Friday, April 19, 2019

Five Things Accounting Students Should Consider When Entering Public Accounting

By Brad Culbreth, CPA

Public accounting is an extremely rewarding career path but can be competitive and intimidating to enter. However, there are actions students can take while in school to set themselves apart from the crowd. Here are five pieces of advice to help get the job and ultimately, succeed in your career.

1.  Lay the Foundation
When entering the public accounting profession, there will be plenty of new information to absorb. There will be new software, firm procedures and policies, tax laws and auditing standards. This is exciting but can be overwhelming. Don’t compound this by having to relearn basic accounting principles. Put in the time to study and solidify your basic knowledge of the debits and credits while in school. Focus on strengthening your ability to think through accounting problems and find a solution. Laying the proper foundation now will set you up for building a successful career.

2.  Spread Your Wings
Networking is a crucial aspect for success in public accounting. Having a core group of peers in various professions is a vital part of public accounting. This network will become your source of referrals, advice in areas outside of your expertise and assistance with client needs outside of typical accounting services, just to name a few areas in which they can assist you. In short, they will help you retain current clients and refer new clients. For many people, this skill requires getting out of your comfort zone to meet new people and try new things. Attend social events, join service groups on or off campus and make an effort to meet people in your classes each day. There are plenty of opportunities available to students who seek them out.

3. Take Opportunities
You don’t have to be a senior close to graduating to begin making contact with professionals in public accounting. Schools typically hold several events each year that allow students the opportunity to meet current professionals from area firms. Don’t miss out on that opportunity. Obtain business cards and follow up with those you meet. You may be surprised how open many professionals will be to getting lunch or coffee to answer questions you may have. By creating these contacts early, you set yourself apart from your peers. This demonstrates initiative and makes you more memorable when the time comes for interviews.

4. Get Involved or Get a Job
Many firms in public accounting like to see that a student participates in activities outside of classes. Get involved in clubs, student organizations, community organizations or get a part-time job. Being able to maintain your GPA while also being active elsewhere demonstrates strong time management skills and work ethic (as well as helps with point #2 above). These types of extracurricular activities look great on resumes and could be the difference between you and your peers. In addition to building a strong resume, there are a broad range of soft skills that can be developed.

5. Be Adaptable
As evidenced by the overhaul to the tax laws last year, rules and regulations are always changing. Professionals in public accounting must be able to take in change and adapt to new sets of rules almost constantly. Being able to digest these changes quickly and develop appropriate strategies creates the value our profession demands. Always be learning and growing so that when change comes, you’ll be equipped to handle it.

Public accounting is definitely a fast-paced work environment but can be an extremely rewarding career.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Getting Involved and Going Deeper: How My College Involvement Led Me to Accounting

By Victoria Heavey, Knoxville Chapter Student Ambassador

For a college freshman, getting involved on campus can be deceptively more difficult than the expansive list of clubs and organizations may suggest. However, waiting until you feel comfortable on campus before joining an organization could put you at a disadvantage. I would advise anyone new to a university to dive right in and find connections early on. Getting plugged in with a group based on shared interests, values or goals will not only help acclimate you to your new home for the next four years, but it will also help you stand out to potential employers.

While in college, I chose to pursue a select few organizations and go deeper in my involvement within each one. With school as my first priority, I decided to focus my efforts mainly on the Chancellor’s Honors Program and Greek life. I rushed during the fall of my freshman year and ran for an executive position for the upcoming calendar year. Starting in the spring, I served as Treasurer for my sorority. This somewhat off-the-cuff decision to run for treasurer led to switching my major to accounting based on my positive experience acting as the controller of all chapter finances. This truly hands-on position allowed me a great amount of autonomy in decision making which came with a strong sense of responsibility and accountability. Perhaps the most notable task as treasurer, planning the annual budget, challenged my critical thinking and confidence in my decisions because I was given such free reign to analyze the budget variance from the past year to decide how to allocate our funds appropriately. Of course, I consulted the Area Collegiate Operations and Finance Director for advice when I was unsure and then submitted the budget for multiple levels of approval. However, this opportunity opened my eyes to the great potential I might have in the accounting field.

