5 Tips for a Successful Career  

    by Carolyn Clarke, CPA, MBA 

    Everyone defines business success differently. For me, finding fulfillment in my work is the pathway to business success. I thoroughly enjoy my work as an internal auditor; I make daily contributions to the organization and I am constantly learning and growing. Whether your path to career success includes the presidency at your company, or a more modest role, I hope that you can relate to my Five Tips for a Successful Career and that they can help you build your career in the accounting profession or wherever your dreams may lie.

    1. Find your niche: I really enjoy auditing and it took several years working in various positions at AT&T for me to realize it. I was recruited to join the Corporate Audit Program, where employees of different backgrounds rotated into internal audit for two years. This experience helped me find my passion and hone my skills, it gave me insight into both the financial and operational sides of the company and provided me with a variety of interesting projects from which I could learn and grow.

    2. Know the value of education: Through the Corporate Audit Program, I met the company controller who gave a speech about how he worked his way from the bottom of the company to his current position. He said that while he was able to work hard and gain the skills he needed to perform various roles, it wasn’t until he got a formal education that he felt he had all the right tools in his tool box. He encouraged those of us who didn’t have a college education, to think about pursuing one. His past situation was very similar to mine—I didn’t have an undergraduate degree, but my work experience continued to fuel my movement in the organization. His words inspired me to go back to school. Although I didn’t have an undergraduate degree, I was accepted into an executive MBA program based on my work experience. A few years later, I decided to go back to school to complete a Master of Arts degree in organizational behavior and earn the required credits needed to obtain my CPA license.

    3. Understand the importance of experience: Many professionals base their success on their title. I don’t evaluate opportunities in terms of what title I will have or how much money I will make, but instead on how much I will learn and contribute. The give and take of holding a position is vital. In the end, the value of your resume comes from the experience you have, not the titles of your positions.

    4. Be persistent: In 2004, I took the CPA exam and passed two parts. Due to travel and other work related restraints, I missed the time frame to take the other two parts and had to start over. Most people would have given up when they found out they had to start over, but I knew the value a CPA license holds and knew obtaining it would be worth it. Passing the exam and receiving my license are among my most proud accomplishments.

    Never stop learning: I feel fortunate that my career allows me to learn something new practically every day. Auditing provides diverse challenges. I often explore areas I’m not familiar with, but doing so offers opportunities for me to improve and grow. I can identify best practices in one area or group and offer them to another. Even if you don’t have a position that provides diverse opportunities, you can always seek new information and find ways to apply it to the most mundane of job functions. If you never stop learning, you will never get bored.

    Carolyn Clarke
    : Carolyn Clarke, CPA, MBA is an Internal Audit Manager for Belk, the nation's largest privately owned department-store chain. Her previous positions include Internal Audit Manager at AT&T and Accume Partners, and Chairperson of the Board of Directors for Affinity Federal Credit Union. 

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