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Got the degree, got the experience (maybe), now what?

That question can only be answered by asking yourself about your goals and why you originally wanted to get into bookkeeping/accounting. If you only wanted a quick and easy way to make a paycheck, this will burn you out quickly. If you love to be buried in spreadsheets and put pieces of a story together to get the entire picture, then you will likely be in this for the long haul.

That doesn’t mean that those who started out to get a paycheck will never learn to love it or that those who became bookkeepers thinking it was their passion won’t get burned out. That happens too. But I think you are better off knowing that this is something you would enjoy doing. I thought I wanted to be a labor and delivery nurse until I found out everything that entailed and then I thought, “No, thank you.”

Obviously, getting a little experience and a degree is not going to land you any sort of Controller or CFO job out the door. Much like everything else, you gotta pay those dues. And they seem extremely expensive. But it can be absolutely worth it. Look for positions that encompass more that bookkeeping or accounting at first. In my experience (and mine alone so don’t take this as an end all, be all) those types of jobs are the easiest to slip into to get that bookkeeping experience.

For instance, an office clerk might have to answer calls, direct people to where they want to go, and take care of paying bills. May not sound like any bookkeeping or accounting in there, but that may be your path to getting Accounts Payable (AP) experience. AP is much like paying your personal bills in life. It is just usually on a bigger scale than your personal life.

You may just write out the checks or initiate ACH payments for the company, but that means you would also have to pay attention to the bank balance, cash available, and items that can be paid each payment run. If you are granted access to the accounting software, this may also include categorizing payments in the books. This is where you learn cash vs. accrual accounting (more on that in another post) and how vital it is to get the dates and account codes right, among other things. The vendor, the amount, the invoice number being paid, etc. Everything needs to be spit shined and polished with complete accuracy.

But even starting out with paying simple bills for a company can open doors. And once you’ve proven yourself, ask for more bookkeeping responsibility. Try to soak up all you can. And pay attention to the bookkeeping jobs becoming available that might only need someone for AP once you get some of that beginning experience. It is amazing how quickly one duty from one job can lead into another duty for another job. And by the time you know it, it’ll be 12 years that you’ve been a bookkeeper, accountant, or even CFO!

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