Book Club Bonus Episode: Advice for a Successful Career in the Accounting Profession (Chapters 3 and 4)
Norma: [00:00:10] Hello everybody, and welcome back to a bonus episode of the Accounting Twins Podcast. My name is Norma.
Becky: [00:00:16] And my name is Becky.
Norma: [00:00:18] And thank you for joining us for our bonus episode number two, where we will be discussing the book "Advice for a Successful Career in the Accounting Profession: How to Make Your Assets Greatly Exceed Your Liabilities" by Jerry Maginnis. We hope that you went and listened to our last episode where we discussed chapters one and two of the book. And this episode is going to be talking about chapters three and four still within the section, basically, of 'in the life of a student.'
Becky: [00:00:50] So, just to dive right into it, chapter three, which we're going to talk about today, is: How Accounting Majors Can Optimize Their College Experience. And I think Norma and I are a great example to talk about this because to say we were involved in college, not just within accounting, is an understatement.
Norma: [00:01:09] Yeah. We did so many different things, but we really, at least within this chapter, we wanted to mention what we thought were the most important tips or things to do during your college career in order to make sure that you really are using all the resources given to you. So, the first advice and the first mini-section of this chapter is be aware of potential employer recruiting cycles.
Becky: [00:01:36] This is a huge, huge, huge one because they start so early. So, you could already be out of the game before you even know it. And I don't mean to say that in a bad way. I'm just trying to say they do start so early that you need to get ahead of the game.
Norma: [00:01:53] So, for example, in our sophomore year, we were doing our admissions with excellence interviews into the Eller College of Management, and we were interviewing with actual people and recruiters from firms, and afterwards, there was an accounting career fair. And we just went to it in the sense- we thought, "Okay. Well, we'll just get cozy with these recruiters, and talk to them, and learn more about the companies." And then, lo and behold, we were talking with one of the firms and wanted to apply for an externship, which is different than an internship, but when we applied for the externship, we were also taken into consideration for an internship, and we got internships quite literally 14 months in advance.
Becky: [00:02:40] Yeah, and that's not just a special circumstance that Norma and I happened to be in. That's so many people that we know have internship scheduled between eight to 12, even 16 months in advance. So, if there's one huge piece of advice out of anything Norma and I will talk about this episode, get ahead of the game. Start going to recruiting fairs; start reaching out on LinkedIn; go to your career advisors and be aware of their recruiting cycles because you- if you want to be able to do this accounting career, you need to be able to find an internship. You need to be able to find an externship, and those things get offered out very early, and once they're closed, they might be closed for a while.
Norma: [00:03:24] Yeah. So, for example, again, in my senior year of college, I had just finished my first internship with one firm. It was probably August, or September where I decided I might want to look into a different firm. I applied in August, got an interview in September, got an offer in late October, early November. That was incredibly, incredibly late to be looking for an internship for the summer of 2022.
Becky: [00:03:59] Agreed.
Norma: [00:04:01] So even just comparing it to other business majors or even just other majors, my roommate, he got an engineering job literally three months before graduation. My friend got a job at Snapchat within five months of graduation. But, honestly, the majority of the time, especially if you're doing public accounting, you need them at least six to 12 months in advance.
Becky: [00:04:28] Agreed. For me, like we've discussed in the regular podcast, when I had my quarter-life breakdown, and I rescinded my public offer, and I applied for a private job, I got that in December. How was I able to pull that off and get a job offer in December to start in July? No clue. That is so unheard of, and I just happened to be super, super lucky in that, and I am so grateful because it's an amazing job. But back to the point, just know what you're doing. Get ahead of the schedule. If you want this, you need to be proactive.
Norma: [00:05:04] Yes. Even if you're skeptical if you want to do accounting, or if you want to do public or private accounting, still make the best of the moment and try to get ahead of schedule or ahead of the curve, even if you're not sure, because you can always deny the offer, or rescind the offer, but at least you were prepared in case you actually decided to do that. So, just be aware of the recruiting cycle.
Norma: [00:05:29] And then, one thing we wish we had done in college is join an accounting society or its equivalent. For example, a huge, well-known one is Beta Alpha Psi. So, Rebecca and I were so busy in college within Greek life, and extracurriculars, and honor societies that we did not join an accounting society just because we were so busy, but looking back now, we wish we would have.
Becky: [00:05:57] I agree. It would have gotten us really in touch with the accounting profession of an early... I wouldn't say early age, but an early grade, I guess you would say.
Norma: [00:06:08] Yeah, and especially if you're still trying to decide if you want to do accounting. There can be business fraternities, so you can learn more specifically about each major, or you can join an accounting society in general if you think that you want to be an accountant. It just seems so interesting. So, I know Becky and I don't have a lot of experience to talk about this, but for example, one of my friends, Kyle, he was in a business fraternity and learned a lot about different majors. Even though he's a grad student now, he's still involved within the fraternity almost as like an advisor in a sense. So, if you have the time, definitely do it. Definitely recommend it.
