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Attention Tax Professionals: Train With Purpose!

Stop taking random, uncoordinated, trainings – Instead create a strategic development program to help get you where you want to go!

Why is a Development Plan Important?

In the ever-evolving world of taxation, staying up to date on the latest regulations, technological advancements, and industry practices is essential. For tax professionals, this doesn’t just mean fulfilling the obligatory continuing education credits but engaging in a process of continuous, intentional learning that aligns with their career aspirations and the demands of the field.

Unfortunately, many professionals approach their development haphazardly, opting for random continuing education programs and free trainings without a strategic plan. This approach often leads to missed opportunities for deeper learning and career advancement.

The necessity for a structured, purposeful approach to learning in the tax profession cannot be overstated.

With the landscape of tax laws and technology changing at an unprecedented pace, professionals who are equipped with the latest knowledge and skills are not only more effective in their current roles but also better positioned for future opportunities.

However, creating a meaningful and effective training and development program requires more than just signing up for the next available course. It demands a thoughtful assessment of one’s professional goals, an understanding of the available educational resources, and a commitment to integrating learning into one’s daily practice.

By moving beyond random, uncoordinated efforts and towards a more structured and strategic model of professional development, tax professionals can ensure they are investing their time and money wisely, thereby enhancing their expertise and value in the field.

Section 1: Assessing Professional Development Needs

The foundation of any successful training and development program lies in a thorough self-assessment.

It’s about taking a step back to reflect on where you are in your career, where you want to be, and what knowledge or skills are required to bridge that gap. This initial phase is crucial because it helps you identify your current strengths and pinpoint areas for improvement, setting the stage for a learning journey that is both meaningful and aligned with your career aspirations.

Identify Your Career Objectives: Start by asking yourself what your professional goals are. Do you aim to specialize in a particular area of tax such as tax resolution or tax planning?

Are you looking to move into a leadership position? Or perhaps you’re exploring the possibility of starting your own tax practice? Clear objectives will guide your learning path, ensuring it aligns with your long-term career plans.

Conduct a SWOT Analysis: A SWOT analysis—examining your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats—is a powerful tool for assessing your professional landscape. This involves a candid look at your current capabilities (strengths and weaknesses) and the external factors that could impact your career (opportunities and threats). Understanding these elements will help you pinpoint exactly what skills or knowledge you need to focus on.

Seek Feedback: Sometimes, we’re too close to our own situations to see them clearly. That’s why feedback from colleagues, mentors, or supervisors can be invaluable. They may offer insights into areas of potential growth you hadn’t considered or suggest resources that have been beneficial to them.

Review Industry Requirements: The tax profession is governed by a myriad of regulations, and staying compliant is non-negotiable. Beyond compliance, however, consider what skills or knowledge areas are emerging as vital in your field.

For example, is there a trend towards digital tax filings, or is there a new regulation that requires deep understanding? Keeping an eye on these trends will ensure your learning efforts are not only about meeting the minimum requirements but also about staying ahead in your field.

By conducting a thorough assessment of your professional development needs, you’re not just planning for the next step in your career; you’re laying the groundwork for sustained success and satisfaction in the tax profession. This thoughtful approach to identifying your learning needs is the first, critical step in developing a training program that is as purposeful and impactful as your aspirations in the tax world.

Section 2: Setting Clear Learning Objectives

Once you’ve assessed your professional development needs, the next crucial step is to set clear, actionable learning objectives.

These objectives serve as a roadmap, guiding your educational journey towards achieving your career goals. Crafting these objectives with intention and precision is vital for ensuring your learning efforts are focused and effective.

Embrace the SMART Framework: To ensure your objectives are actionable and achievable, utilize the SMART framework. This means each learning objective should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

For example, instead of a vague goal like “learn more about tax problem resolution,” a SMART objective would be “complete the ASTPS Tax Resolution Accelerator by the end of Q2, allowing me to begin confidently handling tax problem cases for clients this year.”

Align with Career Aspirations: Your learning objectives should directly contribute to your broader career goals. If you aim to become a recognized expert in a niche area of tax law, your objectives might include publishing articles in industry journals or speaking at conferences in addition to completing specific courses. This alignment ensures that every learning activity is a step towards your ultimate professional vision.

Balance Breadth and Depth: While specializing in a particular area is valuable, it’s also important to maintain a broad understanding of the tax field. This ensures you can adapt to changes and identify opportunities. Consider setting objectives that both deepen your expertise in specific areas and broaden your knowledge base.

Prioritize Flexibility: The tax industry’s constant evolution means that your learning objectives may need to adapt over time. Periodically review and adjust your objectives to reflect new regulations, technologies, or shifts in your career focus. This flexibility ensures your development plan remains relevant and aligned with the industry’s demands.

