Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Most Important Words in the Real World

By Blake Clauben, TSCPA Student Ambassador at Rhodes College, Memphis, Tenn.

For a rising senior, very few things are more daunting than the thought of finding a job upon graduating. As a collegiate baseball player with hopes of making it to the next level, I spent my summers playing in the Collegiate League to showcase my abilities to scouts. Therefore, I knew I was a little behind in terms of recruitment for the Big 4 Accounting firms, as several of my friends had utilized their summers working in the field which would aid them in securing an internship upon graduation. 

Instead, my route towards finding a job began by talking with alumni at our annual Meet the Firms program. They introduced me to several managers and partners of their respective firms. I made several contacts, and received many business cards, learning a lot about the different firms. But the greatest lesson I learned in regard to success with my job search came from my accounting teacher- "Say thank you!" 

Sending a thank you for a gift is something I have been doing for years, but writing a thank you for meeting someone was new to me. However, I soon realized that this type of etiquette was far more important than I first understood. 

As overwhelming as that night was for me and as many people as I met, the accounting executives met far more. I discussed my career as a baseball player and as a private pilot- in hopes that something I did or said would make me stand out.

But knowing that they had just met a great number of qualified applicants, I needed some way to reinforce the impression j made.  I used my thank you as an additional way to remind them who I was and what I could offer their firm. Included with the typical "It was nice to meet you." I also reminded them of our brief discussions of baseball, or flying, or my home state of Texas." I definitely feel this helped some of the recruiters remember me and peaked their interested in me further, leading to some follow up interviews. Those interviews were in turn followed up by additional thank you notes, each becoming even more personal until a closer connection began to form. 

I was very fortunate to be offered an internship, and now a job with Ernst and Young. I definitely think the thank you notes helped remind some of the recruiters about me and lead to this great opportunity. So while a high GPA and a lot of experience is what attracts the Big 4, I also believe that I made it to where I am today all because of the 3 words my college accounting professor reinforced:  Say thank you! Because not only are you being polite, but it definitely gives you the opportunity to say much, much more. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Why My Internship Wasn’t a Touchdown

By Alyssa Reed, TSCPA Student Ambassador for East Tennessee State University

Internships are said to be the climax of a college career, the application of educational knowledge, where the “rubber meets the road”. And they are all of those things, but internships are much more than just a mini-job before your first real accounting job. 

I had known I wanted to pursue sports accounting since my first day at East Tennessee State University. I researched this particular accounting sector, attended events and spoke with sports accountants. I received a paid internship offer at a public accounting firm (a big deal for a student with no paycheck) and turned it down for an un-paid internship at the ETSU Athletic Department. This made no sense to most people, but I thought getting my start in sports accounting while still in school would be noticed by employers. 
The first couple days were orientation. Not only do you need to follow GAAP, there are NCAA rules, and because ETSU is a public institution, there are state mandated rules. I didn’t even break the iceberg in knowing how all the rules are intertwined, but I did leave my internship with a great appreciation for all the “back-stage” work it takes the administration to have athletes. Through this internship, I learned about accounting for scholarships, reimbursing travel expenses, and where I spent most of my time, travel budgets. 
Taking an 80 person football team from East Tennessee to Montana is not an easy trip. The budgets have to be carefully prepared to ensure the expenses are predicted and controlled. Creating a travel budget involves creating travel plans. Hotels, restaurants, gas, rental cars, grocery stores… the list goes on and on. Trip Advisor became my best friend. Every aspect of a trip has to be considered so that the overall budget remains balanced. We could not have unfavorable budget variances because we were a public institution. This means that the travel options were passed among several staff members including the team’s travel coordinator, head coach, director of finance and associate director of finance.    
I learned that accountants are information getters. The accountants did not make the decisions, but for every decision, the information comes from the accountants and their cost analysis. For those who like to be a behind the scenes worker, this is great. When I attended a sports game, I knew all the effort and planning that went in to seemingly insignificant aspects of the event. To be honest, it’s pretty cool to see the end result.  
As my internship came to an end, I began to have a scary realization. I hated sports accounting. Even the finance directors spent most of their time on travel plans and arrangements to adhere to budgets. I want to be an accountant. Accounting is a great career platform because of the logical and analytical way accountants are trained to think. Therefore, an accountant could enter certain career fields because of their training and not really perform too much accounting work. Yes, I did some credit card audits and some work with tax reimbursements on receipts because we were tax-exempt, but for the most part, my duties were business related more than accounting related. I realized I didn’t want to pursue sports accounting but rather another field that allowed me to perform more of what could be considered “accounting”.
I had picked my major because I like to ensure everything measures up. I feel accomplished when I complete a balance sheet, the books balance, or when the Schedule A is complete. For me, accounting is not a gateway to a hard to enter career field- accounting is the career field itself. Therefore, as I left my internship, I realized what the real treasure of an internship is. Sure, it is great to learn the application of all your schooling, but the real purpose is to experience different career paths with the full knowledge that it is only temporary. You can completely submerse yourself for a few months and decide if this is what area you will continue to pursue. Internships help you find out what you do or don’t like. The best part is that, even if like me, you change your mind about the career field where you were headed, it’s an internship - there is no wrong answer.