To some people, the secret behind a fellow CPA landing a promotion is obvious: they were in the right place at the right time. They were lucky. But when you look a little closer, it becomes immediately obvious that there are many tactics you can use to quickly climb the ranks. If you’ve been patiently waiting for your turn up until now, it’s time to change your strategy!

The actions and behaviours you exhibit every day are the key to your career advancement. Take the following 12 tips to heart to make it to the next level.


1. identify your goals.

What do you want to accomplish in the next 2, 5, or even 10 years? To focus your efforts, create a roadmap based on your interests: generalist, tax expert, internal auditor, business analyst? SME or large corporation? Switching from one specialization to another isn’t always easy – it might even set you back a few steps, so it’s important to make the right choice from the beginning. To get inspired, find CPAs who have successful careers and analyze the path that got them there (LinkedIn makes this part easy!).

2. develop your technical skills.

In some fields, managers don’t necessarily need to have the same skills as their subordinates; in accounting, it’s the complete opposite. As team leaders, CPAs need to be able to help their colleagues by pinpointing mistakes. They serve as guides, experts, and trainers. If your deliverables aren’t impressive enough, you won’t land a promotion.

3. say “yes” to responsibility.

Even though they don’t always come with a pay increase, new responsibilities and value-added tasks can fuel career progression. Learn to make the distinction between adding to your workload and taking on responsibility: try and avoid the former, but know that the latter is proof of your employer’s trust in you. You should be proud

4. master the art of diplomacy.

Work politics are both a blessing and a curse. Don’t fall into the trap: gossip, rivalries, and cliques will hurt your reputation and advancement opportunities, but don’t opt out completely. Never underestimate your colleagues’ influence, keep your ears open, and learn to be everyone’s friend. The more people you have supporting you, the faster you’ll progress! This topic is so important that Forbes recently dedicated a 6-article series to exploring it: check it out to dig deep into the psychology that underpins office politics!

5. tap into your inner detective.

Staying on top of the latest trends, technology, and industry news will make you a go-to resource within the company. When it comes to accounting in Quebec, the most underestimated abilities are French/English proficiency and tech knowledge, notably Excel. Take the lead and develop your skills by taking courses or training in your spare time.

6. work on your people skills.

This point is essential if you want to eventually become a manager. Learn more by reading our article about the most valuable qualities for CPAs.

7. follow up.

When a coworker assigns you a task, always make sure to record some proof of your involvement via email. On top of avoiding a situation where someone else might take credit for your hard work, these messages are the perfect opportunity to highlight your wins. Did you suggest an idea, correct a major mistake, or take initiative? Mention it – just don’t brag.

8. ask for feedback.

An annual performance review is not enough. You should be asking your supervisor to evaluate your work regularly. Ask questions and follow their advice. This way, you can solve any performance issues quickly, while showcasing your determination in the process. When your yearly evaluation eventually rolls around, don’t be shy to talk about your ambitions – many companies are eager to facilitate internal advancement to avoid losing their talent.

9. get back in the classroom.

Whether it’s a master’s degree or a certificate, going back to school will help you distinguish yourself and increase your value in the eyes of your employer. If you want to go off the beaten path, you’ll likely need to get a second degree. You can study management or taxes, or get certified as a CIA, CFA, or PMP. Some companies will offer financial support for employees that wish to pursue further education.

10. find a mentor.

Whether it’s your supervisor, a senior colleague, or someone in a management role, a mentor can share their technical skills and teach you helpful management tactics. Pay close attention to the way in which they communicate their ideas, host meetings, convince clients and peers, and diffuse delicate situations.

11. go above and beyond.

Whenever you have the chance, raise your hand to volunteer. If your industry research has allowed you to identify weaknesses within your organization, take the lead by proposing solutions, testing tools, and sharing your insights. Don’t wait around for the opportunity to stand out – small gestures also count. Does your supervisor prefer to read things as a hard copy? Print out your report. Did you have an important discussion? Summarize the key points via email. Are your colleagues not taking notes during meetings? Share your own. You’ll be an MVP in no time.

12. know your limits.

To advance in your career, you will obviously have to work hard, but you should also know when to say no. Taking on too heavy of a workload will hurt the quality of your work, which will inevitably have a negative impact on your deliverables.

All of these tips boil down to one bit of advice: work hard, keep your goals top-of-mind, and give every project your all. With a healthy dose of determination and a bit of strategic thinking, you will without a doubt arrive at your destination!

Despite your best efforts, a toxic work environment can also stall your career advancement. If you’re feeling stuck at the bottom of the ladder with no opportunities in sight, contact your nearest Randstad branch! In the meantime, you can also check out our CPA job postings.

looking to take a step up the corporate ladder? we can help you find the right fit.