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.

Curiosity & Attention: Two Words that Solve Problems in the Classroom

By Austin Reppart, Appalachian Chapter Student Ambassador

Many of us have heard the common phrase, “Curiosity killed the cat,” from the famous paradox, Schrödinger’s Cat. But how can curiosity help accounting students? If your goals are to improve grades or retain more information in the classroom, you must give these goals the necessary attention in order the attain them. Today’s fast-paced world, coupled with constant advertising on devices we interact with daily, creates an environment in which attention is one of your most valuable assets. It is a common misconception that the amount of time you spend on a task is equivalent to the amount of attention you give it. Those are not the same statements. Most of us work on a computer and are likely to have some music or a podcast playing in the background, with our phones by our side. How much attention are we really dedicating to the task at hand? Our phones are the best and worst thing to happen to us in the modern age. We are more connected than ever, enabling us to reach thousands of people in a matter of minutes. At the same time, we are unable to keep our attention away from the phone in the face of other, possibly more pressing, tasks. Think about it. Have you ever left your phone at home and NOT immediately turned around to get it? We couldn’t get through the day if we weren’t connected. The point here is if we gave half as much of our attention to our phones, and shared the same eagerness to engage in the classroom material as we did our social media news feeds, then learning accounting material and preparing for the CPA exam would just become second nature. So...

How do we increase our curiosity in the classroom?
  • Ask more questions. I am amazed at how many students never ask questions about the material covered.
  • Ask yourself why does the material exist? Try to figure out the origin of the material and how or why it was developed in accounting.
  • Try to find ways to build on material covered in previous classes. One of the worst things we can do as accounting students is forget what was covered in our principles classes. Connecting the dots from class to class will help your understanding.
  • Find additional resources that cover the same content. Sometimes reading someone else’s perspective will help you understand the material better.

How do we increase our attention in the classroom?
  • Become Curious! These two principles build on each other. The more curious you are the more attention you will have and the more you pay attention the more curious you will become.
  • Sit in the front of the room. It is easier to ask those questions we talked about if you are a few feet away from the professor. If you are shy this may be very beneficial.
  • Put your phone away and on silent. Eliminating this distraction will keep you engaged in the classroom discussions. If you pay attention in class, you will spend less time out of class studying and trying to figure out what is going on in the text.
  • Record lectures…if permitted (aka. expressed written consent). Buy a cheap recorder and download the files to your computer. I listen to them on the treadmill or when driving as well.

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.