January 26, 2010
By Krista Wells, Ph.D.
I recently heard that you can determine someone’s future career by looking at their favorite board game as a kid. Well, sure enough, Sue, a Massachusetts Marine wife and accountant, said her favorite game as a kid was -- you guessed it -- Monopoly! Sue says accounting just isn’t one of those career fields that you “grow to like.” It’s “a mindset/lifestyle of left-brained people!” And she knew from an early age that she had an exacting eye, strict attention to detail, and a love of numbers.
Anna, an Air Force wife, agrees and admits she too enjoyed playing with money as a kid ... earning it, saving it, organizing it and dreaming about how she’d one day spend it.
These spouses obtained their bachelor’s in Business Administration and concentrated on finance. Anna recognized her strength in math, and feels that she lucked out with the career’s portability, flexibility, and business opportunities. She explained that bookkeeping is flexible because jobs don’t generally don’t require licensing exams and state-to-state tax laws are usually similar. It is simply a matter of contacting the local city and state departments to learn about any different requirements or procedures for filing monthly, quarterly and annual taxes.
Sue equates landing her accounting position at a prominent New England university with her ability to analyze concrete data and trends as well as her passion for continued growth and development. Even though she doesn’t have a formal CPA license she feels her skill set makes her very employable.
Anna feels she has career stability as well. She is not only qualified to take a bookkeeping job but has learned transferable skills that qualify her to be a small business owner, insurance producer, manager, or project manager.
Spouses in this field agree that it is hard to juggle a formal career with a husband who is frequently gone due to TDY's and deployments, but you can make it happen. For Anna, family plays a big role in the way she designs her career/life planning. She is committed to working only for companies where she experiences shared values, and she hopes to pursue more entrepreneurial ventures. Keep your eye out for her future publications on financial coaching. With two kids (almost 3 and 6 years old), Sue craves work–life balance and feels that her job’s flexibility is a must.
“When my husband is deployed and the kids are sick, I have the option to work from home, and with this job I can!” she said.
Sue’s long-term career vision is to continue thriving professionally, continuously seeking business process improvements. She hopes to stay in the accounting/finance field and not only do the work but begin fostering growth in junior-level employees.
Tips from our bookkeepers…
Get Your Foot In the Door:
There are always ways to build your innate skills through volunteering. When Annalived in Korea, her base brought in tax specialists to teach tax laws and tips on how to file personal taxes, and spouses who were interested could volunteer to help military families complete their taxes. Sara, an Army reserve spouse, and now accountant currently working at a midsized company, recommends getting an entry-level job in data entry or bank reconciliations and networking with more seasoned accountants as you transition into higher level jobs.
Knocking On Other Doors:
Before embarking on a formal finance degree, spouses in the field recommend conducting a few informational interviews with accountants. Ask one if you can shadow them for the workday. Also consider taking a basic accounting class offered at local community colleges or even organizations like the Small Business Administration (SBA) to determine whether crunching numbers comes easily to you.
Anna started out as a temp in a financial company that managed several businesses funds, and networked her way up to a higher level bookkeeping jobs, and eventually opened her own business. Sue started out as an Assistant Accountant, and then moved up to Accountant and is now a Senior Accountant.
“It takes time, but you get there!” she said.
Sue suggests obtaining a formal degree and seeking internships in public accounting to secure basic knowledge of GAAP principles (Accounting’s rules). In addition she independently seeks business knowledge in areas such diversity, community outreach, work–life balance, and networks with other female entrepreneurs. She finds authentic networking to be emotionally supportive.
Keep Your Foot In the Door:
Anna has made it a habit to network with CPAs in case she has a work question. She also keeps her skills fresh by signing up for her state department’s tax update newsletter and taking classes on subjects that interest her. Sue is lucky that her university offers in-house training courses and professional development initiatives that include six months of career coaching and presentation skill improvement. Trust is an important value for those who want to get and keep accounting jobs. Anna concludes that strong referrals and networking are vital in this field and that while math skills are essential, so are people skills. Becoming insured and bonded gives business owners added security and allows easier marketability of accounting services. Building relationships is vital to both landing bookkeeping jobs and attracting clients if you go into business for yourself.
- Careers In Accounting: www.careers-in-accounting.com
- American Accounting Associaiton: www.aaahq.org
- Computerized accounting training: www.education4military.com/accounting
- Online QuickBooks: www.quickbooksonline.intuit.com
- Small Business Development Center (SBDC)
- SCORE (www.score.org)
- American Collectors Association (debt collector, accounting clerk): www.collector.com