How to Get Real-World Business Knowledge Now

Blogger: Randy Moser

Blogger: Randy Moser

Speaking the language of business is critical for future accountants. Being able to hold a conversation about more than accounting figures may be even more important.

All of you come from different backgrounds and hold different points of reference about business. Some of you may have grown up in a small business and wish to follow in your family’s footsteps. Others may wish to be or help entrepreneurs. Whatever your reason, as a future accountant, you will develop skills and knowledge that people are willing to pay good money to employ.

The more you bridge the gap between accounting and business, the more doors will be opened for your career. A good way to start is by building your experience, knowledge, and vocabulary regarding the business world while in school. It will make an immense difference when networking with professionals and during interviews.

Building up your experience and knowledge of the business world could take many forms, from a passive approach to a very regimented and active approach. For example, a busy person may take the passive approach of listening to one of the several Bloomberg Business radio programs on or through XM radio while in the car. A more formal approach might be to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal and flip through it daily, subscribe to Barron’s and read it weekly, or lookup the regional business journal monthly in the school library. Regardless of how you get business news, the important part is to start!

Exposing yourself to real-world information and thinking about it on a regular basis will give you a better perspective. You will find this exposure will expand into other connected areas such as current business world events and the economic standing of various industries. Also, during this process you will find yourself merely glancing over some articles and focusing on others, which is a good way to discover what industries appeal to you.

After a relatively short-time, probably several weeks to a few months, you will become more comfortable with what is discussed and even start to see trends in the information. Being able to reference this information will give you a strong point of reference when talking about the business world. Ultimately, this type of perspective is key when working with business leaders who will expect you to have a measure of knowledge about them, your client.

After all, your employer is paying for what’s between your ears – make sure the right stuff is in there.

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State Requirements–How to Become a CPA in Texas

Wondering what it takes to get where your going? Don’t forget to bookmark this handy guide from AICPA to keep track of the requirements needed in Texas to obtain your CPA license. Click “Texas” on the list of states & territories for more details!

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What I Learned from Taking the CPA Exam

An accounting professor from Augustana College discusses important lessons he learned from taking the CPA exam, how studying for and taking the exam has affected his teaching, and how earning a CPA credential can lay the foundation for closing the gap between practitioners and academics. Check out the article here.

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Don’t Be THAT Intern

Blogger: John Phelan

Blogger: John Phelan

Who forgets to submit their time card twice a month? Who picks up an order with pickles on the sandwich of the pickle-loathing partner? Who gets lost on the way to the client-site after three weeks on the job? That intern is who!

An internship is a great way to introduce yourself to a potential employer and be paid for doing it! What could be better than an intern? An intern with a full-time job offer.

Here are my three easy steps to being a successful intern and landing the full-time offer.

  1. Don’t repeat mistakes

As an intern in public accounting, you will be challenged with new material, firm deadlines, and a higher level of accountability. Couple new materials with the task of quickly having to assimilate to a new culture, interns – especially during busy season – are prone to mistakes. Who knew?

But there’s a silver lining. Your seniors, managers, and partners all got their feet wet by standing exactly in your shoes, as an intern. So they (some more than others) get the stress of trying to impress everyone around you while juggling assignments and dinner orders.

Here’s what you do. Receive your assignment from your staff or senior. Try to figure out the objective of the workpaper or assignment. If you’re unclear, utilize every resource at your disposal: ask teammates you’re comfortable approaching (aka other interns or first-years), check your firm’s online resources, or ask the person who gave you the assignment for clarification. Next, give it the “old college try” using everything you’ve learned on the job and in the classroom. Submit for approval.

When you receive coaching notes – and believe me, you’ll receive coaching notes – correct your mistakes and understand where you went wrong. In doing so, you can prevent future mistakes. “Repeating mistakes” finds its way into evaluations from seniors and managers and plays a huge role in whether a firm extends a full-time offer. So be wrong once and only once.

