Improve Your Networking

Student blogger: Flor Morales

Student blogger: Flor Morales

Here is the only tip you need to improve your networking (as a student): It’s not about the job, it’s not about your resume – it’s all about your relationship.

We all have that stack of business cards for all the people we’ve met, but can’t bring ourselves to write an email to? Why? You can barely remember what you said, and you can’t find a reason to reach out to them.

After over two years, I’ve come to realize that the best connections I have right now are not because I impressed them with my resume.

We’ve all heard that we should “talk to everyone in the room.”  That might be a little tricky if you’re in a room of over a hundred people. The reality is – you’re not going to be remembered by everyone. Instead, hold as many conversations as you can in order to identify those with whom you do make a connection.

Afterwards, it will be so much easier to send a follow-up email talking about the interests you share.

Don’t wait until the last minute to reach out to someone. Start building those relationships now, and when the time comes for that letter of recommendation, you won’t have to remind them what to say.

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5…6…7…8… How Dance Made Me a Better Accountant

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Blogger: Elaine Chen

When I think of my childhood, I think of the previous 10+ years of my life I spent in a dance studio. As a dancer, I was trained in competitive dance and spent 15-20 hours of my week in classes and rehearsals. Friday nights and Saturdays were reserved for rehearsal, and if a show or competition was coming up, I was committed to rehearsals every day of the week.

As time went on, it became clear to me that I wasn’t meant for a career in dance. Now as an accounting graduate student, I often look back at those years I spent in dance and wonder if all that time, energy, and money were wasted. I now realize that the hours I spent in rehearsal pushing myself physically and mentally beyond my limits taught me more than dance technique. In fact, many of the valuable skills I learned as a dancer apply as an accounting student.

Endurance.

The blisters, bruises, and injuries taught me more than physical endurance. I had to first learn the skill of mental endurance before I could endure physical pain. Enduring pain and discomfort taught me to think BEYOND the current moment and to pursue the future reward. It wasn’t about the physical pain in the moment but the reward that I would benefit from in the future. In dance, the future reward was improved technique or flexibility. As an accounting student, the future benefit was a thorough understanding of the subject, better grades, and a more promising future.

Concentration.

When I was in the dance room, I didn’t have Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram around to distract me from what I should be focused on in the moment. In fact, in class and rehearsals, there was very little that could actually distract me from what I should be concentrating on. My dance teacher used to yell, “Stop thinking about what you’re having for dinner. Your mind should be here!”

Studies show that people are most efficient when there are no distractions and that multitasking actually inhibits your performance and productivity. Dance classes and rehearsals trained me to focus my full energy and mind on one thing in the moment and to ignore everything else. As a student, this applies to my study habits by forcing myself to ignore everything around me and to concentrate on the material in front of me. Dance trained me to use my full concentration by blocking out the distractions around me.

Team work.

One of the most important parts of a strong dance performance is the team’s ability to synchronize their dance movements and to perform coherently together as a team. In a truly well-coordinated performance, the group of dancers must react according to the movements of the leader up front and sync their movements according to the timing of the leader. If one dancer falls behind, that dancer impacts the rest of the group, and the remaining dancers must improvise and adjust accordingly. The final performance must come across as a well-coordinated and synchronized dance performance that is the product of hours of team effort and practice. Similarly in school and work, a successful final product or goal cannot be achieved without a great team.

Applying my experience as a group member of a dance team to my experience in school, I learned to select my group members carefully because each team member plays an important role in the performance and success of a group project. Similar to a dance performance, the dynamics of every team required me to react according to the skill level and talents of each individual team member. In a well-coordinated team, each member supports and complements each other in a different way. From my past experiences as a team member in dance, school, and work, I learned that a truly functional and supportive team is an efficient and effective one.

There is a saying that goes “knowledge is power.” I would argue that the ability to apply that knowledge is what makes knowledge powerful. Simply put, it’s not about what you know – it’s about how you apply what you know.

Ultimately, anything you learn from one experience can be applied to another. The skills I learned from years of dance practice trained and prepared me to become a better accounting student and employee. I now realize that those ups, downs, thrills, and struggles from each of my past experiences shaped me into the person I am today. While accumulating knowledge can make you a “powerful” person, the ability to apply that knowledge provides a much more valuable skill. The key is to realize that none of your past experiences were wasted and to apply what you have already learned and practiced to anything you are striving toward today.

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Relevant Experience for an Internal Audit Student

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Blogger: Malik Wilson

I’m an accounting student at The University of Texas at Dallas and a member of the Institute of Internal Auditors and the National Association for Black Accountants. When I graduate, I plan to work in either risk advisory with an accounting firm or internal audit with a large corporation. To prepare for this role, I accepted two internships for this year—a spring 2017 co-op in internal audit with J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc., and a summer 2017 internship in business risk consulting with Crowe Horwath, LLP.

My interviews for these roles were successful partly because I could discuss relevant experience.

