Advice to Future and New CPAs

by Tom Sulewski, CPA | Oct 20, 2021

Fall is here and another year end marches toward us with each setting sun. With the change in seasons, we see schools reopening and students heading back to campus to re-engage in their education journey. As many firms likely do, we recently had a sendoff event for our departing summer interns which is an event I always enjoy.

A portion of our program was dedicated to lessons learned and experience sharing from the new interns and then some additional time was reserved for the senior partners to reflect on their own words of advice to the future leaders of the profession.

The dialogue between the generations provided a variety of rich perspectives with the following takeaways for me:

Create a Legacy – As senior leaders in our firms and in the community, there can be no greater legacy than the transfer of our collective knowledge to the next generation in our firms. It was powerful to watch the senior partners speak and the interns listen. As leaders, however, we need to be at peace that the next generation will hear and absorb but may not duplicate our advice exactly as we would have. If we do our jobs right, they will take the foundational knowledge we share and make it their own with an even more rewarding result than we could have imagined.

Build for the Youth – Our next several classes of interns will be approaching their career priorities with an entirely different life experience than many of the current leadership group. They will have been toughened and stretched by a global pandemic that has changed their perspectives and priorities. We should not lose sight of the reality that those same perspectives and priorities of our new employees will be representative of our future clients. Invite those new perspectives to the table so we can learn how to better serve in the post pandemic environment.

Variety and Mentoring Wins – Almost without exception, each intern spoke about variety. They were motivated by a variety of different projects and responsibilities. And, they valued the people and mentors they had the opportunity with which to work. As leaders in a competitive employment market we need to keep speaking to the variety of projects and career opportunities the profession can provide. And, we need to do it every chance we can get in the office, in the classrooms, and at events.

Say Yes More Often – Our senior advisors encouraged the interns to embrace the opportunities of the CPA profession and to experience as much as they can as soon as they are ready. Some of the most significant personal wins, knowledge growth and expansion of skills come when we simply say “yes” to trying something new. Complacency is the enemy of advancement and taking on the harder project and saying “yes” to new opportunities will differentiate the great from the good.

Small Actions Have Big Impacts – Throughout my career I have benefited from some relatively short actions taken by others that have resulted in big impacts in how I personally approached problems, projects and people. Our interns shared several similar personal stories from their summer work. We cannot underestimate the impact of the short, informal “thank you,” the meeting in our office to acknowledge successful execution of an assignment, or taking the time to show an intern or new staff the bigger picture of how their work impacted the value added results to a larger client project. As brief as those moments may be for us, they can completely change the outlook and trajectory of someone’s career path.

Good Days and Bad Days – Client service is at the core of our professional business model. That inherently translates to somewhat unavoidable work stress surrounding deadlines, deliverables, and multitasking. Organizations that can deploy the emotional intelligence skills from a leadership level to empathize with their team and provide perspective can overcome those inherent stress drivers. A partner once told me to pace myself in this profession as it is more like a marathon than a sprint. There will be good days and bad days—and sometimes all in the same day.

Regardless of where you are in your career, you, too, have a unique perspective to share with future CPAs and even with your fellow members. WSCPA resource groups are a great way for you to share that perspective or get advice from peers. If you haven’t joined a group, visit Connect, our private member community, at and search for a group to join. If you need help, reach out to and someone will help you find a group.

Tom SulewskiTom Sulewski, CPA, is the shareholder in charge of the audit department for Clark Nuber PS and WSCPA Chair. You can contact him at

This article appears in the fall 2021 issue of the Washington CPA magazine. Read more here.


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