Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Beginners Guide to Success: Steps to Take to Land your Dream Job as a CPA

By Keely Apple, 2017-18 TSCPA Student Ambassador for Upper Cumberland Chapter

Every Accounting student dreams of success. As students, we all have a similar idea of what success looks like for a CPA. Picture this: you are sitting in an office with wall to wall windows overlooking a picturesque city landscape. Sounds familiar, right? At this point, I bet you are wondering, “How do I become that successful?” Achieving success can sometimes seem difficult or overwhelming. How exactly does one achieve success? The process begins with good grades, obtaining an internship and then accepting one of many job offers. It is as easy as that - or is it? I would like to share some tips I have learned throughout my college career to maximize your chances of landing your dream job that will set you apart from the crowd.
               
One of our main concerns as students is a lack of relevant work experience. In order to overcome this obstacle, getting involved may be the solution. Getting involved on campus shows employers that you are not only good at working with others, but it can also aid in behavioral interview questions. Have you ever been in an interview and the interviewer asks, “Name a time when you…?" I think we all have and without relevant work experience or experience working with others, it is a pretty hard question to answer. Getting involved and working with an organization or club can help you with those questions you aren’t sure how to answer. Give an example. Getting involved is my first recommendation to set yourself up for success.
                Second, build a rapport with your professors. This is super important. Not only are they more understanding when you have to miss class for a job fair or interview, but they can also assist you in your job search or make recommendations for you when you are confused. Often times, Accounting majors are confused on whether they should be in tax or audit, industry or public accounting. Your professors have been there, and they have also seen many students walk the same path you have. Utilize this resource. I promise you will not regret it.
                Third, have a positive attitude. Conveying positivity and confidence is a trait that will serve you throughout college, during interviews and throughout your career as a CPA. A positive attitude is infectious. When you portray confidence and happiness, it is as if everyone else cannot help but to do the same. Professors notice students that have a good attitude, and employers want to see what you will be like around people you have just met. An interview is about more than just how you answer the questions, it is about how you present yourself and exude confidence. One thing to remember about confidence is to not confuse confidence with arrogance. While there is a fine line between the two, most people know when they have gone too far. If you are concerned that you may be coming off as arrogant, have someone give you a mock interview, and let you know what they think (make sure this person is someone who is going to be honest; the only way to improve is to receive constructive criticism).
                Above, I have briefly mentioned interviews. Let’s dive deeper into what is expected at an interview. Of course, dress appropriately and have good hygiene, but besides the basics, let’s talk about what is going to set you apart from you peers. Every interviewer is going to ask if you have any questions about the company or position. Performing research prior to the interview with the companies or firms you are most interested in is imperative to have relevant questions.  No one wants the question, “What does your firm do?” Please do not be the person to ask this question. If it is a question that can be answered by their website, chances are they will know you are not prepared. Questions tailored specifically to the position are always appreciated and indicate your true interest in the company. Something you may want to ask yourself is, “If I were conducting the interview, how would someone portray genuine interest in the company?”

                You cannot build a skyscraper without a plan and a solid foundation. Build a solid foundation by presenting yourself adequately on paper, in person and online. Make sure you are up to par in these areas. Go to a resume workshop and have someone review it. Clean up your social media. Consider a professional networking website such as LinkedIn. These are all examples of ways to brand yourself. So, do it. Shoot for the Stars. Be a Success. Land your dream job as a CPA!

Photo Cred: Freimuth, Ian. “Office With a View.” Flickr, Yahoo!, Chicago, 15 Oct. 2012, www.flickr.com/photos/ifmuth/8088547862.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Finding an Internship

                                    By Meredith McMasters, TSCPA Student Ambassador for the West TN Chapter

            As college students we are always hearing, “You need an internship!” We hear this all the time, but sometimes finding an internship is not as easy as it sounds. How do students find out about an internship? Where do we apply? When do we apply? These are questions many college students have.

