Career Prep 101

How to take advantage of your time in school

You’ve probably been thinking about that dream job for a while now. Since you already know that you want that great gig, it’s probably a good idea to start lining yourself up for it now, right? (The answer is yes.)

Super-successful accounting students are already preparing themselves for the working world. Since we know AICPA Legacy Scholars fit into that category, we asked them what they were doing to prepare. Behold their collective wisdom...

Take (useful) classes

Although it may be tempting to take Pilates and the history of Monty Python instead of business writing and advanced accounting, make the most of your time and money by taking the classes that will provide the bang for your buck in your future career. Public speaking, negotiations, golf, or specific computer classes may not be on your suggested course of study, but could provide a leg up in the real business world.

Do your homework (outside of your actual homework)

Whether you favor the Washington Post or The Economist, knowing what’s going on in our world is crucial to holding your own in the workplace. Michele, a University of Montana graduate student, said, “Accounting is constantly changing and adapting: students who keep abreast of these changes will excel not only in the classroom but in the workforce.” It doesn’t have to be all serious, though—keeping up with local sports teams can be perfect for making small talk during networking events.

Study schmoozing

Learning to network was, by far, the most common suggestion for college career prep. College is like the professional world with training wheels (and without a paycheck), so don’t be afraid to ask questions and get involved with your state accounting society or a campus group. If you fall on your face while networking (metaphorically… we hope), brush it off and keep practicing – it’s better to figure it out now before those training wheels come off.

Practice working

An internship can be a test-run for a job, so jump in and make sure that you’re a good fit for an accounting position. Internships give you valuable work experience and can help you put in to practice what you’ve learned in school. Plus, proving yourself to a specific employer makes an internship the most direct way to land a job offer—potentially before you even graduate. Or if you already have a job, look for ways to get hands-on accounting experience there. Try to become more involved in accounting functions or ask if you can shadow an accountant or CPA at the place where you work. Volunteering is another great way to get experience and professional contacts while you’re still studying. It’s also a way to give back, and make you feel good for doing so. 

Define your brand

Many students recommend developing and managing your personal brand (in other words, figuring out what you’re good at and how to sell it) as a way to enhance personal and professional success. This extends to your social media image as well. As Matthew, a graduate student at Vanderbilt cautioned, “Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can be valuable tools when launching your career. But, if you aren’t careful, they could also be the reason you don’t get an interview or job offer.”

Join the big leagues

Also, consider joining your state society as a student member. It not only looks good on your resume, but can also help you develop the leadership skills employers want. It’s also the ideal place to develop those aforementioned-networking skills with CPAs who can give you valuable information—and possibly even mentor you. Plus, state societies offer lots of opportunities (such as events, scholarships and access to job postings) in addition to keeping you up on the latest accounting news, as well as any changes in regulations or state-specific licensure requirements. Joining now is especially important if you plan on staying local after you graduate to get your foot in the door of your local accounting community. 

Start prepping now so you can be ready to run the race upon graduation. And, while you’re at it, you may want to think about the things you need to become a legit CPA. That will help with that dream job thing too.

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