If you’re in college and wondering what will give you an edge in the job market upon graduation, I’ve got the answer: work experience. According to a new survey from Accountemps, 83 percent of chief financial officers (CFOs) said it’s important for students to gain work experience in the field during their college years if they’re hoping to compete for entry-level accounting and finance positions. (See infographic below.)
So now you’re faced with the old catch-22: it’s hard to land a job without experience, but it's tough to gain experience without a job. The good news is there are jobs available, particularly within public accounting. Here are six tips to help you gain college work experience in the accounting and finance field and make the most of these opportunities.
- Pursue internships. In addition to connecting with your college’s career center, research employers of interest, and tap mentors and professors for internship leads. Scour the big-name job boards, but also check niche career websites geared specifically toward accounting professionals or internship seekers.
- Look beyond the Benjamins. While paid internships are no doubt appealing, don’t let money drive your search. Look for opportunities that will provide maximum exposure to a range of projects, experiences and connections.
- Lend a hand. Many nonprofits and industry associations can use volunteers. Consider reaching out to community programs in your area that offer free income tax assistance to the needy or elderly. Seek volunteer opportunities that will give you a chance to strengthen skills that can boost your marketability.
- Explore all options. Temporary assignments enable you to gain real-world experience, get your foot in the door and demonstrate your potential. Some interim accounting and finance assignments lead to full-time job offers. Connect with a staffing firm in your area to learn more.
- Treat every opportunity like a full-time job. Don’t view yourself as “just an intern,” “volunteer” or “temp.” Adopt the mindset of a full-time employee. Closely observe how staff members interact and adapt your work style and behavior accordingly.
- Keep in touch. After an internship or temporary assignment wraps up, write thank-you notes to anyone who helped or mentored you. Continue networking with these contacts during school to better your odds of securing job leads, recommendations or even an employment offer upon graduation.
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