Incorporate Soft Skills: Technical knowledge is crucial, but soft skills like communication, leadership, management and critical thinking are what differentiate top professionals. Set objectives that enhance these skills, such as leading a training session for peers or participating in a leadership development program. These skills enhance your ability to work effectively with clients, colleagues, and within your professional community.

By setting SMART, career-aligned learning objectives, you’re not just plotting a course for your professional development; you’re ensuring that every step you take is intentional and contributes to your overall career success. Remember, the journey of learning is ongoing. With each objective you meet, you’ll find new horizons to explore, further enriching your professional life and advancing your expertise in the dynamic world of tax.

Section 3: Exploring Learning Resources and Programs

With your learning objectives in place, the next step is to identify the resources and programs that will best help you achieve them. The landscape of educational opportunities for tax professionals is vast and varied, encompassing everything from online courses and webinars to in-depth live workshops and certifications.

Navigating this landscape requires a discerning eye, not only for the quality of the content but also for the expertise and credibility of the instructors.

Diverse Learning Formats: Consider the format that suits your learning style and schedule. Online courses offer flexibility, allowing you to learn at your own pace, while live workshops and seminars provide opportunities for interaction and networking.

Webinars can be a great way to stay updated on specific topics without a significant time investment.

Accredited and Reputable Programs: Ensure that the programs you choose are accredited by relevant professional bodies. This not only guarantees a certain level of educational quality but also ensures that your efforts are recognized for continuing education credits or certifications.

Don’t be afraid to check reviews and ask for references. Anyone with a reputable course should have many reviews (For example our Accelerator has over 700) and won’t be afraid to put you in touch with someone who has taken it!

Instructor Expertise and Background: The quality of an instructor can significantly impact your learning experience. Look for instructors who are not just knowledgeable but also have practical experience in the topics they teach.

They should be recognized professionals in their field, with a track record of success and contributions to the tax profession. Investigate their professional background, publications, and any reviews or testimonials from previous students.

Avoid the “One Chapter Ahead” Syndrome: Be cautious of instructors who may have theoretical knowledge but lack practical experience. These instructors might be only “one chapter ahead” in the textbook, meaning they are learning just slightly in advance of teaching the material.

This can limit the depth of insight and real-world applicability they can provide. Seek out instructors who bring years of hands-on experience to their teaching, offering not just theoretical knowledge but also practical wisdom and case studies from their professional careers.

Sample Before Committing: Whenever possible, preview course materials or attend a trial session to gauge the quality of the content and the instructor’s teaching style. Many reputable programs like the ASTPS Accelerator offer free webinars, sample lectures, or introductory courses that can give you a sense of what to expect.

By thoughtfully selecting your learning resources and programs, you ensure that your educational investments are both enriching and aligned with your professional goals. Remember, the objective is not just to accumulate knowledge but to build practical skills and insights that will enhance your expertise and career in the tax profession.

Section 4: Developing a Structured Learning Plan

After identifying your learning objectives and selecting the right resources and programs, the next crucial step is crafting a structured learning plan.

This plan acts as a blueprint for your educational journey, outlining what you aim to learn, how you plan to learn it, and by when. A well-structured plan not only keeps you focused and motivated but also helps you integrate learning seamlessly into your busy schedule.

Step 1: Prioritize Your Learning Objectives
Start by listing your learning objectives in order of priority. Consider your career goals, time constraints, and the relevance of each objective to your current role or future aspirations. This prioritization will help you focus on what’s most important, ensuring you allocate your time and resources effectively.

Step 2: Select Appropriate Learning Activities
For each objective, choose the learning activities that best match your preferred learning style and the depth of knowledge you seek. This could range from online courses for comprehensive study, webinars for updates on specific topics, to workshops for hands-on experience. Remember to consider the instructor’s expertise as part of this selection process to ensure high-quality learning.

Step 3: Create a Timeline
Develop a realistic timeline for achieving your learning objectives, taking into account your work schedule and personal commitments. Set specific start and end dates for each activity, and consider the time needed to apply new knowledge or skills in practice. A well-defined timeline helps keep your learning plan on track and allows you to adjust as needed without losing sight of your goals.

Step 4: Incorporate Flexibility
While a structured plan is essential, it’s also important to allow for flexibility. Be prepared to adjust your plan as new priorities emerge, whether they are changes in your job role, shifts in the tax industry, or unexpected life events. This adaptability is key to maintaining a relevant and effective learning journey over time.

