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Colleagues having a conversation in a modern office.

3 tips to help you land that promotion during the pandemic

With an increased demand for CPAs, experts weigh in on how to carve out your next career move.

Colleagues having a conversation in a modern office.If you’re seeking a promotion at your organization, gauge where the business is at, then approach management to see what opportunities are available (Getty Images/10'000 Hours)

Pursuing a promotion may seem ambitious during a pandemic, with economic upheaval and record job losses, but Canadians are thinking about it. 

According to the annual Hays Salary Guide, released last October, almost half of those employed are seriously considering leaving their positions, up nine points from 2019. 

If you’re feeling the career itch, as a CPA, here’s the good news. According to a recent Randstad survey, accounting is one of the top in-demand remote jobs for 2021. Back in May 2020, it was also rated a top trending profession during COVID-19.

With that in mind, here are three tips for making a professional move right now.


Before setting sight on a promotion, figure out what’s motivating you to do so, advises Rhonda Scharf, trainer, speaker, author and president of Ottawa-based On the Right Track.   

Stressful times, like the pandemic, can lead to rash decisions, she says. Think things through to avoid making a move you may regret later. 

“People make major decisions at bad times,” she says. “Really evaluate and assess whether it is an impulsive move or whether it’s strategic.”

Ask yourself key questions including: Why do you want an upgraded position? What do you like and dislike about your current role? How are you feeling professionally—overwhelmed, bored, underappreciated, jaded? “You’ve got to move back before you move forward...,” says Scharf. “Get to the root of the problem.” 

The next step is narrowing down what role you want and how you could get it, adds CPA Melanie Schroeder, CEO of Out of The Box CPA Inc

“You can’t go somewhere when you don’t know where you’re going,” she says. “And you certainly can’t come up with a plan to get there, if you don’t know what the destination is.” 

It’s more than matching your experience, skill set and salary expectations to vacant positions or opportunities, adds Schroeder. It’s aligning those things with your values and expectations, and ensuring your organization or team are the right fit. 

“If you’re not creating what you want, what’s the point, whether that’s about a [balanced] lifestyle, money or a fulfilling career,” she says. “Be intentional about what kind of environment you’re going to enjoy.” 


When it comes to opportunity, timing can be everything. Understanding your surroundings is imperative when looking to advance your career, says John Horn, former chair of the board of directors at career-development organization CERIC.

Reflect upon where your organization (or industry) stands during the pandemic based on financial reports, revenue targets and any actions taken over the last year. 

“Read the room ... if there have been furloughs, layoffs or reductions, then really ask yourself if it’s the right time for a promotion,” advises Horn. “Gather a bit of intelligence  ... it’s an important professional capability to have self-awareness and organizational knowledge.” 

Open communication with superiors will enable you to highlight your achievements or present new ideas, while gauging (based on feedback) where you stand and if any opportunities are available, adds Horn. 

“It’s an opportunity in performance conversations to emphasize examples of where you’ve found efficiencies, where you might be able to reduce costs and processes and opportunities to innovate,” he says. 

Building trust is also critical to raising your corporate profile, Scharf adds. Chances are you will need to earn this with your boss over time, assuming more responsibility incrementally—not by leaping into a more senior role.   

“When you go to the boss and you say, ‘I want more’, they [may] give you a little bit to see if you’re serious,” she says. 

A common mistake, she adds, “People often try to aim to high and don’t take the crumbs that they are given to prove themselves.” 

Finally, Schroeder’s points out the “don’t ask, don’t get” conundrum. If you want professional change, you must seek it out and, at the very least, initiate a discussion. 

“I tell my staff that if they want something, they have to tell me,” she says. “Be really clear and say, ‘I’m open to opportunities and I would love to book some time with you to talk about my career path.’”


Thinking outside the box, beyond seniority and salary, can lead to more interesting career opportunities and requires resilience, adaptability and agility, says Horn.

Just as businesses have pivoted during the pandemic, so too can employees, be it moving into a new sector, switching teams or developing a new skillset. Even a current role can be innovated by adding function and responsibility, explains Horn. 

“Advancing your career could mean taking a different opportunity ... and then leveraging that in the years ahead ...,” he says. “Think about what is really meaningful to you, what the opportunities are and what the realistic way forward would be.”

This includes staying abreast of the latest industry developments, Horn adds. Forge your next moves by evaluating emerging trends—be it green technology, energy efficiency, automation, digital currency, remote work—and project how they are influencing your profession and role.

“My message to accountants would be to look at the macro forces at play,” he says, adding adding that CPAs should take a longer-term view, evaluate relevant economic indicators and see how they may factor into their future career path.

For CPAs, Schroeder adds, it’s about moving beyond the data and tapping into strategy and analysis, where skills, including emotional intelligence, effective communication, relationship building and conflict resolution, are becoming more valuable.

“You have to be able to think critically. You have to be able to problem solve. It’s not about producing a financial statement or even ratios. It’s about analyzing the business as a whole,” she says. “If you want to set yourself apart, then you need to be able to do things that the regular CPA can’t do.”


The pandemic is proving to be a time of opportunity for CPAs. Here’s why the demand for CPAs is greater than ever. If you’re considering upskilling, experts weigh in on where finance professionals should focus their attention to address the challenges facing the sector. Also, stay up-to-date on the learnings emerging from CPA Canada’s strategic initiative to reshape the accounting profession. Check out Foresight: Reimagining the Profession