Friday, December 13, 2019

Five Tips to Have the Best Accounting Internship Experience

By Tamesha R. Bolden, UTK TSCPA Student Ambassador

Internships can be very intimidating. As students, we often stress ourselves about not having enough knowledge, lacking professionalism and other key aspects of being a business professional. However, it is vital that we shift our perspectives to focus on enjoying the amazing opportunities that are already in front of us. This summer, as I interned with a Big Four accounting firm, there were five key things that made my internship experience phenomenal. As you read through my five tips, think about how you can implement them throughout your next internship. 

Stay Positive
Once you begin your internship, be sure to shake off your nerves and begin your day with a positive attitude. Do your best to maintain that attitude throughout the day. Employers are always watching and the emotion you bring onto a team can affect the moods of everyone you are working with. Accounting work will not always be exciting or glamorous, so you have to be sure to bring in that excitement yourself. Help create a positive and welcoming environment that you want to come to everyday.

Don’t be Afraid to Network with Your Team
Your employers are human beings just like you. Years, months and even weeks prior, many of them have been in the same position you’re in right now. Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by their status. Learn from them. It is in your best interest to take time out of your busy schedule to grab lunch, have a coffee break, or possibly just take a walk with the people you work with. You’ll find that a majority of the time, if not always, they have some great advice you should consider taking.

Ask Questions Effectively
There will be times where you are given an assignment and halfway through you run into a small problem. When this happens, take all of the logical and necessary steps to solve the issue. Practice responsibility. Take notes and go back through them a few times, just in case the solution is right in front of you. However, do not make the mistake of spending too much time on a project or task. If you can move on, make sure to write down your question and finish as much of the assignment as you can before asking for help. Most importantly, do not be afraid to ask. Everyone on your team is there to complete a task and do it correctly. It is okay to reach out for assistance if that means having a better end product.

Have a Strong Work Ethic
There may be times where you are given a task that you do not want to do or that you see little value in. Though it may not be as rigorous as the classes you’ve taken prior, you should never come off as if you are too good for the work. Take each assignment seriously and if you are going to do something, always do your best. When you are working on a difficult task, you may not even have the skills to complete it perfectly. The point is not to be perfect, the point is having the ability to learn and become better. To have a strong work ethic, there is no trying - only doing. As long as you are doing the best you can, no one can ask more of you than that.

Be Yourself
Your internship is about YOU! It is meant for you to be exposed to the organization and field while the stakes are still low, so take advantage of the experience. Employers want to get to know you, and it is your job to be sure that you are opening yourself up. When you are not yourself, it is difficult to connect with people around you. You’ll never give yourself the chance to see if that is where you will fit in the future. Many firms push strongly for you to be your authentic self, and many people can tell when you’re not. It will become a challenge to build long-lasting relationships. You will begin to notice that when you choose to be yourself, your comfort level will increase if that is where you belong. Always remember, no one else can be a better you than yourself, so do what you do best.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Recruiting Essentials

By Shelby Follis, MTSU TSCPA Student Ambassador

As Andy Bernard, former regional manager of Dunder Mifflin, once said, “Business is war.” Likewise, the recruiting process can be just as daunting. The recruiting process for accounting careers starts very early. Mine started as a sophomore in college. Having just declared my major in accounting a few weeks earlier, it was intimidating being told by my professors that I should begin looking for interviews. However, I was determined to do well, so I planned where I wanted to be when I graduated. I am proud to say when I walked across the stage to receive my undergraduate degree, I had multiple job offers from amazing businesses and already knew where I would be when I complete my CPA. Despite my success, I learned many hard lessons during the process. I have five topics of advice for anyone at any point in their career whether you are job hunting or just looking to connect with other professionals.

1. Set objectives
No matter where you are in your career or education, you should know what your goals are. If you do not, it is easy to get swept away in the day-to-day of work or classes until you look up and see you missed out on many opportunities. I am a compulsive note-taker, so I wrote my goal out. Begin with one large goal. Mine was to have a job lined up upon graduation. From that one goal, set objectives that will help you achieve your goal. Objectives are imperative to the process because they keep you on track and give you confidence.

I learned this my sophomore year. I set the main goal to have at least one job offer before graduation. With this goal in mind, I set the following objectives: going to a career fair, applying for summer leadership conferences, accepting every interview invitation and being selected for an internship. I would not have known where to start without guidance from my professors, who spent their time and energy guiding their students through the recruitment process. Your educators care about your future and want to help you; make connections with them.

2. Know your strengths and weaknesses
Believe it or not, it is hard to talk about yourself sometimes because you may not know yourself as well as you think. When writing a resume, attending a career fair or prepping for an interview, it is important you know your strengths and weaknesses. Know what you are good at. For me, my strengths are organization, prioritization and professionalism. Also, know what you are not so good at. When I was interviewing, my weaknesses were technical skills and experience. I was writing my resume thinking, “What do these partners care about my lifeguarding and bartending experience?” Truth is, they cared. No matter what jobs you worked or did not work, have a way to tie your experiences into your career because they make you unique. When talking with a potential employer, play up your strengths and capitalize on your weaknesses because you never stop learning.

