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  • Writer's picturePGAA Tax

True North: How to Course Correct your Tax Career

Course correcting your career path as a corporate tax professional can be challenging. Most CPAs get into a niche tax function relatively early in their career, and many tax tracks take a lot of work to change directions once you know what you are doing and once your tax department knows and appreciates that you understand what you are doing. However, many tax professionals don't realize they've gotten pigeonholed into a tax focus that isn't what they want to be doing for the remainder of their career or it has a ceiling too low for their goals. Is this you? You're somehow off course, and your true north is calling. Course correcting your career is a strategic and thoughtful process, starting with clarifying what happened, what you want, and what you are doing. 

Here are some steps you can take:

1. Self-Assessment: Reflect on your current career trajectory and identify what aspects you are satisfied with and what areas you feel need improvement or change. Consider your strengths, weaknesses, interests, and values. Reflection is the mirror for the future.

2. Identify Goals: Determine what you want to achieve in your career. This could involve advancing to a higher position, transitioning to a different industry or specialization within tax, or pursuing further education or certifications. Do you want to leave public accounting? What kind of people do you want to be surrounded by professionally? 

3. Research: Explore different career paths within the tax profession. Look into international tax, transfer pricing, mergers and acquisitions, tax technology, or tax advisory services. Research the skills, qualifications, and experience needed for these roles. 

4. Networking: We recommend you do some hunting on LinkedIn for inspiring resumes. Find tax professionals with a track record similar to what you want to do and reach out. Talk to them about what they did and how they did it. You can also connect with professionals in your field through networking events, industry conferences, or professional organizations such as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) or the Tax Executives Institute (TEI). Networking can provide valuable insights, mentorship, and potential opportunities.

5. Skills Development: Identify any skills or knowledge gaps hindering your career progression and take steps to address them. This could involve pursuing additional education, training programs, or certifications.

6. Seek Advice: Request feedback from supervisors, colleagues, or mentors to gain insights into your performance and areas for improvement. Constructive feedback can help you identify areas for growth and development.

7. Update Your Resume and LinkedIn Profile: Tailor your resume and LinkedIn profile to highlight your relevant skills, experiences, and achievements for the new track you want to get on. Consider how your profile aligns with your desired career path and make any necessary updates or adjustments. 

8. Explore Internal Opportunities First: Investigate whether there are opportunities for advancement or lateral moves within your current organization. Express your career interests to your manager or HR department and inquire about potential opportunities that align with your goals. Start by asking to join other special projects related to the new tax field you want to explore (as long as you can find the time/energy to do it well). Because they know you and want to keep you, and onboarding/recruiting is expensive, the best companies will do what they can to work with you, even if that means you change your tax focus. 

9. Consider External Opportunities: Phil Guillen at PGAA Tax is a great person to talk to if you want a career change. He will keep an eye and ear on job openings in your desired field or industry and get in touch if something comes up that he thinks aligns with your career goals.

10. Stay Flexible and Persistent: Be prepared for financial and timeline setbacks and be willing to adapt your plans as needed. Career progression often involves taking risks and exploring new opportunities. Stay persistent in pursuing your goals and remain open to new possibilities.

The story of the most happy and successful careers is like the story arc of the hero's journey. It is rarely linear without challenges, storms, or transformations. Never underestimate your ability to grow and learn something new. You did it once, taking on the complicated field of corporate tax, so you've already proven you can do it. Flexibility, patience, and persistence are essential as you work towards your goals. If you remain open, doors will open for you. By taking proactive steps to course-correct your career path, you can position yourself for success and fulfillment in your professional life.

You've got this, and we are here to help! -PGAA Tax


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