CPA in Under One Year? |

Passing the CPA Exam in Less Than One Year: Can It Be Done?

The CPA exam is one of the most difficult hurdles for an accountant to clear. In the following post, Lewis Daidone discusses the feasibility of setting a time limit to passing the CPA exam. Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and a consultant to financial services firms and tech companies..

The very idea that it is practical to pass the CPA exam within a year is not realistic for the majority of those taking the test. However, such things are not impossible – it’s purely a matter of dedication and time; a tremendous, almost supernatural, level of dedication and time.

Upon graduation from college, most of us don’t have the luxury of devoting 100 percent of our time to preparing for the CPA exam; there are bills to pay, jobs to seek, responsibilities to fulfill. However, if you’re determined to dedicate a year to exam prep, here are a few tips that can help you to achieve your goal.

Secure an accounting internship during the busy season.

Accounting internships are fantastic for providing you with professional skills and training, but they are also exceptional for allowing you to apply your academic knowledge to real-world situations. It’s one thing to memorize details from a book. When you’re able to actively use that information successfully, you are far more likely to hang on to that information for the long term.

Surround yourself with other ambitious future CPAs.

A little competition can go a long way. Having a peer group with the same goals will help keep you motivated during a very difficult preparation period. Moreover, working in pairs or groups can be tremendously helpful in creating new and useful study strategies. Finally, it’s good to have some interpersonal interaction during your marathon study year, since you won’t be able to afford to indulge in a normal social life!

Don’t cherry-pick your practice questions.

You might think that you’re being efficient by only tackling the most difficult prep questions, but it will behoove you to pay attention to everything. You won’t know exactly what you’ll be confronted with on exam day, so make sure you don’t have any gaps in your knowledge.

Think like a teacher.

If you had to instruct someone on these principles, how would you go about it? Don’t stop at simply knowing the information, make sure you understand it enough to actually teach it.

Don’t let failure stop you.

Believe it or not, you can actually still meet your deadline even after failing one or two parts of the exam. Just make sure you adjust your preparation according to your weaknesses, and learn from your experience.

It’s important to view this particular goal as a challenge, rather than an ironclad deadline – even if you don’t necessarily wind up passing all four parts within your established timeframe, you will have completed a considerable amount of important work. It will be extremely hard and sometimes frustrating, but if you stay focused, you will ultimately be rewarded with an extremely valuable certification!


Acing the Interview Pt. 2 |

Don’t Be Caught Off Guard – Acing Job Interview Questions Part II

In the second part of the series, Lewis Daidone offers advice and strategies for tackling tough accounting job interview questions. Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and a consultant to financial services firms and tech companies..

In part one, I discussed a few basic questions asked by interviewers, as well as their motives for asking them. Here are a few more tricky interview questions that you’re likely to encounter on your job search.

“Can you describe your end-of-month closing process?”

This is not only designed to determine your level of previous responsibility, but to see how efficiently and accurately you can articulate the specifics of the procedure. Make sure you address ever facet of your routine.

“What accounting/regulatory standards are you familiar with?”

Describe your proficiency with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), IFRS, Sarbanes-Oxley, and other accounting/regulatory standards. Moreover, you should describe the steps you take to stay educated on current practices and updates – if you take courses, attend seminars, etc. Demonstrate your understanding of how your knowledge of GAAP and other principles will apply to the position you’re seeking.

“Can you describe any difficulties you’ve had with a colleague or manager?”

Accountancy can be a delicate business – discovering errors or reporting issues requires sensitive, and sometimes difficult, discussions. It is important to be able to handle such situations delicately, compassionately, yet firmly, and your prospective employer wants to know if you have the skill and maturity to cope with diverse personalities in high pressure circumstances.

“Describe your biggest weakness.”

No matter what your weaknesses are – fear of taking on leadership roles, lack of experience, limited knowledge of the organization’s ERP – make sure you are actively addressing those weaknesses in demonstrable ways. You’re taking courses, seeking guidance/mentorship, pursuing certifications. If possible, turn the negative into a positive. For instance, if you have a tendency to be obsessive with respect to accuracy, mention that you are learning to temper your drive for perfection with an appropriate work-life balance. Self-awareness isn’t enough. You have to show that you’re working to improve and become a more balanced and respected professional.

“Can you describe a time when you’ve reduced costs?”

This shouldn’t be a yes-or-no question. Even if you’ve never actively reduced costs at your previous employment, you should be able to identify processes you felt could or should be improved. Describe an occasion where you developed a strategy for greater efficiency, even if you weren’t in a position to implement it. This shows your interviewer that you have a sense of the bigger picture and are willing to think outside the box.