If you’re wondering whether I was an intern or employee in internal audit before the interviews, the answer is “no.” I had completed what could be considered an internal audit activity when I started my new role as the president of our student chapter of the National Association for Black Accountants (NABA-UTD) for the 2016-2017 school year.  It turned out to be an experience that my interviewers saw as relevant to the roles I applied for.

Here is the Experience I Shared with My Interviewers

Student organizations at The University of Texas at Dallas get an account on a platform called OrgSync. This platform allows organizations to track members, send mass emails, and post information about upcoming events. Last year’s meeting logs showed that a challenge would be overcoming low meeting participation. I wanted to learn about the current members of NABA-UTD and use the information to make administrative changes and plan recruitment strategies. I used my administrative rights on OrgSync to see what I could learn about the students who were registered as members of NABA-UTD. I also browsed through the OrgSync administrative settings and other online tools for reference.

Here are the findings I documented:

  • 30 students were registered with the organization on OrgSync.
  • 30% of the registered names did not show up in the online Directory of Students when cross-referenced. This means that a third of the members were no longer enrolled at the university.
  • 7% of the names were those of underclassmen.
  • The “messages portal” showed that notifications about events were sent to @utdallas.edu email addresses of students registered with NABA-UTD on OrgSync.
  • I dug through my old @utdallas.edu emails and confirmed that OrgSync was the only source of NABA-UTD emails about events.
  • 4 of the profiles weren’t even those of business students. I found a computer science major, for example.
  • Students could become members only by simply clicking “join.”

This analysis uncovered a serious issue that stifled participation: NABA-UTD was reaching out to a smaller and less targeted audience than believed. This is because of an unreliable information system – or unreliable data in the system. NABA-UTD was only using one communication platform – OrgSync. A third of the emails sent by the OrgSync message system were to unenrolled students who likely no longer had access to the @utdallas.edu system. The message also fell to students who didn’t fit the profile expected of NABA members. In fact, I personally contacted the computer science major to get an understanding of his interest. His response: “I think I clicked ‘join’ on accident. I had no idea why this organization was sending me emails.” This could have been avoided if the administrative settings were set to a higher standard to join online. Furthermore, underclassmen were not getting the message about NABA-UTD and its events.  It was clearly time for changes to the system.

Here are a few of the changes made (or “recommendations” as they would be called in an internal audit report):

  • The administrative settings were changed. Students interested in joining the online portal had to submit a request to join. The request must be approved by the administrators of OrgSync – usually students on the executive board.
  • Emails for freshman and sophomore students who fit the NABA-UTD profile were garnered with the help “contact forms” and other resources.
  • NABA-UTD started using three different communication methods—OrgSync, GroupMe, and Google.
  • Students whose names didn’t show up in the Directory of Students were deleted from the portal so that we could have a more accurate picture of membership on OrgSync.
  • com was used to announce events and allow students to register for them. This system also required that students use an email while registering. NABA-UTD sent links to the EventBrite.com registration to leaders of other accounting organizations. This allowed us to reach a broader audience, collect more emails, and predict how many students would attend events.

Result: The average meeting attendance grew from 7 to 28.

I started this analysis only to get an accurate picture of NABA-UTD members and to use the information to boost participation. As I got interested in internal auditing later in the semester, I realized how closely this activity looked like a normal internal audit. I was able to discuss this experience when I interviewed with Crowe Horwath, LLP and J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc.

What This Experience Showed My Interviewers About Me:

  • An understanding of internal audit
  • A knack for using analysis to inform decision makers
  • An ability to track and measure goals
  • Problem identification and problem solving
  • Initiative in starting projects
  • An inquisitive mindset

If you search internal audit job descriptions on Indeed.com, you will likely see a nearly identical set of bullet points – only the headline will be “Desired Skills.” There is likely no better way prove to yourself that your experiences are relevant!

What Sharing This Experience Did for Me:

  • Boosted my confidence that I am prepared for this role
  • Gave me a chance to have my own audit project reviewed and approved by internal auditors
  • Assisted in communicating my fit for internal auditing to my interviewers

My interviewers at Crowe Horwath, LLP and J. C. Penney Corporation, Inc. commended the relevance of my mini-audit of NABA-UTD and the skills the experience showed. This was an audit that I started on my own to assist with my presidential duties. I felt confident that the audit projects I lead or work on during my internships would be equally commended. That’s all thanks to a discussion about a relevant experience.

Relevant experiences don’t have to come from paid work with a corporation or firm. They can come from detailed involvement with a student organization, volunteer opportunity, or even a self-start project. What matters is that the problems, goals, and results from the experience are documented and that the similarity between the experience and your targeted role is clearly expressed.

My advice to you is a linguistic one: “Do you have relevant experience?” is not synonymous with “Did a company pay you to do this work under a similar job title?” Don’t limit your own interview story by assuming they are synonymous.

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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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