Consequently, I developed the necessary skills for a career in public accounting through this leadership role. While taking a heavy course load as I adjusted to this full-time position, I constantly managed my time wisely by planning ahead and keeping track of deadlines. I communicated professionally with external parties, such as vendors, venue managers and catering companies. Likewise, I communicated financial information to members, parents and other executive officers in a way all could understand. Tailoring your communication style for your audience can be the key difference between executing a plan effectively the first time rather than facing the inefficiency of redoing something due to a simple miscommunication.

Serving in a leadership role can completely change your professional trajectory. Getting more deeply involved with one or two organizations, as opposed to stretching yourself thin across a multitude of clubs but not actually participating, develops the skills needed in the business world and presents the chance to network.

Forming connections early on and having leadership experience on your resume may help secure you an interview. Then, being able to expound on the knowledge and skills you gained through these positions during the interview will give you a better chance of landing the job. I referenced my experience as treasurer during interviews for my current internship. I believe it set me apart and has directly contributed to my success in accounting after seeing a glimpse of its real-world application.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Business Travel Tips from One Young Professional to Another

By Ben Russell

Traveling for business is an exciting idea for many young professionals. Some millennials have mastered the art of blending business travel with leisure travel, and research shows millennials associate business travel with job satisfaction. However, business travel can present new lessons and challenges, including what to pack, how to navigate airport security, and learning proper etiquette when dining with a client. Here are a few tips for young professionals who have just started, or are about to start, traveling for business.

Be Aware of TSA Security Rules and Procedures
No one likes being the person that holds everyone else up in line. Take a moment to research the rules and procedures for travelers and always be respectful to TSA agents. Expert tip: If you know that you are going to be a frequent flyer, sign up for TSA Precheck. The license is $85, but lasts for five years and includes perks that can save you valuable time, especially if you are in a rush.

Buy and Wear Comfortable, Appropriate Business Attire on Travel Days
Airport chairs and long car trips are uncomfortable even for the most seasoned traveler. Invest in some comfortable, appropriate business attire. A relaxed pair of fitted pants or a cushioned shoe can make a world of difference.

Invest in a Portable Charger for Your Phone and Laptop
As a traveler, it is inevitable you will encounter some kind of a delay on the trips that you take over the course of your professional career. With portable technology becoming more integrated in modern business, your devices need to be charged and ready to use. Expert tip: Invest in a pair of wireless headphones and make sure that they are well charged before your travels.

Sign up for Frequent Flyer and Hotel Rewards Programs
If you plan to spend significant time traveling and staying in hotels, it is a good idea to consider a rewards program. In addition to the financial benefit, you can save time on creating future reservations and ticket purchases.

Get Travel Essentials
Showing up to a client meeting in wrinkled or well-traveled clothes is never enjoyable. A portable clothes steamer is beneficial and more time-efficient than ironing.

Building Client Rapport
While you are visiting a client, it is always nice to have some conversation about other items of interest. Finding common ground can lead to a more personal relationship, which means they are more willing to make time for your requests.

Dining Etiquette
When dining with a client who has taken you out for dinner, ask for a recommendation of what they like and either order that or something that is priced around the same as what they suggested. This eliminates any embarrassment or uncertainty about price and can be a talking piece.

Always Use Appropriate Language with a Client
Even if the client speaks inappropriately in front of you, inappropriate language in work situations can come across as unprofessional and give the client a different opinion of you.

Check What Items the Client Has for Use Before Packing
Before hitting the road or airport, check with the client to see if they have general items such as Wi-Fi, printers, scanners, extension cords, etc. Most clients are accommodating when it comes to allowing you to use these items and are sympathetic to the idea of traveling light.  

Take Care of Yourself When You Travel
Traveling can be stressful and hard on your body, so taking care of yourself is very important. The last thing you want is to be exhausted or sick while on the road. Make sure that you make an effort to eat healthy, relax, get plenty of rest and exercise for your own health and mental clarity.

Safe travels!