Book Review: Tips for a Successful Career in the Accountancy Profession

Jerry Maginnis has written a book that should be in the library of every accounting professional, from interested students to experienced practitioners. Tips for a Successful Career in the Accountancy Profession is a treasure trove of practical advice throughout a lively and friendly story. Those who read it will be in a good position to realize one of the book’s subtitles, “Achieving Your Full Potential and Optimizing the Benefits of Your Accounting Degree.”

The book is organized into three sections. The first section, which contains six chapters, is intended for students. It emphasizes the opportunity of a career in accounting with its innumerable career paths. Maginnis discusses the importance of becoming a CPA while explaining the many other certifications that can be earned in accounting. A helpful roadmap provides tips for students to optimize their time on campus and better ensure that excellent employment opportunities can be obtained. As a professor emeritus in accounting, I found myself agreeing with everything in the roadmap and acknowledging the lessons I pointed out to my students. The section ends with two burning issues that concern many students: work-life balance and diversity, equity and inclusion. Maginnis addresses these issues in a candid and positive manner, highlighting the significant progress made by the accountancy profession in recent years.

The second section, consisting of nine chapters, focused on the early career experience of accountants. Maginnis defines this group as those who are in the first six to eight years of their career. This section covers the core values ​​that are essential for accountants, developing and improving technical skills, and the most important soft skills. Most of these factors are well known, but the author’s perspective on them highlights why they are so important for young professionals. Perhaps the best examples can be found in the chapter “Block and Tackle: The Importance of Being Organized and Getting Tasks Big and Small Done”. As obvious as it may seem, the author provides some new ideas, and some of the later chapters provide even better advice. As Maginnis points out, in today’s environment, the more value you can add, the more successful you will be. Accordingly, a later chapter guides the reader on how a value creation mindset is developed through tips, suggestions and practical examples. Another chapter on embracing change and turning technology into a friend is also timely in today’s environment. Finally, a topic that really resonates with me is the power of personal relationships – an entire chapter is devoted to how this can be instrumental in career success.

The final section contains material particularly appropriate for those further along in their careers. Topics include how to avoid burnout and how to make good decisions when considering a career transition. The book ends with the importance of giving back, something embodied by the author.

As the accounting profession faces a significant “pipeline challenge,” with accounting enrollment at universities continuing to decline and the number of people taking the CPA exam declining, this book is an excellent resource. High school students and undeclared business majors will appreciate the direct discussion of these opportunities, which may attract them to the profession. The book can also be used to reach underrepresented populations and other community college students assessing potential career paths.

The beauty of Tips for a Successful Career in the Accountancy Profession lies in its format, which is easy and pleasant to read. Each chapter begins with a take-out key, and many chapters touch on a myth about the topic being discussed. Each chapter ends with a personal anecdote from the author’s life inside or outside accounting and “food for thought”, an incisive quote from a famous person regarding various activities.

Some readers might think the book is relatively short and wish the author could have shared more career advice. Indeed, the book is 176 pages in total and the chapters are short (the longest is 12 pages). The language is succinct and crisp – not what accountants are known for! The book can be read cover to cover in a sitting or two. Recognizing that accounting students and practitioners have very busy lives, however, the book can also be read as a chapter here and there.

Two additional things are also worth noting: author Jerry Maginnis’ entire career has been spent in major international accounting and professional services firms. Although many of the anecdotes are obviously drawn from his professional experiences, the book is not biased regarding his background; in fact, various accounting career paths and certifications are amply covered. Finally, I once asked the author what attribute he considered important to accounting professionals that many people might not consider essential. His response was the importance of reading. In the book, Maginnis observes that many people, especially young people, get most of their news and information from mobile devices. It encourages readers to also obtain information from credible and unbiased sources that contain solid analyzes of topics or issues. I think this brings up a relevant point for the book as a whole: although the target audience is accounting students and practitioners, the lessons are applicable to anyone embarking on a professional career and provide excellent advice for life in general.

David D. Wagaman, CPA, is professor emeritus of accounting at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.