Friday, December 8, 2017

How Networking Helped Me Land an Internship

By Zachary McLeod, Student Ambassador for the West Tennessee Chapter

One of my biggest worries going into my junior year was finding an internship. For accountants, having a good internship is important because most internships turn into job offers. Networking helped me land such an opportunity. I recently attended a meeting with Chris Holmes, president and CEO of First Bank. “Meeting new people and networking is the key to success,” he said. That may have been the best advice I was ever given.

In the fall of my junior year, I started looking for an internship in audit. I love being able to travel, meet new people and network. Networking is one of your most valuable assets. It helps you find job opportunities and connect with others. Connections are crucial to getting a job right out of school.

At the time of my internship search, I worked for the University of Tennessee at Martin as a mail clerk. The job enabled me to meet many people at UTM, including everyone at the computer store on campus. My boss at the time told me the store was looking for an accounting student to intern for them. I quickly applied and spoke to the manager to let her know I was interested in the position.

The next week I met with the manager and found out after my interview I was accepted for the internship. It was a great relief off my shoulders. I was lucky enough to find a paid position that also counted as credit hours towards my degrees.

Working at the computer store has greatly increased my skills in accountancy. I complete the income and expense ledger and do justification reports every month. I was previously uncomfortable using Excel, but this internship has increased my knowledge of the software. I will be able to take what I have learned with Excel and other skills and apply it in my future profession. I am very thankful for the opportunity to work for the university and gain such a quality hands-on experience.

My best advice for students pursuing accounting is to constantly stay diligent in your work. Network with as many people as you can. Networking is always something you can continuously improve. Do not be afraid to take that leap. You may apply to a hundred different places, but you only need one to give you a chance.


About Zachary McLeod: Zachary McLeod is from Linden, Tenn. and will graduate with degrees in Finance and Accounting. He is currently completing an accounting internship for the University of Tennessee at Martin.



Monday, November 13, 2017

Professors are a Student’s Greatest Asset



By Margaret Coleman, 2017 TSCPA Student Ambassador for Nashville Chapter

One of the greatest resources students can take advantage of during their time in academia is their professors. Professors have once been in your shoes before and have made it through to the other side. Professors can provide students with the knowledge, opportunities and guidance they need to enter the professional world successfully.

I did not always go to professors as a resource as I do today. As a freshman, I doubt I visited any of my professors’ offices, nor did any know me personally. I wish I had known how willing and able those professors were to help me along the way. Most professors would love for extra time to explain concepts and questions more in depth. Going to your professors’ office hours not only helps with understanding tough concepts, but they will see first-hand the effort you are putting in. Professors not only hold the key to success in your classes, but their knowledge extends to all areas of your intended career path.

Most of the opportunities I have received thus far in my accounting career have come from recommendations from my professors. Professors have gained their position through hard work and dedication, therefore becoming a trusted member of the accounting community. When future employers need a trusted recommendation, they go to professors because they know they can get an honest opinion. Opportunities not only come in the form of career recommendations; professors’ letters of recommendations can open doors in form of scholarship, internships and even ambassador positions like mine.

          Guidance from professors has been most helpful to me. Finding professors you can look up to for guidance is like finding a support team. Choosing a career path is not always easy, so having a support team to lean on and go to for questions is necessary. When you get to know your professors on a personal level, they can give much more personal guidance, not only in what fields may suit me more than others but more personal things as well. I have been able to ask questions such as, “What is the acceptable attire for this event?” to “Do you think I should have answered this interview question differently?”. They have been through the stages of our life we are currently working through and have the best advice to give.

          If students are willing to put in them time, the professors are more than willing and able to assist student in any way they can. I have found this to be true through the knowledge, opportunities and guidance I have received from my professors during my time in school. Professors are there for students. It is up to the students to use them as their greatest assets!

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.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Six Successful Networking Tips (for Introverts) to go from Networking Novice to Networking Pro

By Rawn Johnson, TSCPA Student Ambassador for the Nashville Chapter

Although the school semester is almost over, the opportunity to network is always just around the corner. As a self-proclaimed introvert, I’ve compiled a list of tips to help my fellow introverts go from networking novice to networking pro.

1. Just do it!
The more you invest time in getting out there, attending events, breakfasts, one-on-ones, meetings, etc., the more natural and more fun it will become. Starting is always the hardest and as introverts we know this too well, so get over it and get out there. Yet have a goal or defined purpose for being there; otherwise it will become a chore and you will hate it.

2. Find a wingman/woman
Have you ever expected to know someone at an event and find out you are in a sea of strangers? You probably have and if you are like me, you have probably felt yourself gravitating towards the corner of the room to avoid the situation. But how great would it be if someone swooped in and saved you? Invite a friend or guest to be your wing person. Save as many people as you can in your career and you will be amazed at how many people are willing to reciprocate a favor and will appreciate you for it for a lifetime!

3. Get the RSVP list
This is a must. If you are going to invest your time networking, it better show return. How do you get the RSVP list? Usually it is readily available; you just have to ask. This tip allows you to identify who you would like to meet, reconnect with or be your guest to attend alongside you… think wing person as I mentioned before. Your guest can be your extra set of eyes, a support system and reap the same benefits as you. If you plan and execute, you will be stress-free once you get to the networking event.

4. Be Authentic
Whatever you do, don’t force it. Find what is comfortable for you and focus on it. If you are much better one-on-one or in smaller groups, do lunch, coffee meetings or something manageable. If you love finding as many familiar faces as possible, attend a larger event. Whatever it is, if you are not authentic, people pick up on it and may misinterpret your unease as disingenuous. Also, always pay attention to the person you are talking to and NOT the next one you hope to meet (Trust me - I’ve seen this mistake over and over again at networking events). If you have to divert your attention from someone you are talking to, let them know you are looking for a guest and apologize in advance for being distracted.