“Describe your process for minimizing/eliminating errors.”

You shouldn’t rely solely upon your software – you have a team of colleagues as well as other tools that you shouldn’t hesitate to employ in order to ensure your work is error-free. This is a good opportunity to showcase your affinity for diverse and creative solutions.

Most potential employers won’t expect you to either know, or have experience with, every imaginable scenario. However, you must demonstrate your flexibility, willingness to learn, and creativity to really impress your interviewers and get that job!

Team Member Challenges: Are You the Problem?

Team Member Challenges: Are You the Problem?

In the following article, Lewis Daidone discusses unhealthy team member dynamics, and how to tell when you’re contributing to the problem.

 Working collaboratively can be a challenge for many. When teamwork is essential to project completion, it is important to have strong interpersonal skills to facilitate the effort. Unfortunately, even those with great people-skills find themselves challenged with workplace drama and conflicts. Very often, the core problem isn’t what causes the friction; it’s a person’s response to it. Here’s how you can identify if you are contributing to workplace tension.

You don’t voice or address your concerns at the beginning.

When you see a project heading off track, do you stay silent rather than voicing your concerns?

Do you notice a colleague behaving in an inappropriate or disrespectful manner, but don’t say anything because you would rather just let the moment pass and hope that it doesn’t become a problem?

If you know that there’s an issue, do not be afraid to speak up in a compassionate and unambiguous manner. Quietly hoping that a problem goes away has never solved anything.

You behave in a passive aggressive manner.

Do you disagree with project directives, or with a coworker, or with anything work related for that matter, and do nothing about it except allow yourself to be irritated? You might not be the root of the problem, but you may be the fertilizer that allows it to grow and flourish.

You create complaint cliques.

It can be satisfying to air your grievances to like-minded coworkers, but you may only be exacerbating the problem. Don’t try to set your coworkers against each other or the company. Even if you don’t believe that you have bad intentions, your behavior could gradually erode confidence in the organization, create an unpleasant work environment and may even negatively affect other people’s opinion of you.

Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and a consultant to technology companies and financial services firms. More business management insights can be read here.

Managing Priorities: 4 Tips for Dealing with Stress and Getting Things Done

Managing Priorities: 4 Tips for Dealing with Stress and Getting Things Done

In the following article, Lewis Daidone discusses the importance of setting priorities.

 Feeling overwhelmed or run down is common in the world of accounting. Effectively dealing with stress and exhaustion can help you to become a more effective professional and avoid making mistakes; it might even save you from an early grave. Here is a list of strategies that can help you tackle difficult tasks more efficiently and thereby reduce your stress levels.

Analyze each task, and rank them in order of importance.

Just because a project is new, it doesn’t mean that everything else must be abandoned in order to address it. If you have a ranking system in place, then you can accurately assess the urgency of your tasks, and handle them accordingly.

Make lists.

Although this may seem obvious, it is nonetheless surprising how many accounting professionals fail to create comprehensive task lists. This is more than just creating a daily planner – draw up and actively maintain a project schedule with estimated times required for the completion of each stage.

Cultivate self-awareness.

Do not volunteer for projects that are completely out of your wheelhouse for the sole purpose of impressing senior management. There is a difference between challenging yourself, and taking on impossible responsibilities While being a “can-do” team member is important, it’s equally important to ensure that workloads are handled efficiently, responsibly, and correctly.

Set boundaries.

In high-pressure work environments, do not be too timid to advocate for yourself. Unreasonable expectations, unrealistic timelines and an overly aggressive workload must be dealt with timely and professionally. Do not be afraid to communicate in a clear and concise manner, to the powers that be, the reasons why the goals are unrealistic, the timelines improbable and the workload expectations impossible to achieve. In the end dealing with these issues up-front and honestly will prevent the stress and anxiety of dealing with these issues as the deadline approaches.

Lewis Daidone is Certified Public Accountant and serves as a consultant to technology companies and financial services firms. Learn more about his work here.

How to Make the Most of Your Cover Letter

How to Make the Most of Your Cover Letter

In the following article, Lewis Daidone offers advice on how to compose a contemporary cover letter for an accounting position.

 We have an abundance of social media and digital communication options – do we really still need cover letters?

We sure do.

The truth is, job seekers should exploit every opportunity available that makes them seem conscientious and serious about presenting themselves in a professional, engaging way. While some employers don’t necessarily require cover letters, it’s always a good idea to send one in order to provide another opportunity to get your skills noticed. Here are a few things to keep in mind while composing your cover letter.

Keep it easy to read.

You’re not drafting your memoirs; you’re introducing yourself. If you were to meet someone in person, would you appreciate that person immediately rattling off their life story without a break? Probably not. Try to keep your cover letter between 300 – 400 words.

