The Top 5 Tips for Taking Certification Exams

The Top 5 Tips for Taking Certification Exams

When you graduated from school, you probably thought you were done studying, cramming, and taking tests that make you sweat. Unfortunately, to become a CPA, Financial Advisor, or Fraud Specialist (among others), you must take certification exams in order to achieve those designations. 

These exams are a difficult, but necessary, step to advance your career in the accounting profession. But have no fear! We have gathered our top five tips for taking accounting exams to help you succeed. 

Below are the best ways to help you avoid the anxiety and late night grinds associated with preparing for accounting exams: 

Choose a prep course. Make sure you check out sample videos. Find something that engages you and keeps your interest throughout the course work. 

Create a study strategy. These exams cover a lot of material. You need a way to identify which concepts you know well and which ones need work. We suggest making good use of multi-colored pens and highlighters to mark concepts you know and concepts you need to review. 

Focus, Focus, Focus. Did we say focus? Sometimes life has too many distractions. If you can’t focus right now, think about taking the exam at another time. You should be able to put aside a few hours every day (to study) and if you can’t commit to that, it might not be the best time to take the exam. 

Figure out which exam to take first. Everyone has a different strategy. If you don’t know, pick your strong suit and start there.

 Timing. We suggest taking the exam towards the end of test window, because you will get your scores back sooner. Every day you have to wait for your score is excruciating, especially after your first exam! 

Of course the standard tips apply – eat healthy and get plenty of rest. Cramming the night before a test never worked in college and trust us – it won’t work now! And remember focus, focus, focus! 

Once you pass your first exam, you will know what it takes for you to be successful. It’s a real confidence booster! Remember what tactics worked and apply those to your next set of exams. Before you know it, you’ll be done and you will have a designation you’ll be proud of!

What to Know about Employee Benefits

What to Know about Employee Benefits

Companies offer employee benefits of many different levels. While most employee benefits are required by state and federal law, other types of perks are offered to employees beyond the typical options to create corporate loyalty, worker retention, and an increase in employee satisfaction.

The term “employee benefits” encompasses all non-wage compensation received by an employee. Benefits vary greatly from company to company and can make up either a small or a large portion of an employee’s overall compensation package.

Some benefits that are required by federal and/or state law include:

  • COBRA Insurance
  • Disability Insurance
  • Family and medical leave
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Workers compensation

Additional options, such as retirement plans and healthcare plans, are not technically mandated by law but are both highly regulated by governmental bodies. These two types of benefits are often included in, and generally make up a large portion of, an employee benefits package.

Beyond the mandated and regulated benefits listed above, there exist a large variety of other employee options. Most businesses can pick and choose which benefits they want to offer to their staff. While company owners have great leeway in being creative with the benefits they offer, some of the most common employee benefits include a combination of the following:

  • Dental and/or vision plans
  • Life insurance plans
  • Paid vacations, holidays, or sick leave
  • Child care
  • Flexible schedules or work-from-home options
  • Tuition reimbursement or student loan assistance
  • Maternity, paternity, and adoption leave

In the past few years, however, some companies have begun offering employees benefits beyond the ordinary. Many organizations are providing their employees with more nontraditional benefit options to attract and retain top talent. A few of these options include:

  • Unlimited vacation and sick days
  • Gym and health access
  • Banking discounts/Lower loan interest
  • Pet insurance
  • On-site services such as food services, dry cleaning options, and child care

As you seek a new job, decide between multiple job offers, or negotiate the renewal of an employment contract, it’s important to take stock of the benefit coverage being offered and seek a benefits package that meets your needs completely and offers you the best options for a balanced and fulfilling career.

Improving Your Communication Skills

Improving Your Communication Skills

As a professional in the accounting field, it’s important that you be a good communicator. You need to learn to cultivate relationships both within your firm (with your peers and supervisors) and outside of your firm (with your clients, prospects, and referral sources). 

Do you struggle to communicate clearly and regularly? You’re not alone. This is a difficult task for many professionals. Here are some helpful tips for cultivating your communication skills: 

Focus on Listening – When you’re in a conversation, it’s easy to get distracted with planning what you’re going to say next and forget to listen closely to what is being said. Knowing this, make a conscious effort to be an active listener. When you’re in a conversation, focus closely on what is being said. In order to show that you’re paying attention, ask good follow-up questions. 

