College is an exciting time full of friends, academia, and personal growth, but it is also the first stepping-stone into your professional career. Although it may be intimidating to begin the transition from student to professional, college provides many opportunities for students to segue into their careers.
Here are three things I learned from my college days that helped me land a great job and make a smooth transition into the workforce.
Good things come to those who work for them. A lasting takeaway from college is that the students who excelled the most were the ones who worked the hardest and took advantage of opportunities. Obviously this is not groundbreaking news, but you will find this holds true not just in college, but in the professional world as well.
Talk with your professors, be engaged in class, and ask questions. You’d be surprised how many other students have the same questions. Try to “think outside the box” and occasionally ask those conceptual “why” questions. Professors generally appreciate this extra effort and will take note. Don’t forget, recruiters talk with your professors.
Do some research on local and regional accounting firms. Your research doesn't have to focus just on the business side. Find out what regional accounting firms do to help build relationships with their communities and what other activities they offer. Doing your homework will help you make a positive impression in an interview and feel more confident making conversation in a networking situation.
Take Advantage of Internships, Interviews, and Networking
Accounting isn’t all numbers. Connecting with potential employers, professionals, and alumni is just as important, and college offers the perfect opportunity to achieve both. Recruiters typically visit most campuses at least once per year. Interviews, recruiting events, and networking will be your major outlets to connect with these beneficial resources. Take advantage of these opportunities and sit for as many interviews as possible. Don’t forget that interviews are a two way street; it is as much about the recruiter interviewing you as it is about you learning as much as you can about them and the company.
Internships are another invaluable tool offered by most regional accounting firms, but getting them takes hard work. It’s worth the effort, though, because internships offer the best prospect to gain practical experience in addition to promoting personal growth. Complete as many diverse internships as possible; don’t just stick with one field. Tax, audit, corporate, payroll, and bookkeeping are a few of the numerous accounting opportunities available to students. The more diverse your background, the better prepared you will be for the career you choose.
Most college campuses offer a student-run organization designed for accounting majors. Join the “Accounting Club/Association” if available. These clubs allow you to interact with other accounting majors, professors, alumni, and professionals. You can gain great insight from individuals of different ages and experience levels.
Give back to the community, volunteer, and get involved. Many schools offer a tax preparation program for the elderly and low-income individuals called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). This program is a bridge from the classroom to preparing real tax returns. VITA not only gives you a firsthand taste of working on individual taxes, but it provides you the opportunity to engage those in the community and build relationships, something you will do during your professional career.
Remember, college is about learning and having fun, but don’t squander the many opportunities it affords.