How to Choose a Career

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Blogger: Daniela Ivanova

When you wake up in the morning, which of the following scenarios would you prefer to identify with?

Scenario 1: I look forward to a new day and a chance to move closer to my goals. I never know what to expect, but I’m ready for any challenge knowing that at the end of the day, although I will come home exhausted, I will be full of gratification.

Scenario 2: I dread waking up knowing that each day I will have to drag myself to work. I spend my day counting down the hours until the work day is over and make it home exhausted and frustrated.

What is the biggest difference in these two scenarios? Could it be that you are working at a job that you hate or is it simply a matter of your perspective? To me, the answer is your passion. If you are not passionate about what you do every single day, then you are probably doing something wrong. Of course there is a lot of pressure to choose a major that will lead to status or will pay comfortably, but at the end of the day, if you’re not happy then not much else matters. So how do you find a major that makes you happy and will lead you to live a successful and fulfilling career?

Let me start with why I am passionate about accounting, my chosen major.

Accounting is not just “crunching numbers” and mathematical calculations all day. It is an opportunity to see how a business functions and how each employee’s contributions develop the business as a whole. Beyond that, I truly believe there is such thing as “good business.” I believe there are profitable companies that are also successful in encouraging their employees to better themselves and their environment. There are companies founded based on common beliefs that they can change the world for the better. I believe that ALL profitable companies need to be held accountable for the community they belong to and, reaching beyond that, to leave a positive impact on the world.

As we all know, many executives can lose sight of the “good” once money begins to pile up. The power money has can breed corruption quickly. As an accountant and hopefully one day a CPA, I would feel a sense of responsibility to ensure that proper, ethical practices are in place. I hope to be able to help businesses prosper so they can contribute more to the world around them and provide assurance that they are not taking advantage of either their profits or employees.

So how do you choose an area you would want to spend your career in?

You may find that you have many passions to choose from just as most of us do. Try to focus on what stands out the most to you in your daily life and makes you feel the most accomplished. When I started taking accounting and business courses I found that I was much more dedicated, interested, and motivated by them than any of my core classes. I encourage you to take the time to explore what matters the most to you and develop your own set of values and beliefs, regardless of societal pressure. Try new challenges, explore interesting classes, join fun organizations, and ultimately do whatever drives you not only to success but most importantly, happiness.

In the words of Confucius, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

 

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The “Write” Skills

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Blogger: Justin Hogue

Many grew up hearing the adage “The pen is mightier than the sword” as a nod to communication skills, specifically writing skills, being the most effective tool one can use to advance a cause. When some think of accounting, they think of number-crunchers who use magic to manipulate data into desirable outcomes with their tool of choice – the wand. And there are those studying accounting that think the spreadsheet is their tool to go to battle with every day to help their company achieve its objectives – creating a path for professional advancement. I’m here to share my insight that writing skills are the most valuable skill an accountant can have, both in terms of professional advancement and in helping your company meet its goals.

A little piece of information that flies under the radar about accounting – you do a lot of writing! No matter what field in accounting you’re focusing on, you will be writing.

External Audit: You have reports to write, emails to compose (This, by the way, is very important for all accounting professionals that goes underappreciated. There is immense value in a well-worded email) and presentations to give.

Tax: You’ll be writing memos and opinions on different topics and word-smithing emails constantly.

Internal Audit: These guys love their reports – from process documents to audit findings and the final report. And let’s not forget our favorite: Email – there are a lot of emails.

These activities and necessities go on through to other various corporate accounting roles as well. As you can see, no one is safe from the requirement to write and it shouldn’t be scary – it is an excellent way to set yourself apart and to better display those accounting skills you’ve been so keen on developing. And here’s another secret: as you move into the manager position, you’ve now become responsible for reviewing other’s work papers. How useful would it be to have amazing writing skills? That’s right, you can improve the quality and efficiency of your whole team!

So how do writing skills better help the company achieve its goal? It’s all about communicating the most useful information in the most efficient and effective manner. Professionals are busy; they don’t have time to read a five-page accounting report that you could have written in two. While technical skills are important, you’ll accumulate them over time. But being able to take the most important pieces of information and being able to compose an impactful, executive summary will go a long way to making your team, function and company more effective.

You see it often: Many worried about building an expansive and in-depth knowledge of accounting standards and their applications. There are many that try to know all there is about accounting right out of the gate. While some of this might be useful to pass the CPA exam, I think it’s more valuable to take the time to cultivate the ability to take what you do know and express it in writing effectively. You’ll get the technical experience and knowledge in time. But putting what you do know into words will have immediate impact and value. Want to know an easy way to set yourself apart? Showing mastery in putting your technical knowledge and experience into words in an impactful and easy-to-understand way. It might be easy to do one or the other, but being able to be both clearly and concisely can take practice. You’ll become instantly recognized if you display great writing skills. You’ll be asked to compose reports more frequently and even become involved in your intercompany presentations. These are excellent ways to build these important experiences to get ahead and be noticed.