Study Nonverbal Communication – Studies show that more than half of communication is nonverbal—that’s a lot! Learn to pay attention to the physical cues of not only those with whom you’re speaking, but also of yourself. Consider what you’re communicating via your demeanor—your posture, eye contact, and the way that you move around spaces. Read up on positive nonverbal communication and put what you learn into practice. 

Examine Your Own Behavior – Consider recording yourself and playing it back to learn more about how you speak. Perhaps take a video of yourself during a meeting. Watching it back can help you understand where you need to adjust in order to improve your communication skills. 

Practice, Practice, Practice – Poor communication skills are a common problem. Consider organizing some group communication exercises among your friends or your colleagues. Be willing to both give and receive constructive criticism in order to help one another improve. 

Pay Attention to Email Etiquette – Not all communication is face-to-face, or even verbal. Much miscommunication happens over mediums such as email, because tone is so difficult to interpret. Consider your words carefully when crafting an email. Additionally, consider how you can break up the information you’re sending into a more readable form (e.g., include bullet points, section titles, etc.). Lastly, remember that sometimes it’s best to forego an email in favor of a phone conversation, especially for lengthy or complex topics. 

Becoming a good communicator takes intentionality and practice, but efforts in these areas pay off in spades. The internet holds a wide range of helpful resources for learning more about communicating effectively. And, since this is a struggle for many people, don’t be afraid to reach out to friends and colleagues for advice and practice—they’ll probably be glad for the opportunity to improve their own communication skills.

Making the Most Out of Your Internship

Internships are an integral early step in many professional careers. Those who complete internships come away with experience and valuable connections within the industry in which they desire to work. Many employers seek job applicants with internship experience.

Amy Snyder, a former RBG intern and now full-time staff, weighed on the topic of internships below.

‚ÄúI chose RBG after attending Accelerate Leadership and learning more about the firm. During my internship, I¬†loved that I¬†got to see each section of an audit. As an intern, we also have a lot of interaction with staff of all levels. The culture at RBG was beyond my expectations.”

So what can interns do to get the maximum value out of their internship? Here are a few tips:

Build Relationships
Network as much as possible throughout your internship. From your fellow interns to members of upper management, from others on your team to co-workers in different roles, strive to build connections with everyone you encounter. And don’t neglect the connections you’ve made once your internship is over! Connect on LinkedIn or elsewhere and make a conscious effort to maintain your network even when you’re no longer with the organization.

Ask Questions
You’re there to learn, so make sure you make every effort to do so. Don’t worry about looking young or inexperienced—it’s no secret that you are both, and that’s why you’re an intern to begin with! Speak up whenever you need clarification—just be sure to listen to and remember the answers given.

Go Above and Beyond
Always be early. Do more than you’re asked to do. Complete every assignment to the best of your abilities, no matter how menial. Eagerly take on new challenges. Be flexible. Offer to stay late. Volunteer to take on new responsibilities. So much of what you get out of your internship is what you put into it, so strive for excellence in every way.

Create a Portfolio
As you progress through your internship, keep a detailed record of the work that you perform. This is useful for your personal reference as you prepare for a job interview and it’s a good source of material for your resume.

Be Prepared to Work Hard
Internships are no walk in the park—they are hard work. Recognizing this in advance and preparing yourself mentally to take on the coming challenges is integral to your success. Consider what you might be willing to back-burner in your life for the relatively short duration of your internship—social gatherings, vacations, etcetera—in order to get the most out of your experience.

Amy offers the following advice for other accounting students looking for tax season internships, ‚ÄúI regularly tell peers about my time at RBG and encourage them to apply because the firm puts such a heavy emphasis on training students entering the field. The firm is truly committed to growing and developing the accountants of the future.”

RBG offers internships throughout the year. If interested in an internship at RBG, please contact us.

5 Ways to Position Yourself for a Promotion

You’ve been in your current position for a few years and the question starts to become “What’s next?” You may be at a point in your career where you are ready to climb the ladder to the next level within your organization. So, how do you do it? This blog covers five prime ways to position yourself for a promotion.

