by Henrietta Fuchs, Partner, CohnReznick
Every professional woman has a story of how and why they chose their career. While many of us have made it our mission to be change agents in our field, and to make a difference in our profession and (hopefully) in the world, we must also remember that there are future leaders behind us who will pick up where we leave off. This gives us a powerful opportunity to help the next generation of leaders grow and to learn from our experiences. Becoming a mentor within your profession, and to the next generation of leaders in your industry, can ensure that your legacy lives on – that the work that you have dedicated your life to will continue to advance the profession in more ways than you could ever imagine.
At CohnReznick, we encourage employees to remember where they started and that a new generation is beginning a similar path. Sharing my story is a way to inspire others to spend time with this next generation by serving as their mentors – providing guidance to help them move forward on their career paths.
A Personal Story: Why Mentoring Matters
I moved to the U.S. from Hungary at the age of 18 to attend college. I worked various part-time jobs to finance my education and, in my senior year of college, I received a scholarship from the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants (NJCPA). This scholarship helped me complete my master’s degree and graduate early.
After earning my master’s degree, I decided to stay in the U.S. and pursued a career in accounting with CohnReznick (J.H. Cohn at the time). I realized that staying in the U.S. would give me opportunities that I would have never had in Hungary. While working as an auditor at CohnReznick, and as my career began to take shape, I saw the importance of giving back to the profession. Helping the younger generation of accountants, and other women in public accounting, became a significant component of my own career growth.
Methods to Mentoring
So, how can you actively mentor the next generation? As a manager, I became involved in CohnReznick’s network for women, WomenCAN, which was a highly rewarding experience for me. The WomenCAN network promotes the importance of retaining and advancing women in our Firm and in the profession. It also serves as a successful mentoring platform by giving female accountants the opportunity to communicate with one another, and with younger professionals, about the challenges and rewards of public accounting.
For example, as a mother of young children, I understand the importance of a flexible professional schedule. The WomenCAN program has allowed me to assist other women in establishing a schedule that works for them personally after starting a family. WomenCAN has also enabled me to meet with other women from different firms and industries to discuss our challenges and to share best practices.
Mentoring – and encouraging women to enter public accounting – elevates the profession. Having more women accountants brings diversity as well as different perspectives to our industry. This not only makes public accounting firms more appealing to clients and prospects, but to current and future employees as well.
Outside of any networking groups that your firm may host, consider mentorship opportunities available through industry associations. For example, I am actively involved with the NJCPA and currently chair the Student Programs and Scholarship Committee. Through this committee, I am privileged to meet the next generation seeking entry to the accounting profession. Through the scholarship interview process, I have the chance to meet high school students entering college to study accounting as well as college juniors and seniors who are looking to start their professional careers in public accounting. My involvement with this committee allows me to witness students receiving scholarships and, ultimately, moving on to successful careers in the accounting profession. Based on my own experience, I can confidently tell every female student that they can remain in public accounting even after they have a family because of the flexibility that the profession can offer to retain its female accountants.
Through my service on the committee, I was also a mentor for a high school scholarship recipient entering college. I helped her navigate her college courses, select an internship and, finally, enter public accounting after graduation.
I am very fortunate to have been involved in various women-centric organizations and the NJCPA throughout my career. The rewards of mentoring go two ways – to those of us who serve as mentors and to those who receive mentoring support. I look forward to expanding my involvement with other organizations and continuing to give back to the accounting profession and the next generation of public accountants.
I strongly encourage all professionals to consider mentoring the next generation. You will reap the benefits of higher quality relationships, a stronger commitment to your profession, and the opportunity to gain fresh perspectives and learn new approaches to solving issues.