Career & Education | Life | Personal Stories | Article
How a Professional Qualification Can Level Up Your Career
by The Simple Sum Team | 20 Jun 2022 | 6 mins read
This article is brought to you by CPA Australia.
When it comes to professional certifications, most people think about taking up qualifications to make progress in their careers and they will choose courses that are directly related to their chosen career.
This is why tax analyst Marcus Ng took the CPA Program under CPA Australia. “I researched and talked to CPA members on the benefits of becoming a professional accountant and I was convinced.”
The topics that were covered during the duration of his course from 2013 to 2016 were relevant to his everyday work as a corporate tax associate at EY Singapore. “I was working with my client on tax issues relating to certain complex transactions relating to financial instruments. At that time, I was taking the Financial Reporting module and I was able to refresh my accounting concept on this topic, which was very handy.”
The 34-year-old is currently working at Google and his team handles Google’s tax matters, which include ensuring that Google complies with our tax obligations in the APAC region.
However, for Terence Tan, despite not pursuing a career in the finance field, he decided to study the CPA Program because of a mentor at work who was certified as a CPA.
At that time he was a business development associate director at a company that provided corporate and advisory services and recalls that during his initial six months, “every single email that I drafted had to be reviewed by [my mentor] before I sent it out”.
Before this, the 41-year-old had studied architecture in polytechnic and spent four years studying orchestral performance in Germany. Hence the choice to study to be a CPA was to have more holistic development in his career and it helped him to “articulate professionally” and “know what the clients really needs” as his role is client facing.
While Terence took the course during his career, the CPA exams can also be beneficial in giving one an advantage when they’re just about to step into the workforce.
For 33-year-old Goh Songyao, who works as a managing partner in the consulting arm of his family’s audit and tax business, the certification was a way for him to stand out from the pack.
He shared: “As a fresh graduate out of school, I was on the lookout to help me differentiate myself from my peers and given how competitive the job market was, it was [impossible] for someone without a professional certificate to succeed in landing his/her dream job especially in a demanding finance and accounting sector.” This led to him pursing the CPA ceritification.
While pursuing a ceritifcation might seem to be about the hard skills that you learn, you shouldn’t neglect the other benefits that will serve you well at your job too. “Because of the course, I also came to realise that internal stakeholder management is far more important than external stakeholder management,” shares Terence.
The case studies that were presented in the exam study guides and dived into the failures and challenges of companies like Uber and WeWork during his CPA course are ones that he still refers to even now in his role as TMF Group’s global business development director.
“I even kept a separate file just to document those elements or important points which I could actually apply to my work. I find it very helpful. Even up till today, although I’m done [with the CPA Program], I still go back to the study guide… and refer back to my notes because it is so applicable.”
Balancing work, study and family
Of course, getting the certification meant putting in the hours and the hard work. And when you have a full-time job and a four-year-old son, like Terence did when he was studying for the programme, it can be challenging.
This is when being disciplined and having a consistent study routine was important, especially since he wasn’t the kind of student who could burn the midnight oil just before exams.
“I planned it in a way where I studied during my free time, then weekends I would accompany my family, and then I studied at night. One month prior to the exams, I would go to my office on Saturdays and dedicate my ‘9 to 5’ just to revise.”
It also helps to join groups with fellow students who help one another with their studies, says Songyao. “There was a forum function for all CPA Australia Associate members taking the same exam in which they are able to share their issues and discuss problems together. That helped me understand a lot of concepts much faster and with greater clarity.”
“If you have any questions, you can post it on the online forum and your peers will help you,” adds Marcus.
Reaping the benefits
While the completion a professional qualification comes with a fancy new title, it is “a strong signal to your current and potential employers that you are able to bring value to the company”, says Marcus.
For Songyao, it gave him “greater confidence on tougher projects and also provided my superiors the confidence that I have the right skill set (on top of the right attitude) to complete the tasks on hand”.
“This enabled me to be given opportunities to grow my career and one thing led to another. It helped to open doors for me and I was exposed to many regional and global transformation projects which resulted in me getting the right network for me to exit and start my own business,” he shares.
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