job interview

So, your initial job application has succeeded and you've scored the important first interview.

If you’re unsure what to expect now, don’t panic. Here are some tried and tested techniques to help you nail the interview process and embark on the first step in your tax career.

Do your research

Apply your well-honed research skills and check out the organisation you’re meeting with.

Beginning with its company website, learn about the services it offers, the specific areas it operates in and who its clients are. Many corporate websites also have FAQs in the ‘Careers’ section.

You can even get some background information on the person you’ll be meeting with, by looking up their personal profile on the company website and on LinkedIn. This will help put you at ease and will demonstrate your genuine interest in the organisation during the interview.

Understand what they’re looking for

Go back and read the advertisement for the position you applied for. Make sure you have a good understanding of what the role entails and the key skills the organisation is looking for.

This will help you to prepare answers to potential questions – and identify queries of your own.

Brush up on industry news

At your interview, be prepared to show your knowledge of current business, industry and social issues that might impact your work.

Again, this will demonstrate your interest in the position and the sector – and can set you apart from other candidates.

Know yourself

If you're able to clearly explain what you’re looking for in a role and you’re confident in your strengths, you're bound to make a good impression.

Run through your resume and practice describing your long-term career goals and areas of interest.

Try to come up with specific examples, such as work experience you've done or industry events you've attended, to show your passion for the industry.

If you can highlight what you've learnt from these experiences, you’ll come across as confident, motivated and keen to learn.

Questions and answers

Preparing and rehearsing your answers to common questions will help you at your interview, in case nerves kick in or you’re not sure what to say. If you've already thought about your answers, you’ll always have a good fall-back response.

At the same time, remember that you’re also trying to find a job that’s a good match for you. Develop three to five questions you can ask the interview panel about the workplace culture, training and career opportunities and the type of person they want to hire. Then, on the day, be open and honest about yourself to ensure the job you land is the right fit, for both your personality and your goals.

Preparing well for your interview and putting your research ability, industry knowledge and people skills to work will help you to make a good impression on the day.
Good luck!

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Wednesday 2 November 2016

Understanding the roles in the tax profession

What role within the tax profession could be right for you?

The profession in Australia is broad. Its members work to ensure the tax system serves the needs of individuals, businesses and governments.

Although many tax professionals wear more than one hat, there are five main roles:

  1. Accountants
  2. Lawyers (solicitors)
  3. Analysts/economists
  4. Policy developers/advisers
  5. Tax agents/advisers.

Of these, accountants are the biggest group with 188,100 registered in Australia in 2015, according the Australian Government’s Job Outlook.

Are you a future tax accountant?

Accountants work with clients to plan and develop financial systems, and advise on record keeping and compliance, including tax obligations.

The skills you need to be a good accountant are active listening to best serve your clients, an ability to use systems and maths to solve problems, and critical thinking to evaluate issues and propose solutions.

Are you a future tax lawyer/solicitor?

Solicitors are legal advisors who prepare legal documents and negotiate on behalf of clients in matters related to the law.

In addition to the skills required of accountants, solicitors are expected to have complex problem-solving skills and the ability to exercise a high level of judgement and decision-making.

Are you a future tax policy analyst?

Government policy analysts and advisers collect and analyse information to inform and develop policy that will, in turn, affect government/commercial operations and programs.

To do well at this role, you’ll need to have solid research and critical thinking skills, and the ability to solve complex problems, evaluate systems and communicate findings and recommendations.

This role is generally not for graduates; most graduates will support the activities in these professionals in an administrative capacity before moving into this position.

If you’re intelligent and can solve complex problems, are comfortable performing technical calculations and keeping up with legislation changes, the tax industry wants you for a stable, well-paid career.

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