  1. Do what the firm asks you to do … when they want you to do it

Interns in public accounting are treated like staff. That means interns are tasked with filing expense reports, submitting time on the job, booking travel (if necessary), and more administrative responsibilities. Deadlines loom for each task. For example:

“Submit time sheets every Friday at 4.”

“Expense statements are due on the 15th and 30th.”

“Book your travel at least two weeks in advance.”

An intern who fails to complete these easy tasks on time and properly may appear uncaring and irresponsible to superiors. Worst of all, it can hinder you getting paid.

  1. Don’t overstay your welcome

Most interns are paid hourly in public accounting, which, during busy season, means ample opportunity for overtime. However, overtime is a reward for extra effort, not a tool to be abused. In any engagement, the team drafts a budget and sticks to it – barring unforeseen circumstances. A budget typically calls for an intern, and every team member, to work a certain number of hours to maintain profitability.

So when your senior tells you to go home, get up and go home. It is not desired nor professional for interns to beg to stay longer to bump up their overtime pay. In doing so, interns put undue pressure on their supervisors and the team’s budget. On the other end, stay if you’re needed. Don’t check out early, mentally or physically.

Follow these guidelines and you will be on your way to a job after college! Good luck, my friend.

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So now what?

Blogger: Muntaha M. Sheikh

Blogger: Muntaha M. Sheikh

So you’re done with your internship, graduating with your undergraduate degree, signed a full-time offer, and plan on sitting for the CPA exam starting in January. The stars are aligning perfectly. So now what?

You’re currently in graduate school, but surprisingly its pretty lax. I always assumed graduate school sounded “hard,” but that really isn’t the case.  This semester is not as challenging, only because you already know a lot of the information, and it builds. It’s not too bad keeping up with three or four classes, and you’ll have extra time to do other things. It can be very easy to say “yes Netflix, I’m still watching.” After all, that is the go-to and we’ve been students for so long what else are we suppose to do? Maybe take on a part time gig at a local CPA firm, work on an idea you’ve had for quite some time and see what becomes of it, maybe reread the Harry Potter books like Caroline. I myself am a Graduate Teaching Assistant and learning basic coding on the side.

It’s vital to have a routine going. I’m sure you went through something similar when you started college. You have so much free time, what should you do? It’s a good problem to have. But I began thinking about starting work, especially during busy season. The challenge then becomes having way less time for yourself.

What if we used these months to wean off the Netflix and slowly start thinking about the real world (its closer than you think) and how to survive! Busy season is probably the scariest thing out there in the real world. During my internship, the most popular advice from the associates was to have something of your own. Busy season is much more bearable, in their opinion, if you have something to look forward to at the end of the day/week. Nothing big or time consuming, but maybe a hobby or pastime that you can spend a few minutes on. When you start working, this is the way you can get by each week and, before you know it, busy season is almost over! Of course, as you become more established in a company the more flexibility you’ll have, so don’t expect a lot at first – but it’s still just as important to have something of your own that can be a good escape at the end of the day.

What a great eight months. It’s rare you’ll get this much free time in a while once you start working, so use it wisely! I really hope I can take some of my own advice!

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Know Where You Want to Go in Life

Blogger: Randy Moser

Blogger: Randy Moser

While knowing where you want to go in life is an ambitious goal, I feel its value cannot be overstated. My experience is that you may not end up going where you wanted to go at first; however, actively revisiting your goals will help guide your decisions. Having goals will also avoid “going with the flow” and keep you on track. This advice is based on my personal experience of joining the workforce immediately after high school, having a reasonably successful career in the IT field, and going back to school for accounting and finance.

Here are a few tools that I felt were the most helpful in retrospect.

Have a Game Plan. Taking an hour to reflect on paper where you are and where you are headed on a one year, 2-5 year, and 10 year time table is a very powerful experience. Now, take that same exercise and do it yearly to amplify the experience even more. Once completed each year, hang your goals somewhere you will see them to help keep your goals from falling to the wayside. These goals can be professional or personal, and you should also be flexible about modifying the goals as needed.

This is a personal strategic planning exercise that I feel is very helpful, because it helps you think about where you are headed in life. Taking this approach helped me make the decision to go back to school and eventually change careers entirely to meet more of my personal goals.

