Book Review: Advice for a Successful Career in the Accounting Profession

Jerry Maginnis has written a book that should be on the bookshelf of anyone in the accounting profession, from interested students to experienced practitioners. Advice for a Successful Career in the Accounting Profession is a treasure trove of practical advice throughout a lively, user-friendly narrative. Those who read it will be well positioned 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 geared toward students. It emphasizes the desirability of a career in accounting with its myriad career paths. Maginnis discusses the importance of becoming a CPA while explaining the many other certifications that can be attained in accounting. A useful roadmap provides tips for students to optimize their time on campus and better ensure that great job opportunities can be obtained. As a professor emeritus in accounting, I found myself agreeing with everything in the roadmap and recognizing the lessons I emphasized to my students. The section closes with two hot-button issues on the minds of many students: work-life balance and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Maginnis tackles these issues in a frank and positive way, emphasizing the significant progress that has been made by the accounting profession in recent years.

The second section, comprising nine chapters, focused on the early career experience of accountants. Maginnis defines this group as those in the first six to eight years of their careers. This section covers core values ​​that are essential to accountants, developing and enhancing technical skills and the all-important soft skills. Most of these factors are well known, but the author’s take on them emphasizes why they are so important for young professionals. Perhaps the best examples are found in the chapter, “Blocking and Tackling: The Importance of Being Organized and Nailing Both Big and Small Tasks.” However obvious this seems, the author provides fresh insights, and some of the later chapters provide even better advice. As Maginnis indicates, in today’s environment, the more value you can add, the more successful you will be. Accordingly, a later chapter guides the reader to how a value-creation mindset is developed through tips, suggestions and practical examples. Another chapter on embracing change and making technology your 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 to career success.

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

As the accounting profession confronts a significant “pipeline challenge,” with accounting enrollments at universities continuing to decline and the number of people sitting for the CPA exam decreasing, this book is an excellent resource. High school students and undeclared business majors will appreciate the straightforward discussion of these opportunities, which may attract them to the profession. The book can also be used in reaching underrepresented populations and other students at community colleges evaluating potential career paths.

the beauty of Advice for a Successful Career in the Accounting Profession lies in its format, which presents an easy and enjoyable read. Every chapter begins with a key takeaway, and many chapters address a myth on the topic addressed. Each chapter concludes with a personal anecdote from the author’s life inside or outside of accounting and “food for thought,” an incisive quote from a famous figure regarding various pursuits.

Some readers might feel the book is relatively short and wish the author could have shared more advice from his career. 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 from 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 items are also of note: author Jerry Maginnis’ entire career was spent in large, international public accounting/professional services firms. Although many of the anecdotes are obviously drawn from his professional experiences, the book is not biased toward his background; in fact, various career paths and certifications in accounting are widely covered. Finally, I once asked the author which attribute he considered important for accounting professionals that may not be thought of as essential by many people. His response from him was the importance of reading. In the book, Maginnis observes that many people, particularly younger individuals, get most of their news and information from mobile devices. He encourages readers to also obtain information from credible and unbiased sources that contain robust analyzes of topics or issues. I believe that raises a point that is relevant 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 great advice for life in general.

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

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