My biggest piece of advice for anyone interested in accounting, or any other career for that matter, is to get hands-on experience. It may seem daunting at first to “knock on the door” asking for a summer job or internship; however, there are many different paths that can be taken. Depending on where you are in your educational career, there are several options. Remember, the earlier you start the more informed and prepared you will be!
If you are a junior or senior in high school, ask around for advice on possible summer or part-time accounting internships. At this level, some of the tasks may not be heavily based in accounting; however, support tasks are part of everyone’s job in accounting. Once at the internship, express interest in more challenging tasks to further advance yourself and your knowledge. A key benefit to internships at this point is building up your resume as well as setting yourself up for a recurring summer internship or job.
If you are a freshman or sophomore in college, most of the larger accounting firms offer leadership programs that give you exposure to the company and can put you on track for a job when you finish school. To find out about these programs, visit their websites and search for leadership programs. Beyond leadership programs, internships and summer jobs are still key ways to build up your accounting knowledge and experience. Also, be sure to use your school’s resources such as the career center, professors, student organizations (like Beta Alpha Psi), and school programs (such as 5-year programs). An officer position in an accounting-related student organization is a great way to be involved, show your people skills, and build up your resume.
If you are a junior or senior, college resources such as those already mentioned are very important. They will help you build a network and get exposure to the accounting professionals in your area. Additionally it can be difficult to get exposure to larger firms and land your dream job at this point without having a strong resume.
After entering graduate school, your social network ties become extremely important on the job hunt. Often jobs can come from friends and acquaintances you made with upperclassmen who are now in their full-time jobs. Other places include your college’s career center and faculty recommendations.
Finally, some general advice when searching for an internship or job, don’t ask for one! This goes for looking for a job as well, too. People do not like being put on the spot; however, asking for advice is a great way to indirectly ask them. Asking for advice gives the person you are talking to the opportunity to give advice, which is always helpful, while leaving the door open to them to bring you in on any opportunities they might be aware of among their own contacts.