Four Lessons for Tomorrow’s CPA Partner by Michelle Jenkins

When you’re young, the possibilities are wide open to you. You may not be thinking about a family or leading a business. You are probably thinking about the job in front of you, how to pay your bills and how to spend your free time.

I was in your place not long ago.

When I first started working at Anglin, I was newly married, ambitious, figuring out my passions and goals. I assumed that I would leave for another job at some point. Becoming a partner didn’t cross my mind.

I did almost leave. When my husband and I decided that we wanted children, I figured that I would need a job with fewer hours. At that point, I made a really smart decision. I talked to the leaders of the firm about my plans.

Lesson One: Share your career plans.

When I told the leaders about my goals to start a family and my concern about the workload, they asked how they could get me to stay.

One caveat: I had already proven my worth to the firm by that point. They knew my skills and viewed me as a high-potential employee who would continue to contribute even on a reduced schedule. It was a risk for them and me, but the open discussion made it feel right.

Lesson Two: You can do it at your own pace.

As I started my family, I did go to a reduced schedule, but as I got the hang of parenthood, my career goals called to me. I loved my family time, and I loved working, too.

Within a few years, I decided that becoming a partner was a valid path for me. I had the autonomy and support to carve a niche for myself and pursue it on my timeline. The leaders demonstrated confidence in my potential to help them grow the firm.

Everybody will have a different path and different ways of contributing to growth. Some will be good at bringing in new business while others will recognize opportunities for new services or technological solutions. Still others will be excellent at client service and retaining clients as they grow.

My personal path to partner took about eight years. Sometimes I worked a lot of hours, but I also had the flexibility to pump the brakes and focus on life when necessary. In that time, I demonstrated leadership through my work with clients and my ideas within the firm to develop our government contracting niche. It became my passion to work with these clients.

Lesson Three: Pursue your path proactively.

Nobody could push me to be a partner if I didn’t want it. It played to my strengths to set a goal and work toward it. I can say that it’s not easy, but it’s definitely available if you want it.

Through my efforts, I dispelled any doubt among the partners about where I wanted to end up in the firm. I was also fortunate to find a mentor in another partner. She became my sounding board and was also honest with me about what it would take to achieve my goals.

If you don’t have someone at your firm to mentor you, you can find career or life coaches or other business mentors to help you think through ideas and develop that leadership mindset. It really helps to get advice.

Lesson Four: Be ready to mentor other future leaders.

At the end of this pursuit, I had to know what I was getting myself into! Just as others guided me to join the leadership team at Anglin, my job as a partner will include developing our next generation of leaders in the firm.

After achieving my goal of becoming a partner in January 2021, it represents a new beginning. I’m getting to know the partner group well, trusting their unique roles and skills. I am also getting to know them as people.

At the same time, I am looking out for the best interests of my team and the firm overall — building trust across the firm. They have to know that I am a real person, and I have their best interests at heart.

Whenever my daughter comes to work with me, she likes to sneak off and say hello to the interns at our firm. Sometimes she will bring them a picture she’s drawn. It’s another piece of my career and life that blends, and I love that.

Being a partner is a change of mindset. You are no longer just focused on your own career, but also the careers of many others. If you want it, don’t doubt it. There are many paths to get there. Pick yours.