3. Confidence
Confidence is key, especially in the recruiting process. It is normal to get nervous before going into an interview, and especially a large career fair. If you know your strengths and weaknesses, then you know yourself. It is easier said than done to just be yourself, but once you let go of trying to put on a show for the interviews, then you will begin to see results. The most memorable interview I had was with a manager that sat me down and then Googled “top 20 most awkward interview questions.” To this day, I still say it was the best interview I ever had because I just got to relax and be myself. 

4. Know your recruiter
I learned this lesson the hard way. When I declared accounting, I had no idea what accountants did, so when I went on interviews, I was not sure what I was even applying to do. It was not until a year later that I learned the importance of researching the company you are applying to and the person interviewing you. Prepping for an interview gave me the boost of confidence I needed for the interview. Asking questions during an interview shows your interest in the job and the company, so come up with some during your research. Additionally, you can learn a lot about a job by asking your interviewer questions about themselves and what they like about the company. Not only will this research help you prepare for an interview, but it will also help you determine if the company is a good fit for you. 

5. Keep those connections
I have asked multiple executives what they wish they had done differently at my age, and the number one answer was networking. Meaningful connections are the foundation of a career. I do not just mean connecting with people on LinkedIn (although this is a great start), but really putting time into these connections. You could have a great resume, but if you make no effort to connect with people, you will not do well in this business. It may be a simple gesture to send a thank you email, but it goes a long way.  

A tough issue that goes along with maintaining your connections is what happens when you are rejected. I faced this as a junior and it really threw me for a loop. I was doing so well and reaching my objectives but then I hit a setback. Rejection is hard. I believe Chris Trager, a character in the TV show “Parks and Rec,” said it best, “How we deal with tragedy defines who we are.” I learned that there will be many opportunities in life, but not all of them will be the right one for you. Keep an open mind for your future and maintain the connections you make on the way. 

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Keys to Academic Success: Balancing School and Life

By Alyssa Dingus, Appalachian Chapter Student Ambassador

Remaining successful in your academic career is tough. The further you advance towards your degree, the more demanding school feels. The desire to have a blooming social life and also stay a top student can seem like an impossible task for young accounting students. Let’s be honest, the prospect of studying for the CPA exam and taking those tough accounting courses all while still having time for friends and family is overwhelming to even think about! However, there is no need to despair; I have five keys that have helped me balance my academic and social life to maintain academic success. If you keep these five key things in mind throughout the year, staying on top of your grades and still having time to relax will seem much more manageable. 

1.      Prioritize
Prioritization is vitally important to balancing most things in life and academic/social balance is no exception. Before setting out to complete your tasks for the day, sit down and compile a list of everything you need to get done and rank them by importance and time to completion. Seeing all your class deadlines and appointments in one place and analyzing their importance to your grades will do wonders by helping you stay focused on what truly matters for the day. This applies to social situations as well. Going out with friends can be a great escape from a tough day, but you need to be able to prioritize social events in the same way you do academic work. 

2.               Apply yourself wholeheartedly 
Whether you're taking hard major-related classes or an elective for fun, you should try your best to apply yourself wholeheartedly. This doesn't mean you need to dedicate every waking hour to schoolwork. It simply means you should do your best to learn and apply the material in some way and not give up simply because it seems too hard or not worth your time. If you try to take a genuine interest in every class you take, it will make learning the material so much easier. You can’t love every class you take, but you can still apply yourself to make the best of the experience. 

3.               Know your limits
This might be the hardest key to follow, but knowing your limits is very important in keeping your grades balanced with your social life. While pushing yourself to do better is great for helping you grow professionally and personally, pushing yourself beyond reasonable limits will end up wrecking your grades and social life. This means setting realistic goals and recognizing when you are capable of doing more or when you have set out to do too much. Striking this balance will help you stay on top of your grades without overloading yourself. 

4.               Be aware of emotional, physical and mental health
Another key to maintaining academic/social balance is to listen to your body and be aware of your emotional, physical and mental well-being. Become familiar with all the resources on your campus available for you to use in times of crisis and never put off your health for the sake of academic success. While success in school is incredibly important in the accounting field, your health should never take a back seat. Every now and then just take a minute to check in with yourself and see if you need to slow down for the sake of your health.  

5.               Build a healthy support network
The last and most important part of maintaining a good academic/social balance is to create a healthy support network. Surrounding yourself with supportive, caring people not only improves your happiness and social life, it also provides you with a network of people you can trust to help you out when school just feels like too much. I encourage you to make friends in all your classes and join any club that sounds interesting to you. You never know where you will meet a supportive friend! Whether you are struggling academically or just need a fun night out, a healthy support network can help you find balance in academics and school. 

Much of your academic success depends on how you handle life outside of class. These keys have helped me stay on top of my academic career while still having fun in college. I hope my advice will be of some use to you in your accounting journey!