1. Get on the radar.
No one can give you a promotion if no one sees you outside of your cubicle. Introduce yourself to senior managers and partners. Ask how you can be involved in more projects. Go to networking events and office after-hours get-togethers. You want to become a face that people in the office recognize and a name that your colleagues and managers know they can trust.

2. Work harder AND smarter.
Working hard is important, but it isn’t going to get you that promotion. You also have to learn to work smarter. The key is to work effectively and efficiently. Focus your time and efforts strategically and don’t fill your day with busy work that ultimately won’t get recognized or help the firm achieve its goals.

3. Be drama-free.
Now, there’s a fine line between being drama-free and having no personality. You don’t want to be a robot, but you also don’t want to be the person in the office everyone remembers for that embarrassing moment they had at the office Christmas party. Think carefully about your actions, before you do them and if you think there will be repercussions, or that your actions may cause turmoil, reconsider what you are about to do.

4. Keep learning.
In order to position yourself as a thought leader in the industry, you’ll have to stay on top of trends and industry changes. Make sure you’re subscribing to industry publications and reading at least one article daily. Take advantage of ongoing education that the firm offers so that you are continuously honing your technical (and soft) skill set. Your eagerness to learn will set you apart from the crowd.

5. Ask for it.
At the end of the day, no one is going to know you want to move up if you don’t express interest. If you feel that you are an invaluable team member who is ready for the next phase of his or her career, it’s time to ask how you can make that happen. Schedule a meeting with your manager or mentor to discuss what steps you need to take in order to take your career to the next level.

With these five valuable actions in mind, you can start to develop a road-map for your future. What do you need to do to get noticed, prove your success, and make it to the next phase of your career? A promotion doesn’t happen overnight, but with smart planning, you’ll position yourself for greatness.

Career Options for CPAs

A career in the accounting industry can be so much more than just, well, accounting!

People decide to pursue accounting careers for a wide variety of reasons. There are those that have a passion for numbers. Others see accounting as a big, complex puzzle that they’re excited to solve. And some simply choose the field for the stability and long-term career opportunities that it affords.

On the other hand, many turn up their noses at the accounting field—perhaps claiming that an accounting career would be boring or repetitive. They are wrong!

Below are some examples of the multitude of fascinating career options that abound within the accounting field. Read on to learn about the exciting paths that CPAs can take, both within a traditional accounting firm and beyond!

Within the Traditional Accounting Firm

Accounting Auditor
An auditor is an accounting professional who specializes in the preparation and examination of financial records. These professionals are charged with ensuring the accuracy of an organization’s records and assessing financial operations. Accounting auditors are the key to ensuring that organizations are running efficiently and will continue to do so in the future.

Financial Planner
Many traditional accounting firms provide specialized financial planning services to their clients. The goal of financial planning professionals is to work with their clients to establish and enhance their successful financial future. From estate planning to retirement planning to investment planning, this sub-set of accounting offers a diverse range of interesting career opportunities.

Tax Specialist
Some CPAs opt to pursue a specialty in tax. Tax specialists are responsible for tax document management and preparation. They have the option of working with a wide range of clients, including individuals, small business, large corporations, and everything in between! This particular specialty requires a deep understanding of tax code and a willingness to work with changing laws and regulations. If you’re the kind of CPA who enjoys constantly learning new things then applying what you’ve learned to your work, this is the field for you!

Forensic Specialist
Not only is forensic accounting a big field, but it’s constantly growing. The prevalence of fraud, both in the US and around the world, make this an area of increasing demand for expert CPA services. Within an accounting firm, a forensic specialist can be responsible for a variety of tasks, including uncovering fraud, quantifying financial loss, performing fact-finding interviews, and even testifying in court. Forensic specialists generally pursue further certifications in addition to their CPA license, such as Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) and Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF) credentials.

Niche Specialization
In addition to the roles listed above, there are a multitude of options for CPAs to specialize in niche fields, working with a particular industry or type of client. Some accounting professionals concentrate on providing services to a particular local industry (for example, a Vermont-based accountant who serves exclusively local Christmas tree growers). Others choose to specialize in a larger niche field, such as construction, healthcare, or hospitality. Perhaps you have a unique niche in mind around which you dream of developing your accounting practice?

