Tis the Season (for CPE)

As a CPA, you can always tell the end of tax season even if you don’t complete one tax return and your calendar is missing.  You can tell because your mailbox – both the postal version and the electronic version – starts getting filled up with CPE catalogs.  Of course you do probably need to look outside to see if the leaves are green or red to be sure exactly what time of year it is because one tax season end is April and the other is October and the CPE catalogs come in droves after both deadlines.

The question for you is which time of year do you actually look at the CPE catalogs?  Is it in the spring when you can plan your CPE approach for the year or is it late in the year when you are just looking for hours to comply with your state licensure requirements? My recommendation is to take advantage of all of the catalogs you are receiving now to put together a proactive CPE plan that will actually increase your skills during the coming year.

The first step to putting together a CPE plan is to look at your needs.  Are there areas you need to improve on in the coming year?  You might look back at those annual reviews you quickly filed away in the rush to get all of that year-end work done for some ideas.  Ideas can also come from looking at your work goals and plans for the coming year.  Did you get new duties in the last few months that will require new knowledge or skills?  Is there a new standard that directly impacts your company or job? Is there a promotion or new set of duties you will be striving to obtain in the coming year?  All of these provide fertile ground for growing ideas of CPE that will enhance your career rather than simply meeting the state mandated minimum.

The second step is then to search for those CPE opportunities that meet the needs you laid out above.  I know too many of you have limited or no help from your employer in paying for quality CPE.  That creates is own set of dilemmas, but even those can be overcome with a well thought-out plan.  First off, by planning ahead you can maximize the use of low or no cost CPE opportunities that come along.  My home Chapter here in Texas has an annual free CPE day. (OK, you have to pay for lunch, but who is going to quibble over a few bucks when you get 8 hours of CPE.)  With a CPE plan in place, I can choose the sessions that best fit my needs for the coming year while at the same time keeping my cost to a minimum.

Of course sometimes you still have to pay to get the CPE you really need to improve your skills.  By planning ahead you can find the right sessions in or close to your city minimizing the travel costs which all too often can be as much or more than the course or conference itself.  In addition you can look for a course with the right expert on the subject or a presenter that you know will make it worth your time and money rather than taking a leap of faith.

Really, CPE should be no different then everything else we CPAs do.  We plan and organize the monthly, quarterly and annual reporting process for our companies, we put together plans for new system or process implements and we even we put together personal financial plans for our clients and ourselves.  Isn’t your career worthy of some of that planning effort as well?  Planning your CPE approach for the year is one simple step you can take toward being more proactive in planning your career.  I hope you will take advantage of all of the CPE catalogs you are receiving now that tax season is over to spend a little time doing that planning.

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