By Kathleen Hoffelder
Whether a student is looking for a way to begin a new accounting career or a working professional has their eyes on a coveted chief financial officer job, a former managing partner in the KPMG Philadelphi office, Jerry Maginnis, CPA, has the inside tips and hands-on know-how to make those dreams a reality. His new book, Advice for a Successful Career in the Accounting Profession: How to Make Your Assets Greatly Exceed Your Liabilities, published by Wiley, sheds light on how to be successful at all levels within an accounting career — something that’s not readily discussed in the classroom.
The book, which took Maginnis about three years to write, was never a financial endeavor — it simply was meant to educate and pass on advice to those around him. “I’ve had many conversations with students at Rowan University about their future aspirations, such as ‘How do I get that first internship?’ or ‘Should I take the CPA Exam?’” he explained. “It’s great if I can help point a couple of these kids in the right direction, but is there a way to capture some of this advice I’m sharing with them and share it more broadly?” he asked himself before writing the book.
“Every student is unique, and you try and help them,” said Maginnis. “Through mentoring, teaching and coaching, I have had hundreds of interactions with young professionals. My motivation was basically to help that next generation of CPAs at the end of the day.”
Lessons to pass on
With key takeaways in every chapter, readers learn practical tips about the accounting profession from the reasons why one should enter in the first place to what benefits it can provide over a lifetime. Section one of the book focuses on college and high school students who may still be investigating the profession, while the second section discusses issues, challenges and opportunities for early career professionals in need of some fundamental lessons.
The third section of the book applies broadly to anyone in accounting who may be looking to advance or switch careers. The chapters include how to make the best career decisions at every level and how to avoid burnout. “Many folks change jobs for different reasons,” Maginnis noted, and the book walks the reader through what to expect in those situations. “Change has always been a constant, and you need to be able to adapt to that change. The pace of change is accelerating, but don’t be afraid of it — it can actually be your friend.”
Throughout the book, Maginnis also explains the commonly held perceptions that may be keeping one from a career in accounting. The following are some of the myths sprinkled throughout the book as well as a reality check on what the truth is:
- The CPA Exam is too hard and not worth the time and money. As Maginnis explains, more than a half a million people have taken and passed the CPA Exam. There are costs involved, but from an ROI standpoint, a person will certainly make that money back hundreds of times over the course of their career, he explains.
- I don’t want to go into public accounting due to the crazy hours. There's always talk going around about the long hours professionals often work in accounting, but work/life balance is possible. Yes, there’s a busy season, he said, but it’s not all the time. Employers have gotten a lot better at compensating for that busy season with time off and other considerations.
- Accountants are introverts. Forget the stereotypes, according to Maginnis. There are many dynamic, funny, friendly, outgoing and charismatic accountants.
Technical knowledge as well as having a commitment to staying current, a value creation mindset and ability to build and maintain relationships is critical to success, said Maginnis. He also advises to ask for feedback and listen carefully. A second edition of the book could be a possibility in the future, he added.
Jerry Maginnis, CPA, is an executive in residence at Rowan University. Previously, he spent 36 years with KPMG in Philadelphia, serving as managing partner from 2006 through 2015.
Kathleen Hoffelder is senior content editor at the New Jersey Society of CPAs.