Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Reverse Mentoring: Coaching the Boss?

By Davoua Vang, CPA, CGMA

It is undeniable that times have changed. As a way to create value and to bridge the generational gaps within an organization, the idea of spinning the conventional mentor-mentee roles just makes sense.

Businesses and the way business is conducted has become more and more tech dependent as consumers and clients become more and more tech savvy. Traditional ways of reaching your audiences are slowly fading away as they are replaced with unconventional channels such as mobile apps, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat. I’ve recently started seeing “Chat Bots” used in conjunction with Facebook’s Messenger app. Consumers are able to communicate with organizations via Facebook Messenger and receive instant automated replies on simple questions and directs them to their website or app if it isn’t able to provide assistance. It even sends out messages occasionally to keep them relevant!

So what is reverse mentoring and how does it work? This idea of reverse mentorship was introduced by GE’s CEO Jack Welch in 1999 and occurs when a veteran employee is paired with a younger employee with the desires of learning from each other. In order for this relationship to be beneficial, certain factors must be laid out. Factors such as well-defined expectations, the willingness to participate, trust, transparency, mutual guidelines and most importantly Executive buy-in.

United Healthcare, Target, MasterCard, Cisco, Microsoft and Deutsche Bank are among some of the organizations that have adopted this platform as a means to allow management to see with a “new set of eyes.” This provides the opportunity for seasoned executives to strengthen their agility to transform to their ever-changing marketplaces. It also provides the junior professional an opportunity to learn the business and important leadership skills from their own leaders.

Not only is there value in the informational exchanges that occur, but it also promotes career growth, improves employee retention and fosters a positive learning culture within the organization. Not to mention the ability and opportunity to identify key personnel to better prepare for succession planning.

So why is this important and how is it relevant to our profession? The CPA profession is not excluded from this rapid change and innovation that is occurring within the marketplace and across all industries. As millennials enter the workforce and as your client base shifts towards a heavier population of millennials, they’ll bring in values that are much different than the status quo. Not only will those values affect your organization internally, but you’ll see that the needs of your clients will change as well. It is in our ability to adapt to and embrace these changes that will ultimately define our success and the future of public accounting.

About the Author:

Davoua Vang, CPA, CGMA, is Assistant Vice President/Controller at First National Bank of Middle Tennessee. She currently serves as President of the TSCPA Upper Cumberland Chapter. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Communicating Without Words: A Soft Skill Worth Learning

By Tiffany Underwood, CPA

Whether you are interviewing for your next job or facilitating an important meeting, recent studies suggest soft skills like communicating could come in handy and are becoming more sought after in the workplace. In addition to communicating, soft skills consist of dependability, teamwork, critical thinking, and leadership, among others. According to research from the American Psychological Association, employers were more likely to hire a candidate that was likeable. Results from a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management showed soft skills such as dependability, teamwork, respect and integrity were all vitally important for hiring entry-level jobs. A CNBC article listed five top soft skills to get hired; communication was a soft skill among these.

Communication seems easy, and we would all like to think that we do it well, but that is contrary to what perspective employers are saying. We have been told to be prepared, so we choose our words wisely. We try to speak as clearly and concisely as possible, but there is more to communicating than simply writing or speaking well. There is much debate on the amount of nonverbal communication that occurs in a conversation, but we can all agree nonverbal signals are continuously being sent. We each have experienced a conversation where someone’s body language does not match his or her words.

Nonverbal communications are messages sent without speaking such as posture, pitch, eye contact, emotional expression, hand gestures, listening skills and attention, among other traits. Nonverbal communication can make a good or bad impression and could be a determining factor for a job offer. The type of nonverbal communication used should be representative of the message and audience receiving the communication. For example, at an interview or meeting, proper posture and a more serious tone may be necessary for delivering a message. Eye contact is also important, but not too much or it becomes uncomfortable.