Step 5: Monitor Progress and Adjust as Necessary
Regularly review your progress against your plan. This could be a simple checklist of objectives and activities, or a more detailed tracking system using digital tools like learning management systems (LMS) or personal planning apps. Celebrate milestones to stay motivated, and don’t hesitate to revise your plan if certain objectives or resources are no longer relevant or effective.

Step 6: Integrate Learning with Practice
The ultimate goal of any learning activity is to enhance your professional practice. Plan for how you will apply what you learn in your work, whether through specific projects, by sharing knowledge with colleagues, or by seeking out new responsibilities that leverage your new skills. This application not only reinforces your learning but also demonstrates the value of your investment to your career and your organization.

Developing a structured learning plan is a dynamic process that requires ongoing attention and adjustment. By following these steps, you create a roadmap that not only guides your educational efforts but also ensures they contribute meaningfully to your professional growth and success in the tax profession.

Section 5: Implementing the Learning Plan

With a structured learning plan in hand, the next phase is implementation. This stage is where your planning meets action, and you begin to engage with your chosen learning activities.

Implementing your plan effectively requires discipline, time management, and an openness to adapting your strategies as you progress. Here are key strategies to ensure successful implementation:

Integrate Learning into Your Routine:
To make continuous learning a sustainable part of your professional life, integrate it into your daily or weekly routine. Allocate specific times for learning, just as you would for client meetings or administrative tasks. Early morning, lunch breaks, or quiet evening hours can be excellent times to focus on learning activities.

Set Up a Dedicated Learning Space:
Create a physical or digital space that is conducive to learning. This might mean setting aside a desk at home, using noise-canceling headphones in a busy office, or organizing digital resources and course materials in a specific folder on your computer. A dedicated space helps minimize distractions and signals to your brain that it’s time to focus on learning.

Leverage Technology for Efficiency:
Utilize digital tools and platforms to manage your learning activities more efficiently. Learning management systems (LMS), project management apps, or even simple calendar reminders can help you keep track of deadlines, progress, and tasks. Additionally, many educational platforms offer mobile apps, allowing you to learn on the go.

Apply What You Learn Immediately:
Seek opportunities to apply new knowledge or skills as soon as possible. Whether it’s implementing a new tax planning strategy with a client or sharing insights from a recent webinar with your team, practical application reinforces learning and increases the value of your investment.

Stay Motivated and Accountable:
Maintaining motivation can be challenging, especially when balancing learning with professional responsibilities. Setting small, achievable goals and rewarding yourself for meeting them can boost motivation. Additionally, consider finding a study buddy or joining a learning group for mutual support and accountability.

Seek Feedback and Reflect on Your Learning:
As you implement your learning plan, seek feedback on your new skills and knowledge from peers, mentors, or supervisors. This feedback can provide valuable insights into areas for further improvement. Additionally, take time to reflect on your learning experiences, considering what worked well and what could be improved for future learning activities.

Be Prepared to Adjust Your Plan:
Flexibility is crucial during the implementation phase. You may discover new areas of interest, face unexpected challenges, or find that certain resources are not meeting your needs. Be ready to adjust your learning plan accordingly, whether by exploring new learning resources, adjusting your timelines, or re-prioritizing your objectives.

Implementing your learning plan is an active, ongoing process that requires engagement, flexibility, and a commitment to your professional growth. By following these strategies, you ensure that your learning journey is not only effective but also a rewarding and integral part of your career development in the tax profession.

Section 6: Evaluating and Adjusting the Program

The journey of professional development is both cyclical and evolutionary, emphasizing the importance of evaluating and refining your training and development program regularly. This continuous loop of assessment and adjustment ensures that your learning efforts remain aligned with your career goals, industry standards, and personal growth. Here’s how to effectively evaluate and adjust your program:

Evaluate the Effectiveness of Your Learning Activities:
After completing each learning activity, take time to assess its impact. Did it help you achieve your learning objectives? How has it contributed to your professional capabilities or career progression? Methods such as quizzes, practical projects, or simulations can help measure your knowledge gain and skill development. Feedback from colleagues or supervisors can also provide insights into how your new skills are being perceived and applied in the workplace.

Reflect on Your Learning Experience:
Beyond the tangible outcomes, reflect on the learning process itself. Consider aspects like the relevance of the content, the quality of instruction, and the learning format. Was the material engaging and applicable to your work? Did the instructor’s expertise and teaching style enhance your learning? Understanding what works for you will guide future decisions about learning resources and strategies.

Review and Adjust Your Learning Objectives:
The tax industry’s rapid pace of change may shift your focus or reveal new areas of interest. Regularly revisit your learning objectives to ensure they still align with your career goals and the current industry landscape. This may involve setting new goals, removing ones that are no longer relevant, or adjusting timelines based on your progress and feedback.

