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.

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