Job Hunting and the CPA

By Mendelsohn, Paul N. | The CPA Journal, September 1991 | Go to article overview
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Job Hunting and the CPA

Mendelsohn, Paul N., The CPA Journal

Here is some crisp and down-to-earth advice for getting a job. Persistence and hard work are major ingredients of the advice offered. What works best--networking want ads, headhunters, or recruiters?

Looking for new employment is a time consuming task. The more aggressive you are, the quicker it will be completed. There are many sources for jobs and everyone has different experiences with them. Networking, want ads, recruiters and your own cold-contact sales-pitch letters are all valuable tools. An aggressive job seeker uses all of them.

Statistics show that networking is the means to getting a new job 60% to 70% of the time. Nonetheless, there are countless examples of people getting jobs by other means. Regardless, it may take as many as 50 contacts of any one type just to get one interview. In other words, networking with 50 people may get you one interview. Answering 50 ads may get you another one. To succeed, experts advise perseverance.

For starters, do some research. If you have any doubts about the type of job you want, then read one of the soul-searching books about job hunting, such as Guerrilla Tactics in the Job Market by Tom Jackson (Bantam, 1978), or What Color Is Your Parachute, 1991 Edition by Rich Nelson Bowles (Ten Speed Press, 1991).

In any case, read or skim two or three recent guide books on the mechanics of job hunting. Two good ones are Go Hire Yourself an Employer by Richard K. Irish (Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1987), and The Robert Half Way to Get Hired in Today's Job Market (Rawson Wade Publishers, 1981). You may learn some tactics. You may see disagreements, so do not rely too much on any one author. Do not spend too much time reading dozens of books. After three, get to work.

Conventional wisdom says it takes an average of one week for every $2,000 of salary or one month for every $10,000. Some averages point to about 5.5 months, regardless of your age or salary. In any case, someone with one year of experience looking for a $30,000 job may need three months. A more senior person can spend over a year aiming for a $100,000 job. In today's market, the actual times may be running longer.


Networking generates the most job offers. But what is networking? It is the process of contacting people who can put you in touch with other people who, in turn, put you in touch with still other people.

Networking is a long-term project. It is best started before you are job hunting and it is best to keep your network alive after you have accepted your new position. You network whenever you talk to fellow practitioners at CPE seminars and exchange business cards; when you meet people at business affairs or college alumni functions; or are active in your community. It also means taking time to do a favor or make that phone call. It requires a genuine interest in the well being of those with whom you are in contact. By perfecting these skills, you become known, and when asked, the contact will have a real interest in helping you find that position.

Once you begin job hunting, make a list of people you know who may be able to help: business contacts, customers, vendors, competitors, college professors and classmates, friends, local acquaintances, even family members. Do not approach these people asking for a job. Rather, ask them if they know anyone who can be of help.

The help you are looking for is a 15 to 60 minute meeting to talk about an industry, a specific company, or a job possibility. You never ask for a job in these meetings. If you do, you will have subtly changed the nature of the meeting and added unnecessary tension to the atmosphere. This is not what you want. You are there to explore opportunities in a non-threatening way. At the end, ask the person for at least two new names. This is how you build the network. Also, take his or her business card and send a brief thank you note with a copy of your resume a few days later.

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