Iterate Your Learning Plan Based on Insights:
Armed with feedback and reflections, adjust your learning plan to better suit your needs and goals. This could mean exploring new learning formats, focusing on different skill areas, or even pausing certain activities to concentrate on applying what you’ve learned so far. The key is to remain flexible and responsive to both your progress and the evolving demands of the tax profession.

Plan for Continued Growth:
Professional development is a continuous journey, not a destination. Even as you achieve your current learning objectives, always look ahead to the next steps in your career development. This forward-looking approach ensures you remain proactive about your growth and prepared for future opportunities and challenges.

Evaluating and adjusting your training and development program is a critical component of ensuring sustained professional growth. By taking a thoughtful and proactive approach to this phase, you not only maximize the benefits of your learning efforts but also ensure that your development journey remains dynamic, responsive, and aligned with your evolving career aspirations in the tax profession.

Section 7: Leveraging Community and Networking

Engaging with peers, industry experts, and professional associations not only enhances your learning but also opens doors to new opportunities, perspectives, and support systems. Here’s how to effectively leverage community and networking in your professional development journey:

Participate in Professional Organizations:
Joining professional tax organizations, such as the American Society of Tax Problem Solvers (ASTPS), National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA), or the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), provides access to a wealth of resources, including specialized training, conferences, and publications. These organizations offer platforms for connecting with peers, staying informed about industry developments, and contributing to the broader professional community.

Attend Conferences and Workshops:
Participate in industry conferences, workshops, and seminars. These events are not only educational but also offer the chance to meet and learn from leading experts in your field. They provide a forum for discussing trends, challenges, and innovations, allowing you to gain insights and perspectives that can enrich your professional practice.

Engage in Online Forums and Social Media Groups:
The digital age offers countless opportunities for connecting with fellow tax professionals around the globe. Online forums, Facebook groups, and other social media platforms dedicated to tax professionals can be invaluable for sharing knowledge, asking questions, and staying abreast of industry news. Engaging in these digital communities allows for learning and collaboration that transcends geographical boundaries.

Seek Mentorship and Offer to Mentor Others:
Mentorship is a powerful tool for professional development. Seeking a mentor who has navigated the path you aspire to follow can provide guidance, encouragement, and valuable insights. Conversely, offering to mentor newer professionals can deepen your understanding of your own expertise and contribute to the growth of the profession as a whole.

Build and Maintain Professional Relationships:
Networking is about more than just exchanging business cards; it’s about building meaningful, professional relationships. Regularly connect with colleagues, classmates from professional courses, and industry contacts. These relationships can become sources of support, collaboration, and opportunities throughout your career.

Contribute to the Community:
Share your knowledge and experiences by writing articles, speaking at events, or participating in panel discussions. Contributing to the tax professional community not only helps others in their learning journey but also establishes you as a thought leader in your field.

Leveraging community and networking in your professional development is about engaging actively and authentically with the world around you. These connections not only enrich your learning but also play a crucial role in career advancement, offering a network of support, inspiration, and opportunities. By making community engagement and networking a cornerstone of your professional development strategy, you ensure that your growth is not just about personal gain but also about contributing to the collective knowledge and advancement of the tax profession.


The steps outlined in this article—from assessing your professional development needs and setting clear learning objectives to selecting the right learning resources, implementing a structured plan, and continually evaluating and adjusting your approach—form a comprehensive roadmap for success.

Remember, the essence of professional development in the tax profession is not just about accumulating credits or certifications; it’s about cultivating a deep, nuanced understanding of the field, honing your skills, and contributing to the broader professional community. By leveraging community and networking, you enrich your learning journey with the insights and experiences of peers, mentors, and industry leaders, adding depth and breadth to your professional knowledge.

As you navigate your professional development journey, keep in mind that the landscape of the tax profession is dynamic, with new challenges and opportunities emerging regularly. This fluidity requires not just a commitment to continuous learning but also a flexibility to adapt and evolve. Your learning plan should be a living document, one that reflects your growing expertise, shifting interests, and the changing needs of the profession.

In conclusion, taking charge of your professional development with intention and strategy is an investment in your future—a future where you are not just competent, but exceptional in your field. It’s an investment that pays dividends not only in enhanced skills and knowledge but also in increased confidence, better career opportunities, and a more significant impact on the clients and communities you serve. Start today, and take the first step towards building a purposeful and impactful learning journey in the tax profession.

Download a Sample Tax Resolution Development Program

Unlock the keys to a thriving career in tax resolution with our specialized training and development program. Designed for those eager to excel in the complex world of tax law and IRS representation, this program offers a comprehensive, step-by-step guide that not only lays the foundation but also propels you into the realm of advanced practices.