Monday, May 21, 2018

“Being” Involved in College

By Morgan Montieth, Knoxville Chapter Student Ambassador

In high school, every student is told they need to get involved. Teachers emphasize that admissions look for involvement on college applications, and then once in college, professors tell you employers look for campus involvement when hiring. While the definition of involvement is technically just participating in something, I like to think of involvement as more than just showing up, but choosing clubs and organizations you are passionate about and actively engaging with those like-minded individuals. 

I don’t know how many times I have heard students say, “I am involved in ten or more things.” At first I think “Wow!” but then I think, “Are they really involved in all of them?” Spreading yourself too thin between many organizations could be detrimental to you gaining anything from a club. Taking your studies into account while in college, you will not have time to really be a part of a large variety of clubs. Pick a few favorites and try to learn as much as you can about them. To truly be involved in something, you should actively listen, participate and network. Limit yourself to two or three clubs and organizations and really commit.

Being involved is a perfect opportunity to be a role model. Being attentive and taking on leadership roles allow you to teach underclassman about events or opportunities you are passionate about. Asking, learning and teaching will help you build lifelong relationships, from strong friendships to connections in the business world. Just because you show up, eat the free food and drink the free drinks does not make you involved.

Employers will ask you what you have learned in school, but more importantly, they will ask about how involved you were in school clubs, professional organizations, internships or jobs. If you can’t tell them that you did anything with your time while in college outside of school, that will show your employers that you may not be a real team player. An employer wants to see what you have learned and how they can benefit from you for being part of their company. If you have shown up to all your clubs meetings and events and learned and networked, then you will be a great addition to any company hiring you.

From being a part of AIM Accounting Alliance at the University of Tennessee, I have met countless accounting firm professionals, made lifelong friends and had endless opportunities to get my name out to numerous professional organizations. So, take my experience into consideration; it sure has helped me be truly involved in college.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Internships: Getting Ahead in the World of Business

By Brittany Taylor, TSCPA Memphis Chapter Student Ambassador    

At the age of 15, most teens are not concerned with working. Thoughts of lounging by the pool or hanging with friends at the mall are more along the lines of what normal high school students think about on summer breaks. In April, those thoughts preoccupied my mind as well, until I received an unexpected offer. The company my dad worked for was looking for accounting/accounts payable interns for the summer. I was extremely hesitant at first, but I thought, “It is only a few days a week, it pays minimum wage and it is an opportunity to see if I could potentially enjoy working in a business environment.” So began my exhilarating summer of filing, matching, stapling, handing out mail and writing up boxes for storage.

The next summer, the summer before my senior year, my dad mentioned it again, and I thought, maybe I will try a “normal” teenage job. I began waiting tables at a local deli, but realized that I missed the office environment, so I decided to work both jobs the remainder of the summer. I gained more experience, taking on additional assignments and responsibilities. I continued to work a few hours a week as needed throughout my senior year. The summer after my senior year, I began my third summer at the company. At this point, I had taken accounting classes in high school and was beginning to see the connection in what I had learned in school and what I was seeing at my internship. I was able to ask pertinent questions and further my understanding about property accounting and financials. As the summer began to come to an end, I thought so was the time with the company. After a change in plans though, I ended up taking a year off between high school and college. While it seemed like a daunting decision at the time, it was probably one of the best I have made thus far. The company offered me a promotion: a paid, full-time position as an Accounts Payable Clerk with on-the-job training. I was grateful, as not only did I further my knowledge of accounting, but I gained valuable experience as an employee and how to handle conflicts with colleagues, vendors, etc. that can arise. The next year, I decided that I needed to begin my college career, and made the decision to move to California. It was saddening to leave, as I felt that they had all become like family, but I knew it was the best decision for me at the time.

Fast forward a year into my Cali adventure. I am looking for a new job as I had become relatively burnt out at my position as a grocery store deli clerk and felt as though all that I was learning could be better applied in a business setting. At this point, I was still at a community college, but I had decided I definitely wanted to pursue an accounting degree once I moved on to a four year university. I landed a job interview at a local non-profit volunteer hospice. I walked in, and they were surprised. They had presumed I was much older, based off all of my work and internship experience. And even though I had only recently turned 20 years old, they took a chance on me, based off of my extensive resume and personality. I remained in the office assistant position for around nine months until the position above me, office manager, opened up. I was still very young to be filling this position, and it required more use with QuickBooks then I had ever been exposed to as well as being supervisor to the office assistant and volunteers. But once again, they took a chance on me as they had seen my work ethic, knew my accounting knowledge and were aware I was a quick and efficient learner. I never thought I would have been working at a non-profit, but it was one of the best experiences of my life. None of it would have been possible if I had not gained such immense experience at my internships.