The best way to develop nonverbal communication skills is to practice communicating and watch and listen for nonverbal signals being passed throughout the communication. Nonverbal communication can be practiced with a mirror or video tape. Having another person watch and critique nonverbal signals may also be helpful. Whatever method you choose to practice nonverbal communication, it is important to learn and understand the messages being sent without words.

About the Author

Tiffany Underwood, CPA, is an auditor at the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority. She can be reached at

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence & Empathizing with your Coworkers

By Kati Uttz, TSCPA Memphis Chapter Student Ambassador

When you think about accounting, what comes to your mind? Number-cruncher? Nerd? Stuck in a cubicle all day? Well listen up folks, because I’m about to break the accounting stereotype for you. If there is one thing I’ve learned throughout my various internships, it’s that people are the true focus of accounting. Yes, you heard me right. Gone are the days that calculators reign as the mascots of accountants. Technology is changing the world, our profession included. With the implementation of bookkeeping software and the rise of automation, the jobs of accountants are shifting. Currently, the fastest growing sector of accounting is advisory. By nature, advisory engagements are driven by accountant-client interaction. Customers are moving away from basic financial services and moving toward consultations that are tailored to their needs. As we all know, human beings aren’t cold and calculated like computers. Nine times out of ten, our decisions are driven by emotion, not reason. This is why building emotional intelligence is so critical for success.

The term emotional intelligence (EQ) describes an individual’s ability to understand one’s own emotions while also empathizing with and responding to the emotions of others. You may be surprised to learn that EQ is now a better indicator of future success than technical skills alone. Yet, our accounting curriculum still focuses primarily on acquiring the technical skills. This can cause those extremely valuable soft skills to slip through the cracks. We are all aware that the number-crunching services are the ones most vulnerable to automation. Which is the exact reason EQ plays a vital role in maintaining a highly successful accounting career.

In today’s world, businesses revolve around emotions. It is important to gain the trust of your clients, and for them to feel like their business is meaningful. We now live in a consumer-focused market, which means that consumers are more likely to repeatedly buy from companies that put the needs of the consumer first. By showing your clients that their business has value, you’ve taken a step towards growing your EQ. You need to be ready to empathize with your clients when they’ve had a bad day. You should be willing and ready to listen to their concerns. You should show understanding when they become frustrated over potential problems. Your reactions in moments like these can make or break your relationship with a client. Learn how to relate your experiences to your customers. Take note of your clients’ motivations and how that influences their goals. Align yourself with them. This can help immensely in your ability to influence and persuade others.

On the other hand, you should strive to be in complete control of your own emotions. Too many times have I seen peers of mine "blow up" in anger when they didn’t see results they wanted. Not only does this leave a bad taste in your employer’s mouth, but you can also say “hasta la vista” to future business with a client that witnessed your emotional outburst. This kind of reaction gives the notion that you do not respect your clients’ time, and you are exhibiting a lack of willpower. Appearance is key in maintaining a strong relationship with your customers. Be certain your personal branding is one the client is willing and wants to trust. Remember that when clients share their financial information with you, they’re putting great faith in your character. Don’t give them reason to doubt that your relationship is anything other than excellent. By building and growing your own EQ, you too can become a master at maintaining relationships.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Productivity Q&A with Jennifer Fox
(a.k.a. Productivity Ninja)

