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
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
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.