Beyond the Traditional Accounting Firm

Accounting Software Development
As technology continues to evolve at an ever-increasing rate, there is an intriguing opportunity for accountants to serve as advisors in the accounting software development field. Software developers need to work with experienced accounting professionals—people who really know how the accounting industry works—to ensure that the programs they create function fully and correctly. From advising about home accounting software for individual tax filers to large systems for accounting firms, there is a great need for knowledgeable accounting advisors in the tech field.

Environmental Accounting
As environmentally sound business practices increase in popularity, there is a growing demand for in-house environmental accounting advisors, both at large corporations and within government agencies. Environmental accounting professionals serve to help organizations become more eco-friendly and comply with environmental regulations, all while saving money and remaining profitable.

Investigative Accounting
For two of the traditional accounting firm career paths mentioned above—auditing and forensic accounting—there are parallel opportunities within law enforcement. Various law enforcement agencies employ CPAs and other accounting professionals in an investigative capacity. Have you ever considered seeking out a career at the Federal Bureau of Investigations or the Drug Enforcement Administration?

After reading about all of the opportunities that the accounting industry provides, are you still convinced that a job in the field would be routine? We certainly hope that one or more of the opportunities listed above sparked some excitement in you and will lead you to a fulfilling and enjoyable career as a CPA!

Employee Spotlight: Austen Myers

Austen Myers is an Audit Senior at the firm. In addition to his everyday duties assisting Financial Institutions with internal and external audit procedures, he currently serves as the leader of the firm’s Young Professionals Group (YPG). The YPG provides an opportunity for younger staff and seniors to voice ideas for making the firm better.

Austen believes that the best part of the YPG is that the firm’s COO and managing partner care about the ideas that team members bring to the table. Often, some variation of ideas from YPG are actually implemented firm-wide. 

RBG believes in having a young professional group because it exposes older members of the firm to the younger generation. It also helps the firm to attract and retain the best young professionals for future leadership at the firm.

Below, you’ll find a little more information about Austen and why he enjoys working with RBG. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
The key to success is communication. Since public accounting is a team environment, we must communicate to all team members about where we stand on projects in order to be as efficient and effective as possible. When one team member falls behind, there is always a team member to pick you up if the communication is clear throughout the project. 

What advice would you give a candidate who wants to join our team of superstars?
When a team member asks you to help them, don’t let yes be your only response. Let that team member know what is on your plate so your workload can be prioritized. Only then can the proper help be assigned and work spread around if needed. 

What accomplishment are you most proud of so far in our career?
I’m most proud of earning my CPA, CFE, and then continuing to educate myself every chance I get. I am also proud of my willingness to learn and develop my skills to better serve our clients.

What's the most inspiring part of your job?
The most inspiring part of my job is getting to help team members and clients better understand accounting.

If I were a superhero, my superpower would be: the power to remove negative thoughts from people.

What is your favorite part of working at RBG?
My favorite part of working at RBG is the ability to make a difference not only for our clients but for the firm. The management at RBG has an open door policy. All team members are able to meet with managers talk about altering or adding new policies and procedures that make RBG, in my opinion, the most desirable firm in Memphis to work for.

What is your favorite part of working in the Memphis area?
My favorite thing about working in the Memphis area is getting to be with my family. I love spending time with family and childhood friends. I also enjoy exercising at Shelby Farms Park and enjoying many of the city’s local breweries and restaurants.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Beer Brewer

What is one item on your bucket list?
I want to spend the maximum amount of time with my family and friends. That is number one on my list and I strive to achieve it every day.

Who would you most like to swap places with for a day? Someone who owns a very large Ford Mustang collection. 

Who is someone you admire, and why?
My grandmother Neane. She retired early to take care of me while parents worked so that I did not have to go to a daycare. The time I spent with her and the many lessons she taught me helped me to relate to a different generation of people. She also taught me how to cook and how to maintain a yard which actually led to me having a yard maintenance business during high school and much of college.

What is your biggest pet peeve?
Negativity. You can find the good in all bad. I like to encourage others to spend negative energy finding the good versus bringing down the people around you.

Do you have any skills or talents that most people don’t know about?
Many people don’t know that I love to garden. My flower beds are filled with flowering shrubs and annuals.

