Not Getting Your CPA Immediately? Don’t Worry

Student Blogger: Tyler Keegan

When I first chose accounting as my major, I fully intended on following in my dad’s footsteps and getting my masters and then sitting for the CPA immediately upon graduation. Then, life got in the way. As a college baseball player, I transferred to four different colleges and my final college, UTD, ruled that 30 hours of my upper level business credits were non-transferrable. This put me over a year behind my graduation track and made me come to the difficult decision that getting my masters and CPA immediately was no longer an option. So how does an accounting student who isn’t planning on getting certified right off the bat find a job in today’s crowded job market?

Know Your Options

It took a while for me to realize that going to a large public accounting firm was probably not going to be a realistic option. Last fall, I interviewed at a national firm with a big base in Dallas. All three phases of the interview went very well. When I reached the end of the process and talked to the HR manager about the details of the job, I was devastated to learn that they only hire CPA candidates for full-time positions. Thus, even an internship with them was out of the question.

This isn’t something you learn in your accounting classes at school, and I was shocked to realize what the impact of me not getting my CPA would be. Almost all around the board, if you’re not getting your CPA license immediately, public firms have almost no interest in you. This eliminates a big portion of the accounting jobs out there, but it is not the end of the world. For me, it just meant looking at smaller companies that would offer a little more flexibility in when and how I get licensed.

The two places I have interned at this year are both very small companies that were looking solely for interns and not any full-time candidates. I was still able to get some valuable experience and even learn tax accounting under a CPA. I will be the first one to admit that ideally it would be nice to intern at the place you’re going to eventually work at full time but, just as with anything in life, it is important to make adjustments based on a person-by-person basis.

Have a Game Plan

To get licensed as a CPA in Texas, you have to meet a certain set of requirements. The basic guidelines of this are you need 150 hours of college credit and 30 upper level accounting hours (including classes such as Intermediate Accounting etc.) I have over 150 hours, however, I am short of the 30 upper level credits.

After being in college for nearly six years, I have decided that I want to wait before I return and get those extra hours to be able to sit for the CPA Exam. I still need to work after I graduate. Therefore, when I’ve been looking for jobs, I have applied for companies that I believe I would be a good fit at. These are usually smaller private companies who need help internally performing their accounting duties.

This is not necessarily a traditional route for college graduates to take, but it is something that fits me and I believe I am a fit for these companies. Also, knowing that I would not be on the same level as some of my peers, I worked especially hard to make sure I had a high GPA and could distinguish myself from other candidates in other ways. Thus, when I am going on job interviews now, I have other legs to stand on due to my diligence in the classroom.

I also made sure to attend as many job fairs as possible. It is easy to apply to hundreds of places online, but I have noticed it really does make a difference if you establish those face-to-face connections and really make an effort to connect with the company on a personal level.

Not Being a CPA Immediately Does Not Mean You Are Useless

Getting your CPA license is an important step for any accountant to take. It showcases your knowledge and provides many additional opportunities for promotions and expanded responsibility in the workplace. That being said, my career is just getting started and although I want to find success early on, it is not a race to get licensed or a race to try to get my MBA. These are steps that I shouldn’t feel obligated to take until I am absolutely ready.

In the meantime, there are many other useful certifications that can be obtained such as QuickBooks certification or getting a CMA license. These both show mastery of a subject. At the end of the day, the best advice I can give is to not feel forced to take the traditional path of an accounting grad. Each person has a different story and circumstances and should go along at their own pace.

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Accounting Students and CPE

Student Blogger: Sarah Kraman

As accounting students focused on getting our CPA license, we are expected to meet many standards. We must obtain our bachelor’s degree in accounting. Obtain an internship or enough work experience to satisfy the accounting experience hurdle to sit for the CPA Exam. Take graduate classes to satisfy the hour requirement to sit for the CPA Exam or obtain a master’s in accounting (which tends to be more common).  Finally, we must study and sit for the CPA Exam. In this time, we are also trying to maintain friendships and family life. So, I can see where and why some students say that’s enough. Most of us aren’t interested in taking on other extracurricular activities or hobbies. I would say, that is a mistake.

First of all, for those of us who chose accounting as a fall back for another career such as law, we need more than just studying accounting. I have taken up learning Arabic for example. These outside activities can keep us sane and give us something to look forward to. That is why I bring up CPE. CPE stands for continuing professional education. It is a requirement to maintain your CPA license, but you are not required to take CPE before. With that said, in my opinion it is a huge asset to understand how to access CPE courses and fit them into your busy schedule before you are a CPA, that way when you get your license, you are well prepared to factor in those trainings/classes into your even busier schedule!

