insight magazine

GEN NEXT: Three Skills I Gained by Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

When I signed on to serve as a firm ambassador for the Illinois CPA Society, I learned essential skills and made amazing new connections. By Greyson Borden, CPA | Fall 2021

When I was promoted to senior tax associate after only two busy seasons with my firm, I thought my professional life was right on track: I had a master’s degree, my CPA license, and glowing reviews from clients and coworkers. I was doing everything by the book. But after some thought, I realized I was becoming complacent and not looking for opportunities to grow. Then an interesting opportunity crossed my path: Would I like to serve as a firm ambassador to the Illinois CPA Society? At first, I was reluctant. Why volunteer to do even more work when I already work crazy hours during busy season? And as an introvert, this new role would require me to step out of my comfort zone. I could’ve taken the easy road and politely declined—but I said yes, and here’s what I learned.

#1: Communication skills

As a firm ambassador, I serve as a liaison between young professionals within my firm and the Illinois CPA Society, reaching out to share important information with my colleagues. Sometimes it’s just an email with interesting news or trends, but other times I’ve sent more urgent information, like updates on license renewal, the CPA exam, or crucial COVID-19 communications. I also get to chat with my coworkers about what I gain from my Illinois CPA Society membership and keep them informed about wonderful upcoming events. (The Young Professionals Leadership Conference will be held at the Willis Tower on November 5! Be there!)

#2: Remote connection skills

When I signed on as a firm ambassador, the global pandemic was already in full force and remote work had been the norm for quite some time, which made my ambassador role more challenging. I had to find new ways to connect and share information in a remote environment when I couldn’t chat with other young professionals face-to-face. I found that LinkedIn and Facebook were great channels to connect with colleagues and share posts from the Illinois CPA Society and other important sources. Most young professionals don’t spend as much time on LinkedIn as they do on other social media sites, so I met them where they were already congregating.

I found that even in a remote environment, I could make meaningful connections with my coworkers as a firm ambassador. I even helped a colleague study for the FAR section of the CPA exam and finally pass!

#3: Leadership skills

Overall, serving in this role has helped me to grow as a leader. I took the initiative to stay up to date with information about the profession, connect with colleagues (even in a remote world), expand my network, and help others. This role has helped me shine within my firm and I was proud to add it to my resume.

When we’re doing well in our jobs, it’s easy to get too comfortable. We need to remember that stepping outside of our comfort zones can pay off in essential skills and experiences. Next time an extracurricular or volunteer offer crosses your path, view it as an opportunity rather than a chore—you never know what you’ll learn.

Greyson Borden, CPA, is a senior tax associate with CohnReznick LLP and an Illinois CPA Society firm ambassador.

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