Want to work with others like Austen? Learn more about joining the RBG team by clicking here.

6 Key Strategies for Acing a Job Interview

“Confidence comes from being prepared.” – John Wooden

 Are you on the job hunt? It can be a grueling process, particularly the interview stage. We’re sure you’ve heard it before, but confidence and preparation are key to pulling off the flawless interview. Below are six essential tips for acing a job interview. 

  1. Know Your Audience – Spend some time doing research in advance. Get to know the organization with which you’re interviewing and the industry in which they operate. On top of that—if possible—do some research into the person or people who will be conducting your interview.
  2. Know What You’re Applying For – Have a thorough understanding of the job description for the position you’re seeking. Come armed with examples of how you fulfill the various criteria listed. If there’s an area where you don’t quite qualify, be prepared to demonstrate why it is not an issue.
  3. Know How You’re Going to Answer – In the course of your interview preparations, devote time to practicing responses to common questions. Don’t just do this in your head—practice out loud, and in front of a mirror, if possible.
  4. Know How You’re Presenting Yourself – Before any words even leave your mouth, you’re already making an impression—good or bad—on the people around you. In light of that, put some thought into what you’ll wear and the attitude you’ll project via your body language. Lastly, be sure to arrive on time, if not early!
  5. Know What You Need to Bring With You – It’s a good practice to bring along extra copies of your resume and references. You should also consider carrying a notepad and writing utensil with you, in case there’s anything you want to jot down during the interview.
  6. Know What You’re Going to Ask – When your interviewers ask you if you have any questions for them, never turn them down! Demonstrate your interest in the job and curiosity about their organization with some well thought-out questions. “Well thought-out” is key—make sure you’re not asking about information that can easily be found on the organization’s website, for example. 

Putting LinkedIn To Work For You

Putting LinkedIn To Work For You

For some LinkedIn can seem like one of the less influential social media platforms out there. The fact is, it is fast becoming the “go to” for prospective employers, and in some cases, replacing the need for a formal resume. Many employers are looking to LinkedIn to help narrow their search for the perfect candidate.

How can you put LinkedIn to work for you and get your profile in front of the right employer? Below are a few tips on what to include in your LinkedIn profile.

1. Profile Photo and Personal Link – Your profile should have a good photo that presents your professional self to prospective employers. The photo should be clear and not overly casual. Secondly, be sure to create a personalized link for your LinkedIn profile. This will make it easier for employers to find you and can be added to hard copy resumes.1

2. Creative Headline – It is not enough to just have your name and your current job title. Your headline should give an employer a quick sense of what you’re doing professionally. The headline is the only other piece of information aside from your name and current position that will show up when an employer is searching for candidates. Making it stand out from others with a similar position will help put you at the head of the list.2

3. Creative Summary – What is your goal? How do you view your job or career? The answers to these help employers understand how you can benefit them. The goal of the summary is to help build your personal brand and make you stand out. So be creative!

4. Work History – Your work history should mirror that which you put on a typical resume. Be sure to include dates and responsibilities for each position. If you can include links to Company Pages within your experience this will go a long way to helping interested employers research previous employment. It is also good to include any volunteer experience you have.    

5. Education – As with work history, education should also be listed as you would on a standard resume. Including dates of completion and degrees or certifications earned. 

6. Featured Skills – Here is your chance to call out skills that you have and encourage your connections to endorse these skills. This is another area where you can build your experience and personal brand making your profile more attractive to employers. 

7. Endorsements – LinkedIn now offers the ability to list current skills and get endorsements from previous employers and coworkers. These endorsements help employers easily see those skills that you have excelled at and helps in determining if your current skills match the position they are seeking to fill.

Although these are not all inclusive, having these basic items filled in completely can go a long way to making your LinkedIn profile more robust and interesting to those searching through a plethora of “qualified” candidates. With so many to choose from, it is those profiles that have put effort into their descriptions and have the most useful information that will get put at the top of the list. The key is to stand out and creating a strong LinkedIn profile is a great way to rise above the crowd.

1. 9 Simple Tips to Make a Better LinkedIn Profile –
2. 6 Things Recruiters Look For in Your LinkedIn Profile –