Occupation: Productivity Ninja
Company: Think Productive North America
Location: New York
Other job titles in life: Coach, Consultant, Facilitator, HR Visionary, L&D Leader, Entrepreneur, Writer, Photographer, Athlete, Life-Long-Learner, Wife-extraordinaire, Super-Mom-of-3 
Q: What’s important about your workspace?
A; My most productive workspace is at a large coffee retailer with a certain green logo. I love the background noise, which ironically allows me great focus, the chance for frequent people-watching breaks and the feel of warm coffee in my hand as I unleash my creativity on my latest projects.
Q: Which ninja characteristic have you got nailed?
A: Unorthodoxy - my life and career path has been anything but conventional. I love the freedom that comes from knowing that there is rarely a “right” solution to a problem. Some former colleagues and I coined the phrase, “blow it up”, as our way of creating excitement and energy around looking for new ways to approach a problem.
Q: Which ninja characteristic are you still working on the most?
A: Mindfulness & Human, not Superhero. I wear many hats, the most important of which are serving those whom I love. In my effort to please and have everything taken care of, I juggle too many balls, and the one that gets dropped most is self-care. Recently, I’ve established a meditation practice and am a die-hard fitbit tracker, so Zen-Like Calm Ninja would be proud.
Q: Which five apps could you not live without?
A: I admit to having to pick up my phone to answer this question. OmniFocus for all task and project management, WhatsApp to communicate with my tribe of friends, AmazonMusic to keep a song in my heart, Instagram for my social media fix and Starbucks for my coffee addiction. (see workspace answer above!)
Q: What’s your favorite piece of stationery?
A: Much to the chagrin of my 8-year old who thinks I am “SO boring”, I only use Black and Red Spiral bound notebooks. There is nothing like starting a new one, creating to-do lists with check boxes next to them and doodling with my mechanical pencil (never a pen). I also love journals and have more than I care to admit that have months or years in between entries.
Q: When in the day do you have the most proactive attention?
A: Mid-morning, after the kids have been taken care of and my house is (mostly) in order.
Q: What’s your trick for when you’re tired or struggling with attention in the day?
A: Taking a break to clean something, or do a menial task that I can complete. Checking a box brings great satisfaction and gives me momentum to focus again. Also, changing my work environment. I’ve even been known to drive to a different Starbucks down the street to change my office space!
Q: What’s your best advice for reducing stress?
A: Find humor and insights everywhere. Luckily, I have 3 amazing little people who provide non-stop entertainment. I also try to be on the lookout for things that make me think, smile, wonder. I can presence myself in the middle of Manhattan just by focusing on something that peaks my curiosity. The Breathe app provides me with frequent reminders to do just that, and I love Insight Timer for guided meditation to unwind at the end of the day, though I rarely make it past the 5-minute mark.
Q: What’s your email regime?
A: Confession: prior to becoming a Productivity Ninja my regime was to keep everything, and hope that Google continued to raise the inbox limit. Having been introduced to Inbox Zero, I’ll never look back. It’s not easy to break old habits, but seeing the whitespace on my screen is the equivalent to a clear desk.
Q: What’s your favorite way to take a break in the middle of the day?
A: I would be lying if I didn’t say coffee, but I’ll add connecting with someone in a casual way: friends, family, co-workers, even the cashier at Chipotle can give me the energy I need.
Q: What’s the secret to your productivity?
A: I started using the hashtag #GSD when I discovered hashtags were no longer pound signs (dating myself, but I know many of you can relate). It stands for Get S*§% Done, and it’s my M.O. at work, home and life. I am results-driven, sometimes to a fault, but have found that it has allowed me to raise my game in every area of life. Sometimes it’s just taking the first step towards a big project, other times it’s going all-in to complete a project all at once. Being productive makes me feel great and inspires others around me to achieve their own potential.
About the Author: Jennifer Fox is a Productivity Ninja in the Greater New York area. Meet her in person at the 2018 TSCPA Women’s Career Summit or follow her on Twitter at @ThinkProdUSA. Register for the TSCPA Women's Career Summit  at

