June 18, 2018

How to Develop Consistency as a Skill


It’s sometimes hard to get noticed when you are at a firm. Certainly, much depends on firm culture, but that’s not all of it. Other factors include:

  • Where you are in the firm’s pecking order: Are you a staff accountant or a manager?
  • Are you new to your firm?
  • Do you feel recognized or overlooked?
  • Have you developed special skills in one of the firm’s core niche or service areas?

Whatever your circumstances, you may be scrambling to find a way to distinguish yourself and show your value so others think of you when it comes to interesting projects and training programs.

Here’s something to think about: be consistent. In the quality of your work. In your reliability. In completing the tasks you commit to.

Consistency can be learned

You can argue that consistency is a trait and not a skill, and there are some aspects of it that are. But if you view consistency as always getting your work done before the deadline, volunteering for new projects, attending optional trainings or being part of extracurricular activities like charity days, it becomes a skill that you can learn and become good at. It’s a lot like developing a good habit.

That means you need to be aware of what is going on at your firm—watching to see whether a new niche is being developed, the types of training that is being offered, etc.

Perhaps the most important aspect for you, though, is that this consistency allows you to enhance your technical competence and develop better interpersonal skills. These are the kinds of talents that become part of you—and part of your résumé.

Consistency gets people’s attention

Over time, as others at the firm realize how consistent and reliable you are, these activities get you noticed. Along the way, you may even find a more efficient process or new procedure for doing something that adds firm-wide value and is sure to get you noticed.

Getting your work assignments done on time and to the best of your ability is simply a given. It’s part of your job. There is something to look out for, though: you definitely don’t want to become the dumping ground for jobs no one else wants to do. Which makes learning how to navigate the skill of knowing how and when and to say “no” quite important.

Navigating the more intuitive part of what it means to be consistent is more challenging. Sometimes you have to do the grunt work, especially if you are low man on the totem pole. And don’t forget to pay attention to the details. People may not notice when you do, but they sure do notice when you don’t.

Maintaining consistency is a skill too

Volunteering to be part of new initiatives, work-related or extracurricular, is where the value in consistency can work to your benefit. Taking charge of some aspect of the effort shows leadership. But be careful: don’t over-commit yourself to the point where it affects your consistency and reliability. That means considering your workload (especially during busy season) as well as any personal obligations.

You need to assess how to balance all of this with new, more difficult work. You need to be learning to grow professionally, but you also need to understand your strengths and weaknesses so you aren’t overwhelmed.

The important thing about showing consistency is being consistent. That’s not a typo. It’s a rule to live by.

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Should Grad Students Crash Another School’s ‘Meet the Firms’ Event?

Welcome to the your-life-would-be-easier-if-you-just-embraced-Monday edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a graduate student wants to know if crashing another school’s ‘Meet the Firms’ event is a good idea or if it will land him on the Big 4 blacklist.

Looking for some career advice? Need help filling out your Holiday Gift list? Bored with your life after Big 4 and need some ideas on how to fill the hours? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll and we’ll find you a hobby in no time.

Back to the Big 4 crasher:

I am attending a master’s of tax program in a small city that only has two Big 4 firms, only one of which does tax. As a result of this, the other firms don’t recruit at our school and won’t let us apply for associate positions because they don’t recruit at our campus.

A couple of classmates and I were wondering if it would be wrong to travel to a larger city and attend that school’s ‘Meet the Firms’ night next year to hand our résumés to the recruiters and get face time with them. Would doing this do more harm that good to us with the firms or would it show how much we want to work for them?

Thanks for the advice,
Small town accountant

Dear Small Town,

We like your enthusiasm for a road trip. This particular journey has a mission, however, so it has a little more significance than your average cruise through the desert with a trunk full of narcotics but we understand you’ve got your future career to consider. Anyway, we’re all for this idea for a couple of reasons: 1) It’s a relatively low-risk proposition that could pay big dividends and 2) If you’ve got some self-control, the trunk full of narcotics could still happen.

That said, the most important thing to keep in mind while on your recruiting journey is that you are wandering into enemy territory (so to speak). This means you’ll have no choice but to be completely honest about your non-affiliation with the school. Your résumés will easily show this but any kind of misrepresentation will eventually torpedo your plans one way or another. Clearly explaining your situation to the firm recruiters will demonstrate your willingness to go the extra mile (or 50 to 100) and assuming you’ve got a stellar résumé, it will likely impress them even more.

As for the risks – your rival school could just up and throw you out once they find out that you’re not affiliated with the school. For starters, you’re jockeying for face time with the firms at the expense of their students. As long as you don’t make a spectacle of yourself, we feel there’s only a small risk of you getting the heave. Likewise, one of the firm’s recruiters may frown on your little crashing escapade but frankly, if you don’t make it seem like a big deal, they won’t either.

So we say go for it – show up, shake hands, chat ’em up and who knows what will happen. You’ve got very little to lose except maybe a job.

Anyone out there who has crashed a recruiting event is invited to share the highlights or if you agree/disagree with the advice, chime in below.