Throughout high school and especially college, there is often constant conversation on the topic of internships. One can hardly get through a week in senior year without hearing about another student’s struggles or successes in the search for an internship or without being asked about their own plans and endeavors on the subject. Despite all this chatter, few people take the time to discuss WHY you should be getting an internship. You just need one, right?

Although internships are not a prerequisite for a promising job or career, they not only allow you to put real world experience on your resume, but also help you to determine if a chosen field or job is what you really want to be doing. You may have planned on a given career path all throughout college, but upon entering the workforce in that given occupation, land a job in that field and absolutely hate it. Maybe the job has more travel than you expected, or on the flip side is too repetitive and desk based for your temperament. An internship will allow you to test the waters of a new job, without the commitment of a permanent position. You are not obligated to stay at the completion, and there are no hard feelings if you choose to find something else. However, if you find that you are pleased with your chosen field; by embarking on the internship you have increased your chances of getting a full time job at the end of it.

Internship: A Trial Period

Most accounting firms, like many other businesses, use internships as a “trial period” for potential new employees. It allows them to ensure that you can do what you said you could and that you work well with everyone else at the firm. A chance to understand the culture and dynamics at given firm, as well at the actual daily tasks, is an additional benefit of the internship process. During the internship, you will learn the basics of what you will be doing, while at the same time getting a feel for the work environment. When looking for a job most people just focus on what they will be doing, however, it is important to make sure you like the people you will work with and the policies of the company. Since many people ascribe happiness or discontent at a given job to the work environment, rather than the works itself, this is a factor that should not be overlooked. As was said previously, internships allow you to assess such factors without the full commitment of a hired employee.

Internships are beneficial for assessment of a new career in addition to their more readily touted value for getting your “foot in the door” at a desired firm. Here at Nigro & Nigro many of our accountants started out as interns and have since transitioned to important members of the staff and management teams. Even if an internship doesn’t transition into a lasting career, for many it is still a worthwhile step, not only for resume experience but for exposure to the variety that is available in any given occupation. You may even find a perfect fit, in a place you never expected.

Don’t Waste Time, Get Your CPA License:

After spending at least four years completing your bachelors, the last thing that most people want to do is start studying for CPA exams. It’s a time when you want to put away books and start focusing on workplace opportunities, not go out and buy expensive review courses and spend your weekends with a pile of textbooks…again. Sometimes just trying to pick a study course is overwhelming. So the thought becomes, ‘I should focus on a job now, I’ll get back to that test when I have things settled.’ But let’s be honest, things are never settled, and that future time that we all think we will have never seems to materialize.
After graduating, I started talking to people who had their CPA license and although they had chosen different methods of study, they all agreed that getting it done right away was the best idea. So after my final grades posted, I sent my transcripts, application, and fee to the California Board of Accountancy and I ordered my review course. Once the study materials arrived, I was instantly overwhelmed. But, I made a schedule and a goal of when I was going to take the tests and I am doing it one step at a time.

Even though studying is probably the last thing you will want to do, it will be so much easier while you are still in the habit of studying and before you have a lot of responsibilities at work. Don’t get me wrong, being a new staff accountant can be overwhelming. You constantly have to bug people and ask questions, you are getting into a new work routine and trying to find your place at the office. But in the CPA firm life, as in most other jobs, your responsibilities only get greater the longer you work there. Once you are no longer a staff you will be running jobs, writing reports and findings, assisting clients, and perhaps wondering why you didn’t make use that extra time you had while you were an intern or staff accountant. It is easier to study and cope with exam related stress when your responsibilities at work are minimal.
As someone who is currently on the path towards a CPA license, I encourage you to take advantage of your time after college and use it to study. I know almost no one who looks back on procrastination as an advantageous choice. Once you are done and get your CPA, you will be so happy you did it.

Pick a Firm, Not the Paycheck

After graduation, many people want a job that will help them pay off all of their student loans and accumulated debt as fast as possible. However, there is much more to finding a good job than how much you will make. Something that is commonly overlooked is the office culture. You may be thinking that it is no big deal, you’re only there for work and then you can go home. But if you really think about it, you are with your coworkers more throughout the week than your own family. Yes, a company can offer an exceptional salary, but if you dread each work day or operate in an environment of constant anger or overwhelming stress, is it really worth it?

When picking a firm at which to work, you want to ensure that the company’s vision and values align with your own. You want to work for a company that you believe in and trust. You may think that you can fake it and try and fit in with a company, but you will slowly start disliking your job due to the environment.

Not only do you want to work for a company that you believe in and at which you can be proud to work, but you want to work somewhere with open communication. I couldn’t imagine working at a firm where I can’t ask one of my supervisors for help with something. Communication is key to a healthy work environment. You want to work with people with whom you can talk through issues, not with people who will put others down in order to make themselves look better.

Although paying the bills may be the reason most of us go to work each morning, work isn’t only about the money and choosing a company just because it will pay you more will not guarantee a positive work environment. The daily tasks at most companies within a given industry and position remain relatively homogenous, the main difference is who you will be working with and working for. Make sure you pay attention to those factors and pick a place to work that will make you grow not only as a worker, but as a person as well.

Written by Alexa H., Accountant