Writing isn’t scary – it can be quite enjoyable. It’s a way to show everyone what you know, and doing so in an effective and efficient manner can really make you look impressive. My advice to you would be to spend some time cultivating this skill. You’ll be surprised how much it will benefit you in your professional endeavors.

Justin Hogue served as teaching assistant for accounting communication courses. He is taking part in the IAEP (Internal Audit Education Partnership) program at his university and has seen the importance of great writing skills in his experiences during this time. He is seeking his MS of Accounting degree and will be graduating December 2016.

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Networking as a Student

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Blogger: Rachel McKenna

Start small—introduce yourself to your classmates

You will continue to meet people for the rest of your life. Just like learning, relationship-building is an ongoing process. So, making sure you connect with classmates early on in the semester will make group projects, forming study groups, confirming class information, and your life easier! One way I did this is taking on leadership roles on campus. As a Student Ambassador for the UT Dallas Career Management Center, I have made friends with classmates while sharing information with classmates. Additionally, roles such as this offer the chance to ask other students questions and hear their perspective based on their experiences. So, I encourage you to actively look for opportunities to interact with your peers on campus. This practice pays dividends!

Create a LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn is the premier networking site for business professionals. On LinkedIn, you can read articles that relate to industries of interest, share posts, build your network, and get to know other individuals better. Studies have shown that employers have made a habit of checking applicant LinkedIn profiles before the interview stage. By making the choice to begin developing your LinkedIn presence now, you will have resources at your disposal that many students do not take advantage of. You can start by connecting with your classmates, campus recruiters, and also people you will meet at professional development events.

Go to on-campus events                                                                 

You can choose events related to your major or your interests. Even if it’s just something that sounds fun to you, this is a chance to meet business professionals. Also, take your friends with you and share the experience with other people. This goes back to importance of relationship-building. While in college, you are in a safe environment to explore. Often times, resources are brought to students, so checking your school’s event calendar regularly for updates will ensure that you do not miss out on opportunities for personal and professional development.

Visit your professors during office hours

Believe it or not, professors are people too! In fact, chances are that professors traveled a similar path to your own during their time in college. They have words of wisdom to share and, from my experiences, they are eager to get to know their students more. Building a rapport with your professors shows that you are serious about making the most of your time in college and makes the classroom experience more enjoyable.

Volunteer

Giving back in the community has lasting effects felt by many. This goes along with the idea of making the most of your time for the good of others. You never know who you will meet or help while volunteering. This is also a great way to supplement your learning outside of the classroom. Volunteering is time well spent!

 

I will leave you with a quote that I have carried with me the past few months. Neale Donald Walsch noted that “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” I have found this idea that if you’re not stepping outside of your comfort zone, you’re not growing, is true. Feeling uncomfortable with trying something new is natural. By pushing yourself to feel uncomfortable, you will become more comfortable. I hope this is a source of inspiration for you to continue to grow. Thanks for reading!

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Why should you join student organizations?

Blogger: Angie Wong

Before entering college, I had a few friends that were already attending the college I was accepted to. At first, I told myself I didn’t need to join a student organization because I already knew people. I convinced myself I didn’t have time for a student organization. However, after a semester of my first college year, I realized that although I had friends, I did not participate in any extracurricular activities outside from school. I was not learning much about the career I was interested in. I was wearing myself out. After joining two student organizations, I found the benefits of joining student organizations. There are two types of student organizations you should join; one that relates to your career, and one that focuses on extracurricular activities.

Joining a student organization that relates to your career is beneficial because you learn more about the career. You also get to meet people who are interested in the same career. This is beneficial because these connections could push you to get out of your comfort zone or help you improve your professional skills. For example, when I joined a professional student organization, I met people who encouraged me to speak with professionals who came to speak with us at the meetings. This has improved my networking and opened more interview opportunities with companies. You can also build strong friendships through a professional student organization. I have gained many valuable friendships through the organization I am a part of. You can also volunteer through a professional student organization. I have volunteered for two conferences through the organization I am a part of.

Another type of student organization you should join is one that focuses on extracurricular activities. These organizations could help you get a little break from school and relieve your stress. Some activities I have participated in through another student organization include playing flag football and volleyball, attending sports and dance competitions, and volunteering for different events. You can also make connections through this type of student organization. These connections could be your fellow sports team players or just through the organization as a whole. I have friends who have graduated but still come back to play sports with the organization just to have some fun and relax.