The Informational Interview. While the informational interview is a common college assignment, putting an extra amount of effort into this task can be very beneficial. This comes in the form of looking for people in your network, or just outside of it, who are currently where you want to be in life. The ideal person will be a few years ahead of you in school or in their job, such as a high school student to a college student or a college student to a professional with 2-3 years of experience. You want the distance between the interviewee and yourself to be reasonable.

Once you have the ideal candidate pool, ask them if they would like to meet for lunch or coffee to discuss their job and career path since you have similar career aspirations. The great part about this exercise is most people enjoy talking about themselves. However, bear in mind some people may still be too busy or otherwise unavailable. If this is the case, it is not personal. Simply move on to the next candidate in your pool.

Next, take the time to create a list of questions that you are interested in finding the answers to. There are many places online with lists of informational interview questions to start with, and then customize them with personal details about your interviewee as well as yourself. After completing the questions, go about the informational interview in a humble manner and thank them for their time. Be sure to take notes about their responses and let the conversation wander if it wanders in a useful or interesting direction.

Perhaps the best result for your informational interview is an informal mentorship.  Even if this is not the case, be sure to take time to analyze what is said afterward. On several occasions I was able to utilize informational interviews, both formally and informally, to learn invaluable information about career choices before actually steering my life in a completely different direction.

Mentorships.  I have had the benefit of having several amazing mentors through the years. A few mentors were, and still are, a friend that also functioned as a mentor. They provided a lot of advice and perspective that helped shaped many of my life choices. If you look at your own life, you can probably find a few already. That being said, many of the larger accounting firms already have formal mentorship programs in place, which you should definitely utilize. In addition to those programs, I would recommend using a similar approach to the informational interview above and look for people who are where you want to be in the future.

The key here is that your mentors have already “been there and done that,” so to speak. They can help you navigate many issues and can function as your professional support network. Often, they will also help you understand a problem, the inner workings of a company, or even a challenging coworker much faster than you could on your own.

All three of these points can be summed up as know where you want to go and look for people that can help you get there. Hopefully, you will find these tools as useful as I have in your own lives. I would also like to end with one last piece of advice: be sure to take the time and be a mentor when you make it to the big leagues!

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How to Prepare for an Interview and Land Your Dream Internship

Blogger: Amanda Guajardo

Blogger: Amanda Guajardo

There are previous posts regarding the importance of internships to launch your accounting career. Now that we realize the importance of obtaining an internship, I’d like to discuss some things you can do to prepare for your interview to help you land that dream internship!

Dress appropriately

What to wear to an interview can be tricky! For men, a nice suit and tie accompanied with polished dress shoes is always the safe way to go. For ladies, there tends to be more options. Nice dress pants or a long pencil skirt is usually acceptable. Make sure to choose a top that does not show too much cleavage and pick a blazer that matches the color of your pants or skirt. As a general rule, the more conservative, the better when picking interview attire. You do not want your interviewer to lose focus on the things you are saying because of something you are wearing. This rule applies to clothing, shoes, and jewelry. And of course do not forget basic grooming. Make sure your hair is brushed, nails are clipped and nothing is in your teeth!

Do a mock interview

Many school career centers offer mock interviews. This is an extremely beneficial resource because it simulates a real interview with your company. You should take the mock interview seriously. Show up dressed in your interview attire and bring the things that you would bring to the real interview. Your mock interviewer will ask you questions similar to the questions that will be asked during the real thing. The most useful part of the mock interview is the feedback that you will receive afterwards. They will give you tips on how to fine tune your answers, improve your appearance and demeanor, and tone down nervous habits that you may not even realize you are doing, such as twirling your hair or twiddling your thumbs. After practicing in a mock interview, you’ll have the confidence to do great in your real interview!

My final piece of advice is to relax and be yourself. Most of these companies just want to see if they can get along with you and if they can picture working long hours with you. Most of these interviews will be more conversational rather than testing your accounting knowledge. So just take a deep breath and be sincere.

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