Monday, September 10, 2018

Development 101: YP Edition

By Summer Brooks, CPA

As young professionals, many of us have set goals for ourselves and are looking for ways to grow both personally and professionally. The goal setting itself is easy, but the difficult part is putting the goals in motion. However, there are small steps you can take each day to help achieve your goals and build a solid foundation for growth. 
  1. Focus on one goal at a time. Don’t try to tackle all 15 of your goals at once. I would suggest prioritizing your goals by order of importance to you, and go down the list one by one. Once you’ve accomplished the first most important, move on to the second, and so on. This will keep you from getting overwhelmed and center your concentration so goals can be achieved.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Many of us feel nervous at the thought of this, fearing that we will be shunned or the answer will always be no. However, you would often be surprised by the results. I would suggest expressing your notions in a direct and concise manner and expand on how they are important to your growth. The key thing to remember here is that people are rooting for your success and want to help you. They are simply waiting for you to take the initiative to ask.
  3. Collaborate and use technology to your advantage. Although technology can be a blessing and a curse, young professionals are fortunate to live in times where the world is essentially “at our fingertips.” With social media on the rise, explore many outlets for networking opportunities and knowledge growth. Identify networks that allow you to expand your scope and get outside your comfort zone. Explore topics and events you are interested in and take part in something that is important to you. The possibilities are endless with this one, so don’t be afraid to get creative!
  4. Network, network, network. This one coincides with point #3 to a certain extent; however, it is important enough to note separately. Networking is a great way to link up with other like-minded young professionals. Who knows, you may even find someone who has similar aspirations as you and can share experiences and advice! Although networking is often seen as a nuisance, it is an integral part of personal and professional growth and can lead to very beneficial results. My advice would be to start small. Get involved with your firm’s YP group or your college alumni association. Attend county chamber and TSCPA events for young professionals.
In closing, I encourage you to stay optimistic and don’t get discouraged. Remember the old saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour.” Growth doesn’t happen overnight, and some goals may take more time to achieve than others. Hopefully by incorporating these simple steps into your routine, you will be able to keep your eye on the prize and see long-term advancement.    

About the Author: Summer Brooks, CPA is a Senior Accountant in LBMC's Brentwood office. She can be reached at

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Contracts Intern: Sounds Boring, Right?

By Collin Peace, Appalachian Chapter Student Ambassador

This past summer I secured an internship position in the accounting department of Republic Parking System in downtown Chattanooga. RPS, one of the preeminent parking management companies in the US, hired me to be a part of a team tasked with creating, designing and implementing the new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) accounting system that will take place of the old AS400 accounting system. To be honest, I was not very thrilled about the internship upon first hearing my title would be “Contracts Intern,” as I thought it would primarily consist of pouring through parking contract agreements, identifying particular terms and performing menial data entry. However, my expectations were soon shattered within the first two weeks I started working there.

I did much more than basic data entry and other low-level tasks like scanning, copying and going on coffee/breakfast runs (though I did do a fair bit of those things). Instead, I was exposed to a wide array of different things which I had not run into thus far, such as performing bank reconciliations, entering and checking revenue, researching expense patterns, and compiling databases by which we interpreted trends and made conclusions. Even beyond the plethora of work-related tasks and responsibilities I was exposed to, through the internship I was able to take part in numerous networking opportunities. I was not only able to network with my fellow co-workers, but I was also invited on several occasions to accompany our office executives to lunches and meetings with employees and personnel from other RPS branches. In addition to networking opportunities, I got to take part in fun outings with my fellow employees, the most recent of which was a Friday Fun-day where the entire accounting department took the day to go volunteer at a local charity, followed by lunch at a nearby pizzeria and then a few games of bowling.

I learned an incredible amount while taking part in this internship, and I have found truth in the saying, “70 percent of learning is experiential” because of how much I learned through the hands-on experience I received. The knowledge I had learned in my accounting classes in school certainly came in handy in terms of having a rough idea of what was going on and what was being discussed, but a great deal of my internship was simply “on-the-job learning,” and I had to pick up things rather quickly in order to keep up with the rest of the accounting department. As stressful at times as it may have been, I am very grateful to have had this opportunity because of how much I learned in an actual, real-world business environment which taught me things you simply can’t learn from a textbook.