Fast forward once again, and everything comes full circle. Due to another change in life plans, I ended up back in Memphis and was offered an opportunity to work at the place where I had interned/worked three years before. Now, I work as the Corporate Accounts Receivable Clerk, and while I may be one of the youngest employees at 23 and still in school, I love my job and I am learning so much everyday not only through my work, but also the bright and intelligent coworkers I am surrounded by that are always willing to help me grow.

Takeaway Tips:
  • Start early! It is never too early (or late!) to begin looking for internships.
  • Don’t be afraid to take chances! Whether it is working for an organization you have never even heard of or applying for a position that may be out of your comfort zone, take the risk! It could end up being the opportunity of a lifetime.
  • Ask questions! There were times when I was unaware of how to run a report or how to handle a situation with a subordinate, but I was never afraid to ask. Fortunately, I was always surrounded by colleagues and supervisors that wanted to help me thrive and succeed.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Make a Great Impression in Interviews by Asking Better Questions

  By Blake Hise, TSCPA Nashville Chapter Student Ambassador    

If you were to search the internet for tips on acing an interview or networking at a career fair, you would find many of the basics such as bring a resume, dress professionally, deliver a firm handshake and so on. All serious internship candidates should already be applying these basic principles, so you will need additional skill sets to market yourself competitively. In my experience, the ability to ask insightful questions is one of the greatest assets outside of a resume that you can bring to any career fair or interview.

When I was a junior in the accounting program at MTSU, hiring firms invited me to interview after interview, but never followed through with an offer. After reflecting on my networking approach during senior year, I realized I was failing to ask recruiters the questions they wanted to hear. Shortly after having this epiphany and implementing the advice in this article, I secured two internships within a couple of months.

When firms seek to hire college students, one of their most common concerns with this demographic is lack of experience. To overcome this barrier, ask meaningful questions with a demonstration of competence and professionalism based on the recruiter’s oral representation of the firm’s services. Learning to ask better questions can be extremely resourceful in your job search as an aspiring accountant.

In almost every exchange, the recruiter will provide an overview of the company’s services. This information can challenge many students, because it is often industry-specific and outside the scope of accounting taught at the undergraduate level. Many students may become inattentive, nod and smile politely, or simply wait to ask the next question they have rehearsed.

However, the recruiter’s representation of the firm’s services presents a unique opportunity to demonstrate your accounting knowledge. If you can repeatedly ask insightful questions based on the recruiter’s information, you will successfully project competence, an ability to think on your feet and a genuine interest in the organization. This will, of course, work alongside your communication skills and resume to make a great impression.

The key question, then, is how do we learn to ask better questions throughout the recruiting process? Here are a few steps that are helping me to develop this critical skill.

Listen Actively: The first step to asking better questions involves making the effort to listen attentively to understand the firm’s services.

Relate Information To Your Accounting Knowledge: The differences between the recruiter’s experience and your overall knowledge of accounting create an opportunity for you to ask questions that “bridge the gap” between academia and real-life application. Draw on your accounting knowledge to understand the services the firm provides. Then, ask questions that relate what you already know from your accounting coursework to the recruiter’s description of the firm’s services.

Imagine This Will Be Your Job:
To identify which questions are best to ask, I have found it helpful to maintain the mindset that you are going to be hired by this company in the following week. What concerns would you have with the details of this position? What would you want to know about the industry?

Use Current Events: Relating a firm’s services to current events is an excellent way to learn more about the industry and indicate that you stay abreast of developments in the field. Tax reform, healthcare reform and the new revenue recognition standards are a few example topics that can lead to interesting conversations.

Repeat and Practice: Be sure to repeat this process throughout the exchange with the recruiter. Employers frequently interpret a candidate having too few questions as being disinterested or inexperienced. Asking too many questions is more favorable than asking too few. You should constantly be probing for better, more insightful questions to ask.

Professionals in the accounting field are generally passionate about their work and enjoy discussing it in detail with interested students. Next time you are in a career fair or interview situation, take the time to consider if you are asking questions that project competence and give the hiring company a great impression of you as a candidate.