Goodbye Q4, Hello Q1: A Strategic Approach to Your Accounting and Finance Career in the New Year

Accounting and Finance

As accounting and finance professionals, we often find ourselves racing against the clock to close out the year on a high note, juggling year-end financials, tax filings, and performance evaluations.

We understand that transitioning from the accelerated pace of Q4 to the goal-setting mindset of Q1 presents distinct challenges. However, taking the time to proactively plan ahead for the year can make all the difference in setting yourself up for success.

Here’s how to navigate this transition successfully.

Set Your Own Goals or Someone Else Will

You’ve likely heard of SMART goals, and it’s more than just a buzzword; it’s a proven approach to success.

Statistics show that only 2 out of 10 individuals will set goals for themselves this year1. Without clear and SMART objectives, you might feel like you’re drifting along someone else’s path. Q1 is the perfect time to reflect on your past achievements and define your aspirations for the coming year.

Consider the following when setting your SMART goals:

  1. Specific: Clearly define what you want to achieve. Instead of a vague goal like ‘improve skills,’ consider specifying it as ‘attain advanced proficiency in Excel to analyze financial data more efficiently.’
  2. Measurable: Set criteria to measure your progress. For instance, ‘complete two online courses on financial analysis by the end of Q1.’
  3. Achievable: Ensure that your goals are realistic and attainable given your resources and constraints. Setting a goal to ‘become a CFO within six months’ may not be realistic, but ‘earn a promotion to senior financial analyst within the next year’ could be more attainable.
  4. Relevant: Align your goals with your career aspirations and the needs of your organization. Make sure they contribute to your professional growth and the success of your team or company.
  5. Time-bound: Set a specific timeframe for achieving your goals. For example, ‘present a financial analysis report to the executive team by the end of February.’

TIP: Get your goals on paper! You are 42% more likely to achieve goals when you write them down2.

Navigating Performance Reviews and Salary Reviews: Charting Your Career Course

Performance reviews and salary discussions play pivotal roles in shaping your career trajectory in accounting and finance, especially as Q1 approaches. To make the most of these assessments, it’s crucial to be well-prepared and confident in your approach.

Preparing for Performance Reviews

Performance reviews aren’t just routine formalities; they’re opportunities to define your career path. Start by meticulously collecting evidence of your accomplishments throughout the year, emphasizing quantifiable results that showcase your value.

During the review itself, engage in a meaningful dialogue with your manager. Seek constructive feedback, set ambitious performance goals, and inquire about growth prospects or additional responsibilities. Remember, it’s your chance to steer your career in the right direction.

Approaching a Salary Review

Only 37% of employees always negotiate their salaries3. Discussing compensation can be delicate, but it’s vital to ensure you’re fairly rewarded for your contributions. When gearing up for a salary review in Q1, follow these strategic steps:

  1. Research Compensation Trends: Begin by understanding the current market rate for your role and experience level in your industry and location. Websites like Glassdoor and salary surveys offer valuable insights to benchmark your expectations. Our 2024 Compensation Guide provides the most up-to-date salary and market insights. Get your copy here!
  2. Prepare a Compelling Case: Document your achievements, responsibilities, and any added value you’ve brought to your organization. Be ready to articulate why you merit a raise based on your performance and contributions.
  3. Schedule a Meeting: Take the initiative to arrange a conversation with your supervisor about your compensation. Approach it professionally and respectfully, expressing your interest in aligning your compensation with your accomplishments.
  4. Negotiate Thoughtfully: While being open to negotiation, maintain a clear threshold in mind. If a significant salary increase isn’t immediately feasible, consider exploring alternative benefits like additional vacation days or opportunities for professional development.

By adopting these strategies for both performance and salary reviews, you’ll be well-prepared to navigate these pivotal milestones in your accounting and finance career, steering it toward success and satisfaction.

Pros and Cons of Changing Jobs in the New Year

Changing jobs in the new year can be an enticing prospect, but it’s crucial to weigh the pros and cons:


  1. Fresh Start: A new job can bring a sense of renewal and motivation, providing you with the energy to hit the ground running in the first quarter of the year.
  2. Career Advancement: Switching jobs can lead to opportunities for career growth, skill development, and potentially higher compensation, helping you progress in your professional journey.
  3. Networking: Moving to a new position often means expanding your professional network. This can open doors to new opportunities, valuable industry insights, and connections that may benefit your career in the long run.


  1. Uncertainty: Transitioning to a new role can be challenging, with a learning curve and adjustment period. To make this more doable, consider investing time in research and preparation before the transition. This could involve taking relevant courses, networking with professionals in the new field, and seeking mentorship to ease the learning curve.
  2. Forfeited Benefits: Leaving a current job may mean giving up certain benefits like accrued vacation days or retirement contributions. To mitigate this, carefully evaluate the benefits package of your potential new job and negotiate for any possible improvements. Additionally, plan for the financial impact and consider setting aside savings to cover any gaps in benefits.
  3. Relationships: Departing may strain relationships with colleagues and supervisors. To handle this, maintain open and honest communication throughout the transition process. Keep in touch with former colleagues and supervisors, as maintaining a professional network can still be beneficial in the long run.


In conclusion, the shift from Q4 to Q1 is an ideal moment to set career goals, navigate performance reviews, and address compensation concerns. When contemplating a job change, carefully assess the timing and consider the pros and cons to make an informed decision.

Remember, your career is in your hands, and with careful planning and strategic thinking, you can make the new year a stepping stone toward professional success!

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