Becky: [00:06:47] Exactly. And it not only teaches you about accounting, but it teaches you how to be a business professional; gives you interview skills. It gives you so many just professional tips that... Something like this really could have helped Norma and I. Not that we needed a ton of help, but it could have just put us one step in front of everybody else more than we were. So, something we wish we had done- we are in a good place without it, but it really could have just been another resume booster and something internally that helped us so much.
Becky: [00:07:19] The next one we want to talk about, which Norma and I are extremely passionate about - heck, we'll just combine the two of them - is visit the career placement and find a mentor. This is so important. Going to the career placement is how I found out about the job that I now have. Your career advisor is there to help you when you are looking for an internship, or a job, or heck, you don't even know what type of major you want to do, or what job you want to have. The career advisor can give you so much advice and give you assistance and really just be somebody that you can lean on.
Norma: [00:07:57] Yeah. So, not only can they help you find potential jobs or internships, but they're also there to help with your professional development, like helping with your resume practice and interview questions. For the internship that I had this past summer, I was just a little nervous. I honestly hadn't done an interview in over a year. So, I met with my career advisor, and she gave me questions that previous students who had also interviewed with the same company had, and it helped me prepare for my interview a lot. So, I cannot get over how amazing our career advisor Nancy was. She retired, and I'm so upset because she is one of the best. So, just, I would say visit them. They have so many different connections and can help you find a job.
Becky: [00:08:43] Exactly. Look, the connections part is so huge. Because they are a career advisor, they do become close with recruiters. So, if you and your career advisor become close like Norma and I did with Nancy, sometimes, she would reach out to recruiters and be like, "Hey, I have this fabulous human being who is really interested. Any information you can give me, like connections?" Turn on LinkedIn - networking. Everybody is networking. It also just helps you with networking. Go to your career advisor, please.
Norma: [00:09:18] And also, find a mentor. So, within the Eller College of Management, specifically within the accounting majors, both in undergrad and graduate school, I would receive emails from the head of their program every year asking, "Do you want to be placed to have a peer advisor mentor, in a sense?" And I did it every year. It's so beneficial because, some instances, maybe they can help you find a job, but it's also there just to get advice and just talk to.
Norma: [00:09:49] So, for example, my junior and senior year, I had one of the Intro to Financial Accounting professors, Rob, and he was just such a great professor, so I really wanted to learn from him. So, by having him as my mentor, I was also able to get a preceptorship position for a semester. I would go to class, answer questions, hold office hours, and it was a great way also just to lowkey teach my- reteach myself financial accounting because it gets so much more complicated. But having a mentor is great. You did it too, right, Rebecca?
Becky: [00:10:25] Exactly. Yes, I did. And you don't even have to have a designated mentor from a program like Norma and I had. You could have an undesignated mentor, too. For example, Norma and I had these two amazing professors, Shannon and Katie, and we just became very close with them in the classroom setting. And, I'm not even kidding you, Katie helped me prepare for interviews. So, before my big interview day with the company I am currently at, I had to research their 10-Qs, their 10-Ks, a lot of their other financial statements and give them a presentation about their company. And I was like, "I have no idea what to do. I am so all over the place." Yes, I have read financial statements, but they usually give us like super, super small ones in class, so I'm not used to a 60-page document." And so, I went to Katie's office hours. She sat there with me for an hour, and we figured out stuff to do for my interview and look where I am now. I will gladly say Katie helped me on the path to get this job.
Becky: [00:11:24] Shannon. Norma and I had a class with Shannon, and two of our best friends. Oh, my goodness gracious. Tax was a hard class, and Shannon made it so easy. We became close with her, and she was just a mentor in just every single way. I think there was one time she went to class, and we were all stressed out. She's like, "Girls, what is going on?" And we're like, "We have so many exams this week," and she was just such a supportive person. You always need somebody to have your back.
Norma: [00:11:52] Yeah. I still go to... Even in graduate school, I don't have them as professors, but I still go to them, and talk to them, and just catch up on life, or just to catch up on- get advice, anything. So, find a mentor. They will help you. End of story.
Norma: [00:12:09] So, chapter four is titled Career Paths, and we briefly mentioned this in episode one, but there are so many more options than just being an industry accountant, or a CPA. We said there's a CMA, an EA, a regular accountant. There's just so many different options, and we want to reiterate, no option is better than the other. I'm not saying I'm better than Becky because I want to get my CPAs. She's not saying she's better than me because she's doing industry.