I found out this valuable idea when I was working for a small accounting firm. My boss required that all employees, even the receptionist, take part in at least 20 hours of CPE annually so that we’re all exposed to accounting information. He let us choose which courses we wanted to take and paid for them. It was a win-win!

My experience with CPE

One day, I was scrolling through CPE options unenthusiastically on the AICPA website. I was thinking, “Okay, pick one and get it over with.” That’s when I discovered a cybersecurity course which offered 16 hours of credit in none other than… NEW YORK CITY! The best part was that I had already planned a vacation to Manhattan for the day after the CPE was going to be taught, so it was serendipitous that I stumbled upon the opportunity two weeks before I was set to go! I quickly researched how much it would cost to change my flight, additional nights at a hotel, and the cost of the course. I sent an email to my boss thinking it was a long shot, but it couldn’t hurt to ask with all the information I had. When he arrived at the office, he called me in his office and approved my trip! I was taking my first CPE course in Manhattan!

It was truly an amazing experience. I learned so much and enjoyed every second of that day. More importantly, I was able to network with the other people taking the course which included a number of CFOs and high-level executives in the tristate area. They all had so many questions what a college student from Dallas, Texas was doing taking a CPE course in New York City. Believe me – I was beyond thrilled to tell them every detail.

I say all this to encourage you to put yourself in a position to take a CPE course or two. Not only will you be able to find something that is actually interesting to you, but you could meet people who you wouldn’t be able to network with otherwise. It is worth your time!

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My Experience at AICPA’s Accounting Scholars Leadership Workshop

Sienny Yuwono

Hello everyone! Let me introduce myself – my name is Sienny Yuwono and I’ll be a senior majoring in accounting at The University of Texas at San Antonio this fall. I’m originally from Indonesia and moved to the U.S. in 2015. I would like to share my recent experience with an AICPA program called the Accounting Scholars Leadership Workshop (ASLW). It was such a pleasure to participate in this program.

This year, ASLW picked 105 students and professionals throughout the nation. During this program, I also met and connected with lots of professionals from Big Four companies, smaller public and industry companies, state CPA staff, and even professors!

ASLW is a three-day program sponsored by AICPA to help minority students like me who want to be a licensed CPA. The program helped me learn more about the world of accounting, especially the CPA certificate, through lots of incredible workshops and amazing speakers. For example, there were sessions on dinner etiquette, confidence mode, networking, how to study for the CPA Exam, DISC personality and more.

The application for ASLW is available through ThisWaytoCPA and it was easy to apply. An essay, three-minute video, and two letters of recommendations brought me to Atlanta at no cost, and I brought home more knowledge about becoming a CPA.

There were a lot of workshops that I liked, but the one that I enjoyed the the most was Confidence Mode. It talked about how to boost your confidence to help you in a work environment. Confidence is important, and before ASLW I felt like I didn’t really have confidence. But after attending the workshop, I feel like I have more confidence. I learned that you don’t need to be the main person talking to have confidence. You can participate in one-on-one conversation to show that you have confidence!

Through ASLW, I also learned more about myself through the DISC (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance) Personality session. I learned about other people’s personality and how to connect it to the real world so we know how to handle people with all different personality traits.

ASLW also emphasized getting our CPA certificate. After the workshop I became more enthusiastic to get my CPA as soon as I can!

There were a lot of lessons that I learned through this three-day program, and I really feel like AICPA needs to make more time for this program because it provides so much good information in so little time. I would highly suggest students apply for ASLW! They packed some great information into the program, and it’s just worth it. I can’t express enough how grateful I feel that I was able to participate in ASLW 2018!

If you have any questions about the program or want more information, feel free to contact me at siennyyuwono@gmail.com.

Here are some pictures that I took at ASLW:

Group activity with fellow ASLW attendees

Diana Solash, Global and Americas Diversity & Inclusiveness Director at EY (right) and myself

From left: Florence Holland, Lead Manager of Pipeline Initatives at AICPA, and myself

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Get Past Presentation Anxiety by Reframing

Student Blogger: Rachel McKenna

Public speaking: a phrase that strikes fear in the hearts of otherwise confident people is something that seems natural for some, and feels like punishment for others. Still, public speaking is something that we all need to get comfortable with in our profession of choice.

More and more, accountants are serving in an advisory role for companies, and that job responsibility is not likely going away any time soon. As a student who myself wondered when public speaking would ever become comfortable, I thought I would share some of the reframing tools I have used to help me survive (and maybe even enjoy) presentations.

