Whether the finish line for your academic career is within sight or you’ve already crossed it, looking ahead to the next step in life is never a bad idea. As an accounting student or graduate, you’re on track to land a position in a variety of accounting sectors, and you may already have that initial foray into the industry lined up. Yet no matter when or where you find it, you should take these steps to prepare for your first accounting job.
Steps to Prepare for Your First Accounting Job
- Secure an accounting internship
If you’re simply contemplating your future career and have not yet finalized your first accounting job, you should plan to complete an accounting internship as soon as possible. The benefits of a summer accounting internship include increased work experience, job opportunities, and industry connections, so utilize your educational resources to find an internship while you’re still in school or turn to other industry tools like search engines and employment sites if you’ve already graduated.
- Adjust your expectations
College can simultaneously seem like the best of times and the worst of times, but no matter what your undergraduate experience was like, your life will look quite a bit different when you’re meeting billable hours at the office every day instead of meeting attendance requirements in the classroom. Your revolving calendar of school activities and social events will be replaced with a more regular schedule of workpapers, meetings, and deadlines, and you’ll trade several exams during finals week for several months of busy season. In reality, your first accounting job may not be very fascinating, but it will be fairly foundational. Even after the job starts to feel the same, there will always be something new to learn. Don’t expect to rise the ranks to the industry high life in just a few months, but do expect to round out a sizable learning curve by overcoming daily challenges.
- Solidify your soft skills
Maybe you had an acceptable classroom manner in college, but in order to maintain a positive impression in the workforce, you’ll need to hone a particular set of skills. At certain times in life, you may be tempted to tackle hard topics in a text or plug in your headphones to pull out of a conversation, but for your first accounting job, you’ll need to master the art of making eye contact, holding a firm handshake, and engaging in a professional conversation so as not to put off recruiters, coworkers, and managers. To get some practice in before beginning your first day, schedule a mock interview at campus career services and ask for specific feedback. Then, continue to refine these skills for this job and the next.
- Prepare to make friends and find a mentor
Your accounting firm may staff several dozen employees or only a few, but you should get to know as many as you can so you can build good relationships that lead to even better collaborations and advancements. As you move through the final days leading up to your new position, strategize ways in which you can introduce yourself and put names with faces whenever you get the chance. If necessary, try to be a little more outgoing than you may normally be now so that initiating conversations will feel a bit more comfortable later. The benefits of a mentor include having a more knowledgeable and connected contact, gleaning their wisdom and insight, picking up valuable business and life skills, and having a sounding board for new ideas and viewpoints. Therefore, you should decide to keep an eye out for a respected company comrade who can fulfill the position and show you the ropes early on.
- Maintain an active mind
You probably won’t need to bring your old accounting textbooks to the office to guide you through your daily tasks, but you will need to bring your thinking cap. Decide right now to never stop learning, then soak up as much new information as you can by staying astute and asking questions before, during, and after your career. Continue to research the industry, read up on relevant new technologies, and discover best practices for working with management and clients. Asking questions enables you to acquire the right information and obtain clarity. The habit also serves as another way to improve your people skills, so develop it in time for your first accounting job.
- Brace yourself for change
The number of unknowns you’ll encounter during your first accounting job may seem overwhelming at first, but the sense of certainty you crave will come with the passage of time. In order for your career to progress, it has to begin, and every expert was a novice at some point. You’ll find your footing eventually. In the meantime, practice patience in the period before Day 1 so that you’ll be experienced enough to remain calm and collected when the onslaught of change comes. Resolve to keep your morale up, your pride down, and your work ethic strong when you finally enter this new stage of life, and remain thankful for every opportunity.
The Final Step to Prepare for Your First Accounting Job
After graduating from college, passing the CPA Exam is the next most important step you can take to advance your career. To improve your chances of getting a great first accounting job, you should start studying for the CPA Exam during the summer after your senior year of college. Life won’t be as hectic then as it will be once your new job starts, and everything you learned in college will still be fresh in your mind. Furthermore, when your resume reports that you’re already making headway on this essential certification, firms will be impressed by your discipline, determination, and discretion, and you’ll have an advantage over the competition.
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