Becky: [00:12:38] Exactly. It's to each their own. See, I am better at industry than I would be public, but that's just me. I'm not saying public is worse. Excuse me, I'm not saying that private is better than public. It's just, for me, it's what I mesh with better. So, it's all up to everybody, and every single accounting job out there is so amazing.
Norma: [00:13:05] So, while there are many different career paths to be an accountant, there's also many career paths you can do in the public world. So, another myth mentioned within this chapter is that if I don't start out with a Big Four firm coming out of school, it's going to hurt my career. So, for those of you who don't know, if you're doing public accounting, there's the Big Four firms that audit just the huge public companies, like Apple, or Tesla, or all those things. But then, there are smaller firms who do the local mom-and-pop shops or maybe bigger companies, but who aren't public or anything like that.
Norma: [00:13:43] So, there's a lot of stigma, especially at universities, that you need to go into Big Four. But think about it- If everyone's going Big Four auditing firms, who the heck are going to do the audits, and the tax forms for the smaller companies? So, all types of companies need an auditor. If everyone goes to Big Four, who will do the other ones? So, if your university is pressuring you to do Big Four but you want to do mid-size, that's okay. Totally go for it. I will support you. But if you want to do Big Four, that's fine. I will support you, too. It's been a main struggle recently, hearing all of my friends getting Big Four jobs and professors being like, "Oh my God, yay, yay!" And I'm like, "I have a mid-sized firm job. I'm so incredibly happy with it."
Becky: [00:14:29] Exactly. Again, as you know how we were saying different types of paths for accountants is to each their own? Big Four versus mid-sized is to each their own. It truly depends on the person. So, don't ever feel like you have to be forced to do something; do what you want- feels best for you. Never feel obligated to do something. Another topic we wanted to discuss is rules that you will find in accounting firms. I know Norma wanted to touch on this a little bit.
Norma: [00:14:58] So, personally, I don't know, to a certain extent, what all roles do within an accounting firm, but this section I found interesting because I don't really know anything. Yes, I know that there are associates, senior associates, seniors, managers, experienced managers, partners, but I don't know essentially what their job does. I just know their title. So, this section within the book talks about the different tasks that these different roles do. So, I would definitely hope that you have the book with you and can go look at these different types because I know, looking at it, oh my gosh, I really am interested in what a senior and what a manager has to do. Who knows if I want to be a partner? That's looking too far in advance, but we'll see. So, I would definitely just go look at that.
Becky: [00:15:50] I don't even know what I'm having for dinner tonight. I couldn't look that far ahead if I wanted to. Anyways, opportunities in an industry accounting in roles that you can find there, there are also so many - general ledger SEC filing, revenue accounting, cost accounting. You could be the one is like... For example, as we all know, I work for axle and tasers of body cams. For cost accounting, you have to figure out how much it makes to build a taser if there are ways you can lessen those costs. For revenue accounting, where I'm doing journal entries, warranties and processing for SEC filing, you're really big win. The end of the quarter comes when you get those financial statements out there. There are so many things that you can do within industry accounting. So, everybody's like, "Oh, I'm just an accountant." Great. What part of that are you doing? I'm doing revenue accounting right now. Some people are doing General Ledger and SEC. There's so many opportunities under the term accounting. Accounting is the umbrella, and there's so many things under it.
Norma: [00:16:52] Yeah, and then, there's also a different career path if you want to do academia. So, obviously, someone is going to have to teach accounting. How would we be here today if we didn't know? So, perhaps you realize, "Oh my gosh, I want to do accounting," whether it's public or private, and then a few years down the line, you're like, "You know what? I want to teach someone how to be an accountant." You can do that. So, when I was with my mentor, Jeremy, a few weeks ago, he was saying, "Norma, would you be interested in getting your PhD, teaching classes, all that stuff?" Just purely thinking. Personally, it's not for me. I just don't know if I want to do that, but it is another career path. Think about it. You have to have teachers somewhere. So, you might realize, "Yes, I love accounting, but I love teaching accounting even more."
Becky: [00:17:43] Exactly. I think what Norma and I are pretty much trying to say here is there are so many different needs for so many different types of accountants. Don't feel like you have to follow the mainstream way. Follow your heart. It beats for you.
Norma: [00:17:58] Yeah. Nonetheless, like we said in episode one, too, no accounting profession, or career is the correct choice, or the best choice. It's whatever you want to do. So, just think about that going forward. Obviously, I will state this again, there are so many other topics that this book talks about, which is great. So, go and buy that copy, if you haven't already - there's a link in the show notes below - and just read about the different ways to be an accountant and all that fun stuff. We hope you can join us for episode three. We're going to be talking about chapters five and six of the book, and that will be the end of section one, and then we'll move to being a professional.
Becky: [00:18:40] Exactly. So, thank you for listening. We're so glad you guys are joining us as we delve inside of the book, and we'll catch you on the flip side. Bye.