The audience wants you to succeed

From my experience, people have interesting things to say; you just have to listen! For the audience, this is a chance to gain a new perspective on a topic they might not know much about. Since you are the presenter, you have put the time and effort in to become well-informed on the topic you are covering. As the subject-matter expert, the audience is not actively looking to point out your faults as much as they are seeking to understand where you are coming from as the presenter.

Use that idea to your advantage in developing your presentation and see if that makes the preparation process more enjoyable for you. Positive thinking allows you to claim the power to decide how you will approach the situation and shows that you are willing to make the best of the uncomfortable circumstances.

You can turn your anxiety into excitement

Nervousness is a natural physiological response to standing in front of a crowd. We are human after all! How anxiety affects you is entirely up to you, though! Feeling nervous typically makes people more alert and aware of their surroundings. This is something that can be used to your advantage when delivering a message to an audience.

Try asking yourself: “Why am I nervous?” Oftentimes, the reasons we feel nervous are fleeting and will not be relevant in the long-term. If you think about the bigger picture of your purpose in delivering your presentation, you can form an idea of why your message matters to you. Ultimately, uncovering your motivations behind public speaking allows you to take a step back and realize that your presentation is tied to meaningful goals that you set for a reason, and that can propel you to envision a positive outcome.

Think of the value you are adding

Rather than wishing your presentation to be over, consider why you have been asked to speak in front of an audience in the first place. Chances are, you have completed the time-consuming part of doing your research to prepare for a speech. You want your preparation and knowledge to shine. The best way to do that is to forget about how many people you are speaking to and to think about what are the main desired takeaways for them.

If you take your research further and consider who your audience is, you can gauge what their objectives are from sitting in on your presentation and cater the message to them. When you do this, you are ensuring that they feel they have gained something from the experience and you are adding value in the process.

This is a learning opportunity

Just as the audience wants to learn from you, you should keep an open mind about learning from the audience, too! Think about it – which classes have been the most enjoyable for you? Chances are, the most memorable classes are those that you actively participated in.

Whether your reason for participating in class discussions was to pass the time or because you were genuinely interested in the topics mentioned, this is the type of environment an effective presentation inspires. As a speaker, you should leave the door open for audience interaction and signal to them that you care and want to learn from them as much as they can learn from you.

Are you uncomfortable? That is great—that is a sign that you are growing as an individual and stretching your limits in a positive way! By reframing your thoughts and giving them a positive spin, you will be well on your way to becoming a more effective and confident public speaker. Like with anything else, believe that you can and you’re halfway there!

Do you have any other tips that have helped you overcome presentation anxiety? Leave a comment below!

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Why A Generation Z’er Chose Accounting

Blogger: Liz Wood

I still have family friends ask me about my career path with a response similar to this: “Accounting, huh?  That seems…interesting.”  It is hard for people to try and act excited about my college path, especially when they still think of my generation as the technological savvy, entrepreneurial, adventurous type.  However, I think a lot of individuals confuse Millennials with Generation Z; furthermore, there are actually a lot of Gen Z’ers that are interested in fields like accounting.  Here is a list of reasons why I, as a fellow Gen Z’er, chose accounting:

Diverse Opportunities

“Accountants are boring.”  Some of my friends continue to joke with me about this idea, but I laugh it off!  I think a lot of non-accounting majors do not understand the vast routes you can take.  For instance, by the time I graduate, I will have engaged in three internships—all of them will be based on accounting but are completely different at the same time.  My first internship was in corporate accounting for a private company in an office-like environment.  My second internship will be in internal audit with a lead producing company.  I will be able to visit multiple facilities in France, California and New York and assist with conducting audits.  Finally, my third internship will be in external audit with a Big Four firm.  This will allow me to engage with different clients and review their financial records and documents.

And it doesn’t just end there.  There are SO many other different pathways to take in an accounting career, and each one will help you develop a new skill set.  Accounting is great for the indecisive but also for those who want to work the same job until retirement.

Stability and Growth

I am personally not a huge risk-taker. In fact, I have already started a Roth IRA to save up for my retirement because I like having a cushion to fall back on.  With an accounting career (especially public accounting) I can feel safe knowing that I probably won’t be laid off any time soon.  Also, a public accounting career provides almost guaranteed promotions after a certain timeframe.  “Hmm, I wonder if I will ever get promoted to senior associate?” is not a question new auditors typically have to worry about.  It certainly takes a heavy weight off my shoulders!

