Author: Ryan Hirsch, NASBA Multimedia & Video Services Manager
Graduating from a collegiate institution is an exciting time for accounting and finance students across the world. However, the process of beginning a career can often be a daunting task due to the vast number of decisions that need to be made leading up to graduation. Fortunately, NASBA leadership has a wealth of knowledge and experience in this area, and may be able to help guide you through this process.
One of the most important steps to achieving a successful career in finance or accounting is determining the specific area you find the most interesting. NASBA's Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Michael Bryant, CPA, believes "to amplify career success in finance, find a niche that is interesting. The importance of first job choices cannot be overstated. If some area of business really intrigues you as a young finance professional, (ex. music, health care, non-profits, professional sports, etc.), then consider starting in that field. This will allow you the opportunity to develop the expertise necessary to advance within that field." This step is crucial to ensuring that you are following the appropriate career path. Failure to complete this analysis is similar to following a map without first pinpointing a destination. This step will save you time by allowing you to move directly toward your goals, rather than wandering aimlessly through years of career ambiguity.
In an effort to determine which field is best for you, Troy Walker, CPA, NASBA's Controller and Director of Finance, advises taking advantage of various internship opportunities. Achieving success in the financial and accounting industries requires far more than mathematical expertise. Walker notes, "Being able to communicate, through the utilization of both written and oral skills, is a valuable asset to financial professionals in leadership roles. These roles often require leaders to speak to groups on specific topics, report on the finances of the organization to management or even sell services to a potential client." It is important to hone these skills and work toward becoming an effective leader. Walker acknowledges, "We all want to be the managers and leaders when we start out of school. The best way to get there is to show that you are a hard worker, willing to do whatever is asked to help the organization and are capable of doing it well." Adopting this philosophy will also allow you time to learn from trusted veterans within your organization.
Once you have gained experience through internships and completed your education requirements, NASBA's Chief Operating Officer, Colleen Conrad, CPA, encourages students and job seekers to find ways to enhance their credibility by seeking additional training and certifications. For students and financial professionals interested in advancing in the accounting profession, Conrad encourages them to "to sit for the CPA Examination as soon as possible once they have their education, as passing rates tend to decrease the further the candidate is away from their education coursework." For younger students entering college or older students attending graduate school, Conrad advises them to "consider which accounting firms, corporations or organizations they might want to work after graduating. This will enable them to consider going to a university at which those entities go to seek interns and interview prospective employees on campus." She also noted that this type of information is usually available at most university placement offices.
In summation, find your passion, gain experience in your desired field and work hard to demonstrate that you are capable of taking on additional responsibility. Then, establish and enhance your credibility by becoming certified in your area of expertise. The finance and accounting industries offer a wide array of career options and can often provide a great deal of exposure and opportunity. A final piece of advice would be to identify a mentor in your field who can provide additional guidance and insight on the best ways to advance and achieve your professional goals.
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