Start Your First Job in Accounting With Confidence

By Robert Half August 28, 2017 at 3:50pm

If you’re an accounting student, you might find yourself looking forward to the day you graduate and go out into the working world, leaving the classroom behind for a real job and a good paycheck. But are you really ready?

Maybe not. In a new survey from Accountemps and Enactus, 42 percent of the students polled said what they worry most about starting work is that they chose the wrong job and are missing out on something else. For 39 percent, what gives them the most jitters is the fear they won’t learn quickly enough and will make mistakes in their first job out of college.

The good news? There’s an ongoing demand for talented accounting professionals, and even as a student, there are plenty of ways to prepare yourself for life outside the classroom.

Keep in mind that practical experience is sometimes the only way to gain certain types of skills and expertise. Follow these four steps to get a taste of the working world, and you’ll likely feel more prepared when you start your first job:

1. Get involved in campus organizations

When you join a university group, you’ll work with like-minded students to put together forums, meetings, networking events and volunteer opportunities, to name just a few things. The experience will help you develop soft skills like communication, collaboration and negotiation, all of which will help you on the job. If you take on a leadership role in the organization, you’ll get even more: practice at managing people and making tough decisions, for example.

2. Apply for internships

Ask your professors and the advisors in your school’s career center if they can recommend good accounting internships. There’s no better way to get a sense of what it’s like to work in an office. You’ll get experience not only in working with the tools and technology used in the accounting and finance industry, but also in navigating office politics.

3. Take temporary work

If you’re working to put yourself through school and don’t have the time to take on an unpaid internship, consider signing up with a staffing firm. These agencies often have temporary accounting assignments that are appropriate for students, which means that you can obtain that important on-the-job work experience while earning an income. You can also think of it as a trial run — a way to gain insight on what position, industry or size of company is right for you.

Find out more about the temporary finance and accounting positions Accountemps specializes in placing.

4. Use your skills in a volunteer capacity

There are plenty of local non-profit and charity organizations in every college town that need accounting help. Call one that aligns with your beliefs and passions, and offer to help with the bookkeeping. Because many of these organizations are small, you’ll likely get to see how the whole operation works, which can be useful down the line when you work with departments outside of accounting and finance.

One final piece of advice: Get to know your professors, and keep in touch with them even after you graduate. If you run up against an issue in your first job and don’t know how to solve it, you can call them and ask them what they’d do. Many times, they’ll have valuable insights and would jump at the chance to impart one more lesson to a former student.

Meanwhile, take a look at our slideshow for common mistakes CFOs have seen entry-level professionals make on the job.

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