5. Make an introduction or a connection
This past fall, I walked into my school’s Meet the Firms event and I was quite overwhelmed until I remembered this tip. I grabbed a friend and introduced them to a speaker I recognized from past networking events. Not only did this help my friend establish a connection with an employer they would not have otherwise spoken to, but it also allowed me to ease into the event while helping a friend. Remember, the smallest favor or introduction to a key person will carry more respect, appreciation and gratitude than you could ever imagine.


6. Again, most importantly my fellow introverts… JUST DO IT!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Branding Yourself

Branding Yourself

By Taylor Thompson, TSCPA Student Ambassador at TN Tech University, Cookeville, Tenn.
I learned one of the top tasks throughout your academic career as a business student is creating and building relationships. We call these relationships and connections networking. The hardest part of networking is setting yourself apart from those competing for the same objective as you and being remembered. How can you be remembered and stand out from the rest? Branding yourself is how I’ve learned to set myself apart from my competition, and branding yourself correctly can and will lead you to your academic and professional success. I want to share with you what I’ve learned about how to brand yourself, and share with you some personal changes I’ve made to improve my professional brand. Here are several ways to improve your image as a potential employee and future professional:

  • The first thing an employer sees is of course your face, but did you know one of the top errors of an individual’s first impression in an interview is a lack of cleanliness and personal hygiene? After hearing this, I began to wash my face twice daily, whiten my teeth twice a week, shape up my eyebrows every two weeks and shave every two to three days. In today’s society, men’s grooming has become a growing trend. So men, try your best to keep your hair trimmed and beard freshly shaven before walking into your interview. Women should have their hair neat and makeup subtle but flattering. Leaving your hair like you just crawled out of bed is not what an employer wants to see first.
  • The next thing an employer notices is your handshake. Make sure your handshake is firm and stiff, not delicate or limp. This tells a lot about an individual’s character. A firm handshake shows a hard worker and one who can act as a leader. Also, you want to have neatly trimmed finger nails. Make sure there is no dirt nor debris underneath your nails.
  • You have less than 30 seconds to make an impression…that seems stressful! How do we create a positive impact in 30 seconds? This is when you must sell yourself verbally. You need to practice what business professionals call your “elevator speech.” An elevator speech usually includes who you are, what you do, and what your intentions are. You want to make sure you leave them feeling as though you possess qualities that none of your competitors have.

After perfecting your physical appearance, what do you wear an interview? When planning your interview outfit, observe how the employees at the company dress. After learning the dress code, take your outfit one step beyond theirs. If employees dress business casual, you want to dress more business professional, with a button-up, tie, sport coat and dress shoes for men, or a nice dress, skirt or pantsuit for women. When picking out designs and colors, you do not want to clash colors or wear “unique” designs. Navy and blacks do not go together; try to stay away from wearing navy and blacks in the same outfit. Do not mix brown with black either. If you have brown hair, navy and neutral colors are flattering. If you have black hair, strive to keep blacks, grays, and whites in your wardrobes. You want your clothes to complement your face and hair. Coordinating your outfit with your hair color can help you create your personal brand.

Finally, present yourself with confidence! You want to seem like you know you are the best option for the company. There is a difference between arrogance and confidence. Stay humble, carry yourself with self-assurance, and remembers these words, “Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark.”

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Four Tips for Working Parents

Jennifer Whaley, CPA

Working full-time and being a full-time parent can be challenging, especially if you have a career in public accounting and you are in the middle of tax season. It may be difficult to divide time between work and family. Having to juggle responsibilities at work and at home may become stressful. Being a full-time CPA and full-time mother of two under two, I am very familiar with these challenges. However, there are several tips working parents can apply to help balance a professional career and parenthood.

1. Obtain support from friends and family

After returning to work eight weeks after the birth of my first child, I had mixed feelings. I was excited to jump back into my career but sad that I wouldn’t be spending as much time with my little girl. There were even times when I felt guilty about returning to work. Learning to lean on my husband, friends and family for support helped tremendously. I was able to discuss my thoughts and feelings with friends and coworkers who had been in my shoes and were able to offer advice. Knowing I was not alone and that there were others who had similar experiences was encouraging.  

2. Get organized

Keep an up-to-date calendar to help you plan, prioritize your responsibilities and manage your time wisely. Also, getting ready to leave for work in the morning is much more of a challenge when you have children to get ready as well. I found that planning for the next day the night before made things less stressful in the morning. Small things such as laying out my daughter’s clothes and packing her lunch the night before helped me not to be rushed the next morning.

3. Accept that there will be good days and not-so-good days

I am a planner. I love a plan. I need a plan. However, sometimes plans must change. Waking up to a child with a fever, or getting a call from the daycare center telling you your child is sick can quickly change the day’s agenda. There will be things that happen that are out of your control. That is a part of life and pertains to anyone whether you are a parent or not. For planners like myself, learning to be flexible is key to maintaining your sanity and coping with days that don’t go as well as others.

4. Talk to your employer

It is important to communicate your needs and concerns with your employer. You may be surprised to learn how understanding and flexible your employer may be regarding your specific situation. Some workplaces allow you to work from home when the need arises. Overnight travel may be reduced or eliminated based on your needs. Hours may be adjusted to match your schedule.

These are just four things that worked for me. We all live life differently, and as such will need to approach each situation differently. For some, trying to be a parent and a full-time professional is not an option. I love my family and I love my career. Thanks to the love and support I have received from my family and friends, I have been able to find the balance between the two.


About the Author
Jennifer Whaley, CPA, is an auditor at Brown Edwards & Company, LLP in Kingsport and a member of TSCPA's Young CPA Workgroup.