The most important and valuable thing I believe I got out of this internship was the connections and relationships I established while I was there. It’s an over-used statement, but it holds truth: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. This truth has become quite clear to me as I have seen that it is in making connections that one is best able to get a job and advance their career. I met numerous CPAs who willingly and cheerfully passed along their advice and knowledge. I met and had sit-down discussions with top executives from the Senior Payroll Manager to the Corporate Controller to the Chief Financial Officer. All of them were willing to mentor me and offer suggestions on what I should consider and what I should focus on working towards in order to be a more effective and successful accountant and businessman, and for that I am extremely grateful. I have established relationships with them and hopefully in the future I might continue my career under their leadership and guidance. Furthermore, to anyone considering accounting as their field of study and as their eventual occupation, I cannot emphasize enough how valuable it is to take part in an internship while you are in school. You will not only bolster your knowledge base of accounting and business in general, but you will also allow yourself the opportunity for networking, relationships and maybe even a future job. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

“Being” Involved in College

By Morgan Montieth, Knoxville Chapter Student Ambassador

In high school, every student is told they need to get involved. Teachers emphasize that admissions look for involvement on college applications, and then once in college, professors tell you employers look for campus involvement when hiring. While the definition of involvement is technically just participating in something, I like to think of involvement as more than just showing up, but choosing clubs and organizations you are passionate about and actively engaging with those like-minded individuals. 

I don’t know how many times I have heard students say, “I am involved in ten or more things.” At first I think “Wow!” but then I think, “Are they really involved in all of them?” Spreading yourself too thin between many organizations could be detrimental to you gaining anything from a club. Taking your studies into account while in college, you will not have time to really be a part of a large variety of clubs. Pick a few favorites and try to learn as much as you can about them. To truly be involved in something, you should actively listen, participate and network. Limit yourself to two or three clubs and organizations and really commit.

Being involved is a perfect opportunity to be a role model. Being attentive and taking on leadership roles allow you to teach underclassman about events or opportunities you are passionate about. Asking, learning and teaching will help you build lifelong relationships, from strong friendships to connections in the business world. Just because you show up, eat the free food and drink the free drinks does not make you involved.

Employers will ask you what you have learned in school, but more importantly, they will ask about how involved you were in school clubs, professional organizations, internships or jobs. If you can’t tell them that you did anything with your time while in college outside of school, that will show your employers that you may not be a real team player. An employer wants to see what you have learned and how they can benefit from you for being part of their company. If you have shown up to all your clubs meetings and events and learned and networked, then you will be a great addition to any company hiring you.

From being a part of AIM Accounting Alliance at the University of Tennessee, I have met countless accounting firm professionals, made lifelong friends and had endless opportunities to get my name out to numerous professional organizations. So, take my experience into consideration; it sure has helped me be truly involved in college.

Curiosity & Attention: Two Words that Solve Problems in the Classroom

By Austin Reppart, Appalachian Chapter Student Ambassador

Many of us have heard the common phrase, “Curiosity killed the cat,” from the famous paradox, Schrödinger’s Cat. But how can curiosity help accounting students? If your goals are to improve grades or retain more information in the classroom, you must give these goals the necessary attention in order the attain them. Today’s fast-paced world, coupled with constant advertising on devices we interact with daily, creates an environment in which attention is one of your most valuable assets. It is a common misconception that the amount of time you spend on a task is equivalent to the amount of attention you give it. Those are not the same statements. Most of us work on a computer and are likely to have some music or a podcast playing in the background, with our phones by our side. How much attention are we really dedicating to the task at hand? Our phones are the best and worst thing to happen to us in the modern age. We are more connected than ever, enabling us to reach thousands of people in a matter of minutes. At the same time, we are unable to keep our attention away from the phone in the face of other, possibly more pressing, tasks. Think about it. Have you ever left your phone at home and NOT immediately turned around to get it? We couldn’t get through the day if we weren’t connected. The point here is if we gave half as much of our attention to our phones, and shared the same eagerness to engage in the classroom material as we did our social media news feeds, then learning accounting material and preparing for the CPA exam would just become second nature. So...