Provide information that isn’t on your resume.

There’s no point in reiterating details the hiring manager can simply read on a resume. Introduce yourself and briefly explain why you specifically want to work for the organization, do point out how a specific expertise or skill set could benefit the firm.

Don’t mention any deficiencies.

Don’t have specific experience? Well, don’t mention it! Starting off by admitting you don’t have the qualifications they’re looking for is self-defeating. Discuss the great qualities you do have!

Address the hiring manager by name.

”To whom it may concern,” or “Dear Sir/Madam” won’t cut it anymore; especially when you can learn the name of the hiring director so easily via social media or search engine.

Keep the ego in check.

Employers want to know how you can help them meet or exceed their objectives – they’re far less interested in reading things not related to that point. Make your excitement about working for the organization clear, as well as the pride you’d take in being associated with such a great company.

Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and a consultant to technology companies and financial services firms.

3 Reasons Why We Will Need More Certified Financial Planners

3 Reasons Why We Will Need More Certified Financial Planners

In the following article, Lewis Daidone discusses the reasons why becoming a Certified Financial Planner could be an excellent career choice

One of the fastest growing professions within the world of financial services is the role of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP). If you’re a charismatic go-getter with a gift for numbers, this might be the career for you. Here’s why CFP services are going to become increasingly valuable.

The population is aging.

People are living longer, and the need for stable finances throughout retirement is going to increase. One of the biggest worries of soon-to-be retirees is running out of money as they age. There are millions of seniors who will need solid retirement, insurance, tax, and estate planning advice, and the numbers are only going to get bigger.

College degrees are essential, but the costs are increasing.

Even though it is generally agreed that a college education is crucial to finding skilled employment, paying for college is a bigger challenge than it was even 20 years ago. Parents need to set up funds for their children’s educations, and they need the help of CFPs to assist them in determining the best strategies.

Children are caring for diminished parents.

Although people are beginning to outlive their ability to care for themselves, a disturbingly large percentage of the population doesn’t plan for the possibility of physical or age-related cognitive decline. In addition, a shocking number of elderly folks experience some kind of financial fraud. While children might do their best to help their elderly parents, many simply don’t have the time or the financial/accounting acumen to make the appropriate decisions or prevent the predatory practices of criminals preying on the elderly. As a result, having the requisite skills to assist people with a limited ability to understand their finances and provide valuable guidance and support as it relates to protecting their assets will be in high demand as the population ages.

Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and a consultant to technology companies and financial services firms.

Have you had Multiple Jobs in a Short Time Horizon? Here’s How to Address the “Job Hopper” Characterization

Have you had Multiple Jobs in a Short Time Horizon? Here’s How to Address the “Job Hopper” Characterization

In the following article, Lewis Daidone discusses how you can not only overcome the potentially negative perception associated with job hopping, but how you can use it to your advantage.

The past ten years have been tough—a crushing recession, dramatic company downsizings, and job scarcity. As a result, long stretches of unemployment weren’t unusual. However, what about too many jobs? While a person who’s had more than five jobs in the previous decade may seem perfectly capable of finding employment, what does it say about that person’s commitment? Employers have a term for this: “Job Hopper.”

Unfortunately, employers can be a bit skittish about hiring job hoppers. Why should they take a chance on someone who’ll just move on after one or two years? If you’ve had numerous jobs in the past few years, here’s what you can do to make yourself appealing to potential employers.

Emphasize the positive reasons for your moves.

Did you move into a more senior role with expanded responsibilities? Was your current company experiencing financial difficulties, or was there a limited career path? Did you move to a more prestigious firm? These are all very valid reasons for moving on and should not only be stressed in your cover letter but during the interview as well.

Stress your adaptability.

Job hoppers can adapt to different company cultures with relative ease, and they can also learn quickly. You’ve amassed a wealth of knowledge about best practices, new technologies, and the competition. Demonstrate to your prospective employer how you can leverage your diverse skill set – and contacts – to their benefit.

Be honest about what you’re looking for.

If you’ve job-hopped strategically, let your prospective employer know what you had hoped to achieve, and if you succeeded. Many top-performers find that it’s actually easier to move to a different company for more money or better opportunities, than it is to do so within the same organization. If the company offers the kind of opportunities you’re seeking, don’t hesitate to let them know it.

Job hoppers used to get a bad rap, but they can be immensely valuable to companies. You have to have tremendous skill, ambition, and initiative to successfully adapt to different organizations and cultures, and an increasing number of companies are recognizing that fact.

Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and a consultant to tech companies and financial services firms.