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You may have graduated, but your graduation is just beginning

By: Robert Half

Robert Half, CPA and founder of Robert Half International, Inc., a financial and data processing recruitment firm with offices on three continents.

Someone once said that the secret of success is "showing up."

There's a certain truth to this flippant wisdom. However, I prefer to view success as a matter of learning what opportunities are available and then acting upon them.

After four or more years of rigorous studies, college graduates are usually relieved to have it behind them. They look forward to launching their accounting careers in "the real world," which is certainly understandable.
But the minute we decide we don't need to continue learning, we set ourselves up for a backward slide that can negatively impact our long-range career goals.

As we all know (parents of college students certainly do), a formal education costs money. Even when employers help employees pay tuition costs for continuing education, we still have to come up with some of our own hard-earned money to meet the expenses. Still, if there is any more worthwhile investment, I'm at a loss to identify it.
Each of us is the commodity, or stock, or bond with the greatest upside potential. But our accumulation of knowledge doesn't stop with graduation. While we learn many useful things on the job, we have a parallel obligation to broaden our horizons, and to become versed in a wider variety of subjects than our current professional responsibilities provide.

We live in what's called the "information age." If we are to successfully navigate the years ahead, we must embrace information technology. Computers are an integral part of the accounting profession. As new accounting software becomes available, and Internet opportunities grow, we will be expected to have a commitment to continuing education.

While we have the obligation to continually upgrade our professional skills, we have an additional responsibility to broaden our general knowledge. In college, we often hear of the need to become well-rounded. That need doesn't end once our degrees are bestowed upon us, and we enter the workplace. The most successful people I know look beyond the horizon of their narrowly-focused professional obligations. they meld an appreciation of art and music, science and social sciences into their busy careers. This not only enriches them as human beings, it simultaneously enhances their careers. They are more at ease with clients whose interests are diverse, and they carry themselves with increased confidence.

Our government is again recognizing the need for employees to receive continuing education. At the end of 1994, legislation providing for $5,250 in employer-provided educational assistance to be excluded from an employee's taxable income, ended. New legislation is now in the works to reinstate this employee benefit.

But it shouldn't take political action to encourage ongoing learning. What it takes is personal commitment to weave education into our lives, and budgets. We save for many things. Education should head the list.
Start what might be called an education savings account. Fund it regularly, and use it to add to your professional skills, and your general knowledge. Become a better speaker and writer. Take a computer course. Learn how our government really operates, and how it creates laws that dominate our tax structure. Garner insight into art and music.

Simply put, keep learning.

You may have graduated, but your graduation is just beginning.

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