            One key to finding an internship is timing. If students are wanting an internship for the summer and start looking around February or March, chances are very slim of actually finding one. That was me. I was in my sophomore year, and I had no idea finding an accounting internship could be so hard. I probably applied for over 20 internships online, but most responded to me that the position was already filled. This was so disheartening. I had waited too late. Originally, I had wanted to go big and find an internship in a large firm, but instead I settled with a smaller office in my home town, and it turned out to be a great experience for me!

            The office I worked in last summer does not normally hire interns. There was no application and no interview. It was all about connections. This does not seem quite fair to me, but it is how the business world works. I got the internship because my aunt works in the office next door and is friends with lady who was my boss. Connections really are key, and this is only one example. I have also been in the situation where I did not receive an internship because I had no connections. I attend college three hours away from my home town. An internship came available at a well-known local firm. Another student and I sent in our resumes. We were in the same classes, in the same year in school, involved in similar extracurricular activities and my GPA was a little higher. No interviews were conducted. The other student got the internship. I later found out the student’s mom was really good friends with the HR director of the firm. In this case the other student had the connection to get the internship. My point in sharing this is that students have to make connections! One of those connections may very well be the reason as student gets an internship or a job.

            I was very thankful for my internship during the summer in my home town, but I wanted more. I still wanted to intern for a big firm, so I decided to change my game plan. I started looking for an internship for 2017 in the summer of 2016. This might have been a little early, but I was determined. Instead of applying online to standardized forms and receiving automated emails in return, I went straight to the source. I had a booklet of firms from TSCPA, and I picked out all the firms I was interested in interning for. The booklet had contact information for every firm. I took it upon myself to email my resume to every firm I was interested in. Although some did not respond to me, most of them did! The ones that did respond had very encouraging things to say. By the next week I had three phone interviews scheduled. Since then I have been invited to have coffee with a partner in Nashville and to a firm’s social event at a Memphis Redbirds game. By July 2016, I had an offer to intern during tax season at a firm in Nashville. The firm is one of the top ten largest firms in the nation. I accepted the offer, and I began the internship in January 2017. For me, going straight to the source proved to be key in finding an internship!


            Although finding an internship can be hard, it can be accomplished. My advice is to start early, use connections (and make connections) and go straight to the source. Don’t be afraid to go big, and if it doesn’t work out the first time, try again! 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

AIM Accounting Alliance: Professional Community at The University of Tennessee

By Anna Ayers, TSCPA Student Ambassador for the Knoxville Chapter

If I have learned anything from my time at The University of Tennessee, it is that community is crucial. Going to a school with 28,000 students can be incredibly intimidating at times. In order to truly thrive and reach your full potential at such a large school, it is so important to find a group of like-minded people to spend your days with. For me, this group has been the AIM Accounting Alliance at UTK.

                Without AIM, I would not be the student, professional or person I am today. This group set the foundation for my career in accounting by teaching me what the profession really looks like in the real world, instead of just what is learned in the classroom. I could learn all there is to know about debits and credits, but without AIM, I would still not actually know what an accountant does when they clock in every day.

                This group has been a welcoming place for all students seeking to know more about the accounting profession. While there are other organizations on campus dedicated to accounting, we are the only one without an age or GPA requirement. This creates an unintimidating environment conducive to learning where no one feels afraid to ask questions.

                I have had the privilege to serve as an officer for the AIM Accounting Alliance, both as a treasurer and now an advisor. Because the organization is so new, our team of officers had to lay a lot of the groundwork for the organization. It taught me how much work, planning and passion must go into making even the smallest event go smoothly. Now as an adviser, I get the opportunity to serve as a resource to the current officer board. The other advisers and I have made ourselves available for when officers have questions, both big and small, about running the organization. This relationship is especially important in our organization because we serve primarily younger students just beginning their accounting curriculum, and our officers also tend to be underclassmen. This form of mentoring between former officers and current officers is something I hope continues within AIM for years to come.

                Like most professions, your network is one of your most important resources. This is especially true for CPAs. I am so proud to be a part of the AIM Accounting Alliance that realizes this and strives to help create a community among accounting students at The University of Tennessee.