You should join a student organization to form bonds and to learn more about what you are interested in and passionate about. It is beneficial to join a student organization related to a career you are joining. These organizations will allow you to learn more about the career you are beginning and will give you more exposure to the field. In addition, joining an extracurricular student organization could help you with your stress level and allow you to have some fun.

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How to get that much needed first experience….volunteer for VITA

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Guest Blogger: Kathy Zolton, CPA, Senior Lecturer of Accounting at UTD 

VITA is the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program coordinated by the IRS and then implemented by partners in the community to provide free income tax return preparation for low income families.  Tax returns are prepared by certified volunteers.  The VITA program provides free tax preparation assistance to those that need it the most – low income and elderly tax payers.

But why would someone consider volunteering for VITA?  If you are a seasoned tax professional or consider yourself “not a tax person” – how can this help you?

Here are my TOP FIVE REASONS to volunteer with VITA (based on my working with students involved with VITA, along with sound bites from over the semesters).

  1. You like to meet people and hear their stories.

“There is always a story behind each tax return. Tax returns are always about people, family and life.  Never, ever judge a person by mere observation. Listen and talk.”

  1. You need a chance to learn in a safe environment with others reviewing your work because you are not perfect all of the time.

“Immersed in my self-confidence that I could finish all tax returns within eight minutes, my site manager told me that I failed my fifth tax return.”

  1. You want to improve your professional communication skills.

“This VITA experience polished my communication skills, not only on interacting with clients but also getting along with other volunteers as well as site managers.”

  1. You want to realize the value that CPAs bring to the business world.

“Professionalism is more than a responsibility, not only to the client, but also to the job.”

  1. You want to use your accounting skills to make a difference.

“As a taxation volunteer, I am happy to help file taxes for taxpayers. At the same time, I learned how to use tax knowledge. It is a win-win situation.”

“Learning taxation was just the master of the theory, but attending VITA made me put theory into practice. Moreover, I had a better understanding of the benefits that the US government provides to its citizens. “

“I don’t know what it is about doing taxes that I like so much. Maybe it is the look on people’s faces when I tell them what they are getting back or helping educate people on what kind of deduction they can take, either way I really loved it.”

Training for VITA Volunteers take place in December and January.  After you complete training, you must complete the online IRS VITA Volunteer Certification Exams.  Then you are ready to volunteer and make a difference in not only a community member’s life, but in yours as well!

Questions regarding VITA?  Look for your community’s VITA partner? Information is available at

https://www.irs.gov/individuals/free-tax-return-preparation-for-you-by-volunteers.

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Why Choose Accounting?

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Blogger: Su Kelly

As a college freshman, declaring a major was a source of stress and preoccupation for me.  I really did not know what discipline I wanted to concentrate on because I liked so many different things.  My college advisor suggested that I take advantage of the elective credits as opportunities to choose the courses that most interest me.  I still could not make up my mind.  But the most interesting subject to me at the time was mathematics.

Lucky for me, the same professor taught the two math courses I enrolled in, and she asked if I was majoring in mathematics.  I laughed and said “no” and explained that I was still undecided.  What happened next is one of the most defining moments of my life.  My professor said that if I loved math so much, then I should consider enrolling in one of the accounting classes. She assured me I’d love it too.  Love accounting? I wasn’t even sure what accounting was really about!  But I figured I had nothing to lose.  If I didn’t enjoy the accounting class as much as my professor thought I would, then the class would still count as an elective.  The following semester, I followed my professor’s advice and she was right!  I fell in love with accounting.

That semester I learned that accounting is not only a science, but also the beautiful language of business by which financial information is presented to all interested parties.  Call me an accounting romantic, but from the first moment I learned how to prepare the four financial statements, I’ve always considered how one statement flows to the other as beautiful as the movements of a symphony orchestra.  The way in which financial statements are sequenced; the way that the income statement leads into the statement of retained earnings, and that leads into the balance sheet, and for the beautiful and final movement: the statement of cash flows.

Why choose accounting?  Choose accounting because you love it, because it interests you in ways that bring joy and fulfillment to your life.  Accounting is all around us—domestically and abroad. The business world cannot operate without it.  Having passion for accounting can make the difference between working a job versus feeling excited for having the opportunity to work your passion.

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What Large Firms Expect From New Accounting Grads

Securing a job post-graduation won’t be an issue for most accounting students. But those looking to end up at the nation’s largest firms, where fast-paced environments can lead to lucrative career paths, will need more than good grades to get hired.

In this article from AICPA’s Extra Credit e-newsletter, recruiters from large firms (including the Big Four) weigh in on what they want to see from new hires. Check it out!

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