How do we increase our curiosity in the classroom?
  • Ask more questions. I am amazed at how many students never ask questions about the material covered.
  • Ask yourself why does the material exist? Try to figure out the origin of the material and how or why it was developed in accounting.
  • Try to find ways to build on material covered in previous classes. One of the worst things we can do as accounting students is forget what was covered in our principles classes. Connecting the dots from class to class will help your understanding.
  • Find additional resources that cover the same content. Sometimes reading someone else’s perspective will help you understand the material better.

How do we increase our attention in the classroom?
  • Become Curious! These two principles build on each other. The more curious you are the more attention you will have and the more you pay attention the more curious you will become.
  • Sit in the front of the room. It is easier to ask those questions we talked about if you are a few feet away from the professor. If you are shy this may be very beneficial.
  • Put your phone away and on silent. Eliminating this distraction will keep you engaged in the classroom discussions. If you pay attention in class, you will spend less time out of class studying and trying to figure out what is going on in the text.
  • Record lectures…if permitted (aka. expressed written consent). Buy a cheap recorder and download the files to your computer. I listen to them on the treadmill or when driving as well.

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.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Make a Great Impression in Interviews by Asking Better Questions

  By Blake Hise, TSCPA Nashville Chapter Student Ambassador    

If you were to search the internet for tips on acing an interview or networking at a career fair, you would find many of the basics such as bring a resume, dress professionally, deliver a firm handshake and so on. All serious internship candidates should already be applying these basic principles, so you will need additional skill sets to market yourself competitively. In my experience, the ability to ask insightful questions is one of the greatest assets outside of a resume that you can bring to any career fair or interview.

When I was a junior in the accounting program at MTSU, hiring firms invited me to interview after interview, but never followed through with an offer. After reflecting on my networking approach during senior year, I realized I was failing to ask recruiters the questions they wanted to hear. Shortly after having this epiphany and implementing the advice in this article, I secured two internships within a couple of months.

When firms seek to hire college students, one of their most common concerns with this demographic is lack of experience. To overcome this barrier, ask meaningful questions with a demonstration of competence and professionalism based on the recruiter’s oral representation of the firm’s services. Learning to ask better questions can be extremely resourceful in your job search as an aspiring accountant.

In almost every exchange, the recruiter will provide an overview of the company’s services. This information can challenge many students, because it is often industry-specific and outside the scope of accounting taught at the undergraduate level. Many students may become inattentive, nod and smile politely, or simply wait to ask the next question they have rehearsed.

However, the recruiter’s representation of the firm’s services presents a unique opportunity to demonstrate your accounting knowledge. If you can repeatedly ask insightful questions based on the recruiter’s information, you will successfully project competence, an ability to think on your feet and a genuine interest in the organization. This will, of course, work alongside your communication skills and resume to make a great impression.

The key question, then, is how do we learn to ask better questions throughout the recruiting process? Here are a few steps that are helping me to develop this critical skill.

Listen Actively: The first step to asking better questions involves making the effort to listen attentively to understand the firm’s services.

Relate Information To Your Accounting Knowledge: The differences between the recruiter’s experience and your overall knowledge of accounting create an opportunity for you to ask questions that “bridge the gap” between academia and real-life application. Draw on your accounting knowledge to understand the services the firm provides. Then, ask questions that relate what you already know from your accounting coursework to the recruiter’s description of the firm’s services.

Imagine This Will Be Your Job:
To identify which questions are best to ask, I have found it helpful to maintain the mindset that you are going to be hired by this company in the following week. What concerns would you have with the details of this position? What would you want to know about the industry?

Use Current Events: Relating a firm’s services to current events is an excellent way to learn more about the industry and indicate that you stay abreast of developments in the field. Tax reform, healthcare reform and the new revenue recognition standards are a few example topics that can lead to interesting conversations.

Repeat and Practice: Be sure to repeat this process throughout the exchange with the recruiter. Employers frequently interpret a candidate having too few questions as being disinterested or inexperienced. Asking too many questions is more favorable than asking too few. You should constantly be probing for better, more insightful questions to ask.

