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.

About txcpa2b

The Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants (TSCPA) is a nonprofit, voluntary, professional organization representing Texas CPAs. TSCPA has 20 local chapters statewide and has 27,000 members. The Society is committed to serving the public interest with programs that advance the highest standards of ethics and practice within the CPA profession. TXCPA2B is a blog written by Texas students in pursuit of the CPA certificate. The views expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily held by TSCPA or our members.
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