Tuesday, October 13, 2020

TSCPA Student Ambassador Profile - Chris Perez

Chris Perez – University of Tennessee, Knoxville 

May 2021

Chris is a senior at UT majoring in accounting. Next summer, he will be interning in Atlanta at Deloitte. After that, he plans to get his master’s in accounting and sit for CPA exam. Chris encourages accounting students to really put in the work and stay committed.

Outside of accounting, Chris enjoys funny YouTube videos and taking care of his many plants. His friends and family would describe him as detail-oriented, driven and goofy.

Have a question for Chris? Email him at CSPerez0104@gmail.com.

The Future That is Mentor to Be


By Chris Perez, University of Tennessee, Knoxville TSCPA Student Ambassador

Let’s talk about life for a minute. Being a college student is an awesome, but frequently tumultuous time. We are in circumstances that are constantly changing, learning new things every day, and struggling through the work that we hope will lead to our ideal futures. That’s tough! New people and environments can throw us off balance. Classes and professors are challenging and stressful. The closer we get to our desired careers, we frequently find that we know even less than we could have imagined. What’s an academic like us to do? Get a mentor.

Just as Luke Skywalker has Yoda, Daniel has Mr. Miyagi and the Kardashians have their Momager, everyone has the possibility of being aided along their journey by a mentor - if only they seek to find one. A mentor can be the anchor to ground and encourage during shaky intervals or can offer clarity where there seems to be none. After all, Neo would still be stuck in the Matrix if Trinity and Morpheus hadn’t been his Sherpas along the path to becoming “The One.”

I’m an “unconventional student” in that after high school I spent the better part of a decade living in New York City, where I studied musical theatre and worked as a performer. It was an excellent time in my life, but time keeps moving, and my life started moving in another direction. Skip ahead a few years, and I found myself in a real college for the first time, pursuing a degree in business management at a local community college. 

If you want to feel out of place, try embarking on a new career path, studying formally for the first time in a decade and living in a state you’ve only ever visited. It is not for the faint of heart. Business management wasn’t really clicking, but I had a mandatory accounting class that I was doing well in, and the professor, Carrie Davis, and I really seemed to vibe. I felt like I had stumbled onto something. So, I made a move that hasn’t always been in my nature: I asked for help.

I can ask for help choosing an outfit or with reading a map, but real life HELP - the kind that you have to get vulnerable and raw to admit you need, was not something I was apt to request. However, something in me felt that I could go to Professor Davis and ask about the world of accounting and if I might fit in. This is probably one of the most correct choices I’ve ever made. Because I asked questions, I learned that my professor went to the University of Tennessee (where I intended to transfer), had connections with accounting firms in Knoxville and was involved in the corners of the career that I found most interesting. So, as we got to talking more, I took the leap and formally asked to be mentored. Now, I have someone in my corner that truly knows. My parents love me, my friends can weigh in, but Professor Davis has walked the path I’ve chosen and can advise me from a place of invaluable experience. 

“But what exactly is a mentor, and how do I get one? It’s not like I can order one on Amazon!”

Very well observed. No, there is not an online Mentor Vendor waiting for you to come calling. A mentor may not even be obvious at first. There is no uniform, and they can live in normal society completely undetected.

Your mentor should be someone with whom you have a few things in common. Be sure to seek an individual who possesses a balance of openness to opportunity. Someone that garners admiration as well as respect, while reciprocating that same esteem for your thoughts, beliefs, feelings and goals. It is difficult to learn from someone if there isn’t common ground and mutual respect, so be sure that your mentor is more Gandalf than Sauron. Both are great and powerful, but one is bent on using others in the interest of ultimate destruction. Don’t pick that one. A mentor should be trusted to give relevant advice and encourage innovative ideas. Hopefully, this is someone who challenges themselves and those around them to succeed. Remember, a mentor is not someone whose job it is to stroke egos or offer compliments.

Getting someone to mentor you is a kind of courtship. People invest in others they believe in and enjoy. Be sure that you stand out for the right reasons. Whether your potential mentor is a professor or professional in your field, you need to know that this person has a lot going on, and donating their time is probably low on their to-do list. Be interested. It makes you interesting. Be honest. It makes you relatable. Be direct. Knowing that you want mentorship is ok. It’s way better to be upfront than dance around the subject. If you are making a genuine connection and relating to one another, asking for mentorship isn’t a betrayal of that connection, it’s an extension. Should your prospective mentor decide to take you under their wing, that expense deserves acknowledgment and appreciation. Small occasional purchases, such as coffee or a card, are great ways to demonstrate your thanks. Be sure to continue this appreciation by showing up to meetings on time (or early) and having thought-provoking questions to ask. Update your mentor on successes and openly share your struggles. The more that is communicated, the stronger the relationship will be, and the more likely it is that they can understand how to be of best assistance. After all, unless your mentor is Professor X, it is not likely that they can read your mind, so it is up to you to share.

So, if you are feeling rudderless and lost at sea as college and the world at large unfold on your rocky horizon, fret not. There is hope out there in the form of incredible people already sailing the seas of success. Be on the lookout for the sailors that seem like they could help captain your ship. Say, “Ahoy.” Make that connection. Ask for a life raft. Sail ahead into the future with a little bit of help. I’ll see you there.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Making the Best Impression to a Recruiter, Virtually

By Emily Kuper, Tennessee Technological University TSCPA Student Ambassador

With everything going on in the world related to COVID-19, recruiting looks very different this year, but it is no less important. Career fairs, leadership conferences and interviews are being held virtually more and more. These types of events can be stressful enough on their own, so being prepared for the changes that meeting virtually brings is crucial to presenting yourself well.

No matter what setting you find yourself in--an interview, a casual recruiting event, or a workshop--there are some pieces of advice that will remain true:

  1.      Dress professionally. Even if it is only from the waist up, how you present yourself matters. Your recruiter may dress more casually, but putting effort into dressing professionally makes an impression on whoever you are speaking with.
  2.      Clear your surroundings. Ensure that your meeting setting is a quiet and clutter-free space.
  3.      Be prepared to have video on. If there is a question of whether your meeting will be audio only or include video, go ahead and show your video. At worst, you can just switch your video off, but at best you have made a great first impression.

For an interview, the traditional pieces of advice stay the same, such as ensuring that you are ready a few minutes early. The most important thing to emphasize here is that you know your elevator pitch well enough to deliver without any uncertainty. During an in-person interview, it is easy to feed off body language to keep the momentum going, but that is more difficult in a virtual interview. Practice your elevator pitch until it sounds natural and you can deliver it without having to pause in the middle.

Another situation you may encounter is a virtual workshop or leadership conference. These are fantastic ways to get involved with a company, but your participation matters. Here are some things to remember when you are in this kind of setting.

  1.       Your voice matters. There may be 100 people present, but if you have a thought during a discussion that you would like to share, share it! Your presence at the event is the qualification required to contribute.
  2.      Be mindful of those around you. There may be moments where two people start to talk at the same time and that is okay. Hopefully, the mediator of the group will designate who will speak first and then hand it off for the other person to make his or her point. If not, it is better to defer to the other person and chime in when they are done.
  3.      Be genuine. Try not to speak just for the sake of speaking. It is perfectly fine to wait to make a point until you have something you want to say.
  4.      Ask questions. This is such a hard habit to learn, but keep your curiosity engaged throughout the workshop. Keep a notepad by your desk to write down anything that comes to mind. When the time for questions comes, there is nothing more awkward for both the presenter and the audience than silence.

The state of the world can make recruiting seem like a daunting endeavor, especially if this is your first year, but with a little preparation, it can be much easier.