Professionals in the accounting field are generally passionate about their work and enjoy discussing it in detail with interested students. Next time you are in a career fair or interview situation, take the time to consider if you are asking questions that project competence and give the hiring company a great impression of you as a candidate.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

How Being a Well-Rounded Student Can Set You Up for the Future

By Bailey Blair, TSCPA Upper Cumberland Chapter Student Ambassador 

Over the course of my time as a student at Tennessee Tech, I have found that balancing the different elements of life as a college student can be challenging, but also rewarding. From classes and homework, to making time for clubs and a social life, every day is full. So how can students manage to do all of these things well?

Let’s first take a look at two main goals of college students: academic success and campus involvement. Students should aim for academic success, because it can lead to scholarships and valuable relationships with professors. Good grades also reflect a strong work ethic and a wealth of knowledge of one’s field of study. Studying hard can lead to greater opportunities for students. 

Becoming a part of campus life also plays a major role during a student’s time in school. Students should aim to participate in clubs they are interested in, organizations relating to their major and events offered by their university. Students find networking opportunities, professional growth and a community to be a part of through campus involvement. Going the extra mile by investing time and energy into a club as a member and a leader will set you apart from others when applying for internships or jobs. Also, the strong relationships with professionals and university faculty that you might gain are helpful when you need advice or letters of recommendation. Getting involved is a valuable use of your time. 

Academic success and involvement clearly play an equally important role in the life of a college student. Learning how to balance the various responsibilities of college life can be overwhelming at times. What are practical steps students should take toward balancing the chaos of college? The following tips helped me get more organized and manage stress. First, I use a planner to plan out my schedule for the week. Planners are crucial to keeping a busy schedule organized and minimizing wasted time. Next, I frequently check my student email account to stay up to date on important announcements from my professors, the university and the on goings of campus. Most importantly, I am continually making an effort to eat healthier, exercise more and get more sleep. By taking care of myself, I am able to avoid getting sick and getting behind on my to-do list. Taking a few small steps in the right direction can go a long way. 

Effectively balancing your hectic schedule as a college student will ultimately lead to greater opportunities upon graduation. Employers want to know you are capable of handling the stress of a job and all of the different responsibilities they may give you. By staying involved on campus and making good grades, you can effectively show recruiters that you can handle the stress of your own life and the stress of a potential job. Competition is fierce in the job market, and it is crucial to set yourself up well early on in your career. Ultimately you want to be a well-rounded student who is ready to enter the workforce upon graduation, and learning to balance life as a student should set you up well for that.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Path to Success: A Guide to Mastering College Advising and Organization

By Megan Jones, TSCPA Chattanooga Chapter Student Ambassador 

From my experience in college, I have found that students constantly compare themselves to others to determine the "right" path to success they should be taking. Although following this way of thinking may be extremely helpful for a few scenarios, it can be detrimental to the success of the individual student. Certain students are more successful academically and professionally than others, and it is not because one student is more knowledgeable on a specific subject than others; it is based on the ability to gauge your own strengths and weaknesses. Once you understand where you are more advanced and where you need improvement, you have the ability to cater your performance where it will be optimally beneficial to personal success. Students need to focus on themselves individually rather than copying the techniques of others. Here are my two best pieces of advice to achieve ultimate success:

1) Obtain appropriate advisement in order to efficiently and effectively schedule courses. The advisement process can oftentimes be a balancing act of time and workload. Knowledgeable collegiate advisers can be a critical element in the student’s overall success with scheduling courses. In my experience, when I have the ability to obtain course requirements for a specific major prior to advisement, the scheduling process goes much smoother. Preparing a tentative course schedule prior to meeting with an adviser is critical. Once the schedule is presented to the adviser, certain alterations can be made due to the adviser’s knowledge of the workload of each course; therefore, the student will not become overwhelmed by the work throughout the semester.