Accounting is not Always Forever

But what if you end up hating accounting?  This is a question I receive a LOT, and here’s my take on it:

As I mentioned earlier, there are different routes to take, so I could always try a different accounting sector.  Even then, if I still did not enjoy my career, I am not forced to stay in accounting just because that is what my degree is in.  I know many individuals who have switched from accounting to marketing or human resources and are currently executives at a company.  Accounting provides such a strong foundation that is integral in all parts of a business and can allow you to branch out to new departments.  That’s why I personally think accounting is a strong degree to pick for undecisive business majors.

I’ll be honest, accounting is typically not the first major that comes to a student’s mind in terms of studies (it may be a last choice for some, in fact).  However, the benefits, learning experience and ability to grow, and even travel, are just a few of the factors that attract Generation Z’ers to this field.  I think accounting is a hidden gem that not many young students think about, so I consider myself lucky to have discovered it so early!

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Workplace skills every accounting student should learn in college

Blogger: V. Aishwarya Singh

Time Management and Organization

College provides an abundance of resources. Choosing the appropriate resources and utilizing these when opportunities arrive requires efficient time management and organizational skills. An average college student may be part of academic societies, major-related organizations, cultural and volunteering clubs, sports club…the list goes on. And as the student progresses in the degree track, the rigor of academics become more concentrated towards the major, requiring more time to focus and add internships over that! These skills help an accountant in times working with different financial statements, gathering information, and changing different departments.

By the proper application of time management skills, students should maintain a calendar with all the important dates like the due dates for assignments, fees, events, etc. They can further highlight the schedule using color codes: Pink for immediate, yellow for near future, and green for eventual tasks. This information can be arranged in the form of a table online, or in a separate diary of daily schedules. Noting down important dates really helps because it avoids the confusion when students sign up for two different things at the same time, unaware of their previous commitments.

Organizational skills come into play once everything is managed according to the respective timings, and now the student has to focus on being prepared for each task separately. The student can have different folders for different days of classes, organize what homework to work on and when according to the time-table, dedicate separate space for college work and job work on the single study desk, and make time to spend with friends and family.

Interpersonal Soft Skills

Employers today are looking for soft skills in students. Teamwork, networking, communication, people-understanding, and ethical conduct are just a few.

Teamwork teaches you how to deal with people of different characteristics and resolve conflicts. It is an underlying truth that most students end up in jobs through networking, rather than a formal application procedure. Maintaining communication at the beginning and end of an important discussion will leave time for productive work at the center. People-understanding helps expand the capabilities of the mind to think through different perspectives. It is not as important to agree with someone with a different perspective, as it is to accept his/her point of view as an opinion.

Learning these skills helps students develop their thought processes, expanding their opportunities. For accountants, these skills help when communicating with the boss or yours co-workers, and also to build rapport with the customers.

Hard & Technical Skills: The Wealth of Knowledge

Coming to the other side of the argument, strong hard and technical skills are equally as important as soft skills. Soft skills enhance hard skills, but hard skills decide how useful the person is to the given task.

In this high-tech era, with a plethora of information easily accessible online, employers expect their future employees to know much more than the future generations did. Specializations and experience in a particular field shows the employer that the student is accomplished with skills that the job requires. To be equipped with hard skills, the student must keep an eye open for any opportunity that provides experience within the major. This can be preparing taxes for an accounting student or researching an accounting topic.

Knowledge differentiates a student from the rest of the crowd by creating an image of dependability, responsibility and trust that the student knows what he/she is doing. Technical skills can be gained by gaining proficiency in Excel: the right hand of an accountant, and the software for tax preparation. Hard skills are what accountants are hired for: specific and professional financial information that adds credibility to the field and creates a need that anyone else cannot be trusted with.

Motivation, Responsibility and Leadership

With new opportunities and various life events, a student’s journey is very unpredictable. As the new term begins, a student’s motivation towards performing well may experience variations. It is therefore important for a student to maintain the same level or more of excitement and focus he/she had when he/she started the first semester of college to maintain consistency. Motivation shows how interested and committed the student is towards the work and sets the student apart. Consistency is important for an accountant because it makes the accountant dependable and focused while working for the client.

For most first-time students, college experience means living on your own for the first time. A student needs take care of his/her expenses, manage time without anyone commanding him/her what to do, maintain a good GPA, balance the social culture, and so on. But during this process, the student assumes responsibility. He/she learns to speak for himself/herself and think about the consequences before speaking. Responsibility is important because it forms the basis of professionalism. A responsible person can take care of his/her tasks on time and put in his/her full effort. It is important because accountants must assume the responsibility while preparing the financial statements or preparing taxes for clients.

