Monday, May 04, 2009

Advice for the Next Generation of “Tax Ladies”

Mother’s Day is around the corner, and I would like to dedicate this column to mothers and daughters everywhere.

The tax industry can be a major boy’s club (don’t I know it?). Financial fields are generally male-dominated, but that doesn’t mean that opportunities for women are scarce. It simply means you have to be competitive. For women thinking about a career as a CPA, tax attorney or a tax preparer, I’ve got some hard won advice.

Get practical experience. Spend some time working in the tax field before you officially start your career. There are myriad part time jobs available in tax preparation, planning or resolution industries. Or you can volunteer at a tax clinic. The IRS runs Low Income Taxpayer Clinics nationwide, and can be a great chance to serve your community while getting relevant experience. Nothing better prepares you for a successful career than experience.

Further your education. Never stop growing your tax knowledge base. Earning an advanced degree, such as a LLM or MBA, or being certified as a specialist in your state can give you a leg up on your competition. Even if you have already earned postgraduate degrees, you are never finished learning. Tax laws constantly change, and keeping up with those changes is critical.

Pick up complementary skills. You can separate yourself from the pack by offering your services in Spanish, for example. Or you can get practice in Negotiations, Counseling, Advanced Writing, Contracts and Public Speaking. Having “bonus” skills may open you up to an entirely new client base, and increase the value of your services.

Join professional associations. Professional associations are great ways to network with your peers, or receive client referrals. Many professional groups offer mentoring programs, which can be beneficial for women new to the industry. However, to actually reap the benefits of membership, you have to be an active participant.

Practice what you preach. Now that you are out of school and making money, be sure you are following the same advice you are giving your clients. Think how damaging a tax problem would be to your burgeoning career.

Being a woman in a male-dominated industry is difficult, but also unbelievably rewarding. Finding yourself the underdog can motivate you to work harder, smarter and create a more successful practice. Of course as a final word of advice, for all the “tax ladies” out there, from the brand new to those with decades of experience, stick together. When you are outnumbered, a little teamwork can go a long way.

Blog Archive