2) Get organized. Organization is the key to not only a successful academic career, but also a professional one. In college, organizing myself was the most critical way I was able to balance everything from my academic courses, my athletic career, my extracurricular activities and my professional development. Obtaining and using a planner is the true key to success. Along with a planner, preparation is also essential. Some students have the ability to walk into a classroom with luck on their side and make an A on an exam they spent exactly zero minutes studying for; however, for most of us, studying and preparing is key to the successful completion of a task. Whether it be a term paper, homework assignment, final exam or daily discussion, preparation and organization will only aid in the successful execution of the specific engagement.

All in all, there never will be a universal step-by-step guide to collegiate success. The simple truth to success is solely based on the individual. What makes Bill Gates successful is completely different than what will make me and every other student successful. The true key to success, whether it be in college, work or life, is knowing yourself. If you can recognize your own flaws and showcase your strengths, then the path success has already commenced.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Healthcare Revenue Recognition Update – ASU 2014-09

by Michael Wade, CPA, Watkins Uiberall, PLLC

In today’s world of healthcare and financial reporting for health systems, assisted living programs and health insurance, it’s imperative to stay connected with the updated accounting standards and regulations in the industry. As the outside auditor or the inside CFO of a company in this industry, maintaining this compliance can require continuous monitoring throughout your career as current legislation dictates several of the accounting and financial reporting standards that affect the healthcare industry. One of the most important set of standards that are crucial for GAAP compliance in this industry are revenue recognition updates.

In May 2014, FASB rewrote the rules for revenue recognition in the healthcare by issuing Accounting Standards Update (ASU) 2014-09 - Revenue from Contracts with Customers. This new standard created a principle-based framework for healthcare organizations in determining when and how an entity recognizes revenue from its customer contracts. Effective dates for this standard to take effect in the financial reporting regulations are Dec. 15, 2017, for public entities, and Dec. 15, 2018, for all other entities.

Regarding the changes to the new update, FASB has decided to base the new standard on a core principle for recognizing revenue: revenue should be recorded only when services are provided or goods are transferred to customers at the agreed price. To summarize the highlights of the new standard, healthcare organizations will now determine revenue recognition based on the following 5 factors:
  1. Identify the contract with the customer.
  2. Identify the performance obligations in the contract that are to be met.
  3. Determine the transaction price.
  4. Allocate the transaction price to the performance obligations in the contract.
  5. Recognize revenue when (or as) the entity satisfies the performance obligations
For several organizations in the industry, implementing these changes will present new and possibly significant challenges in conforming their current recognition policies to the new standard. For organizations that are seeking help on implementation and/or issues that they might face when implementing the changes, one source they can look to for help is the AICPA Health Care Entities Revenue Recognition Task Force, which is just one of 16 industry task forces created to identify potential implementation issues and provide guidance.

Some of the healthcare type industries that will be affected by the new standard are continuing care retirement communities, hospitals and health systems, and third-party payer settlements. For hospitals and health systems specifically, one example of a challenge that organizations in this healthcare industry will face is the providing of emergency services to uninsured or self-pay patients. Under the new standard, the organizations must determine all the factors listed above. These considerations will impact both the timing and amount of revenue that is ultimately recognized.

FASB, AICPA and several trade associations have begun studying the issues facing healthcare organizations, but formal guidance is not expected soon, as most guidance associations have taken a “wait and see” attitude before developing formal guidance. As noted earlier however, several task forces are being put together to assist in implementation guidance along with accounting firms across the country taking on the initiative to help their clients in the challenges their facing with interpreting and implementing the requirements from the new standard.

Both public and non-public healthcare companies should prepare to adopt the new standard requirements by reviewing their current revenue cycles and recognitions policies for areas that will be affected by the new requirements. As with the industry itself, healthcare accounting and financial reporting standards are constantly evolving and compliance in this industry will require dedicated individuals with high-levels of experience and expertise.