Leadership demonstrates the assertiveness, proactiveness, and the risk-taking aspects of the student. It shows how career driven the student is, and how the student can perform in practical situations and still inspire others. For this, the student must set goals and work towards it with full determination. It is the willingness of the students to come out of their shells and contribute meaningfully to the goal or the task at hand. Some accountants assume leadership next to the CEO because they control the financial information!

Character Development

College not only provides academic knowledge, but also the mingling with people of different backgrounds which is a replica of the wider world consisting of different cultures. Social and interpersonal skills developed in college form the basis of a student’s perspective about humanity.

The experiences one goes through shape the nature of the student. College should be taken as a responsibility to develop the student’s good character because these characters further form the society that we call our community. Despite being a controlled environment, college is a miniature model of the world ahead. Accountants take character development seriously because an ethical accountant keeps all frauds away!

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A Change in Perspective

Student blogger: Caleb Braughton

There have been and continue to be a lot of discussions and commentary about the topic of people and their predisposition (or lack thereof) to being social. TED talks, behavioral studies, personality assessments, memes, books, documentaries, TV shows, news reports, movies – there’s a slew of different forms that the discussions and commentary come in.

Translating that topic into our world of business academics, there’s a very important item that is pushed heavily upon students within business schools: networking. I’m sure some may read or hear the word “networking” and think of it as nothing more than the fancy business version of the phrase “being social.” Others may read or hear “networking” and immediately tense up as they imagine themselves at a professional event where they know absolutely no one. To the latter group, “networking” is an ugly word that usually incites some level of anxiety. I know because I was (and still am, to some extent) part of the group that finds “networking” to have almost nothing but negative connotations attached to it. For my fellow members of that group, I’d like to propose to you something that has helped me greatly over the last year and a half: stop trying to “network” and start having a conversation.

 

Networking

Before we can move to having a conversation, we need to take a look at networking first. What are the goals of networking? What all does networking involve?

For starters, networking focuses on expanding one’s network in a mutually beneficial manner. With an expansive network, a professional has connections available to help or get help from easily. One of the most commonly noted upsides to effective networking is the increased likelihood of obtaining job positions. Companies are considerably more likely to hire someone who can be vouched for over a stranger they have very little information on. Networking can involve joining professional or student associations, attending conferences, following up with individuals one interacts with, going to socials, etc.

Networking is essentially “putting yourself out there” to meet new people and make connections. To some, this is a daunting task as it involves stepping out of one’s comfort zone. Alongside this, there’s constant external pressure for students to have a memorized elevator speech, keep their social media clean, have a robust LinkedIn account, constantly follow up on LinkedIn with professionals they meet, have their desired future industry and specific few companies to work for identified, attend as many professional events and conferences as possible and speak to as many people as possible at said events, join and be an active member in student and professional organizations, randomly reach out to professionals in their desired field regularly, attend networking workshops, etc.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of the above items. In fact, proper usage of networking activities is extremely vital to one’s career. However, focusing on all of these tasks and expectations is effective at removing the human element from networking so let’s take a step back and, as I proposed before, stop trying to network and start having a conversation.

 

A Conversation

It’s difficult to be comfortable with the expansive list of networking activities if one isn’t already comfortable with the baseline foundation of networking: talking to another human being. Networking isn’t a means to an end. It isn’t a torturous test. It isn’t some secret memo that everyone else got and you didn’t. Networking is a conversation. Don’t feel like a professional with years of experience isn’t going to want to talk to you just because you’re a student. We’re all human and, if we’re being honest, no one has a complete understanding of everything that’s going on.

The commonly repeated sentence “fake it ‘till you make it” exists for a reason. Stop placing the divide of inexperienced student versus professional between yourself and those you meet. If you boil down the situation to its most basic form, you are simply meeting and having a conversation with another person. Introduce yourself as you would to anyone else that you just met. Keep in mind the context you’re in (social, networking event, career fair, student chapter meeting, professional association meeting, presentation, etc.) as you speak with the person. Let the conversation grow organically instead of trying to force topics you’ve pre-prepared. Don’t think about whether you got your elevator speech word for word as you practiced, when it’s a good time to ask for their business card or if they would like yours, what’s a good time gap before you reach out to them on LinkedIn afterwards, or anything else of that sort. Just have a conversation and I promise you that networking will become a lot less difficult.

Whether networking is easy or hard for you, I hope that this perspective on it helps. I can personally attest to the fact that this change in mindset has helped me greatly in being more comfortable networking. With all that said, I’d like to challenge you to take a step back from yourself and understand that you’re just talking to another human being when you’re “networking.” All the other complementary stuff like LinkedIn, business cards, follow ups, elevator speeches, etc. can follow after you’ve had the chance to focus on the conversation.

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