How to Make the Most of Your Internship
When you are about to start at internship, you likely will be asking yourself one or more of the following questions:
- What am I looking to learn?
- How can I make the most of my experience?
- What do I have to offer/what can I contribute?
- How will this internship contribute to my overall career plan?
The number-one thing to keep in mind is that your internship is just as much an opportunity for you to interview the company as it is for the company to interview and get to know you. It is not wise to assume that getting the internship automatically guarantees an offer of a full-time position once the internship has been completed. An internship gives you the opportunity to see if you prefer public or private accounting, discover if you are interested in advisory, tax or assurance, make new friends and begin making networking contacts. Use this opportunity to get your questions answered, observe others and learn as much as possible with every task given to you.
An internship can be the opportunity of a lifetime. Many internship programs begin with an orientation and introduction to the firm. Use this opportunity to meet team members and find out what to expect during the internship. Be a sponge and give 100 percent to every task assigned to you. Not every project will match what you envision for your personal career goals, but you can learn from every experience. Soak up all the experiences, volunteer to go the extra mile and most importantly ask questions. No question is a silly one.
The firm you are working with wants to see you challenge yourself. Attempt to research questions or solve issues by yourself or with your peers. And keep in mind that they are many resources available to you at all levels. Staff Is and IIs are the closest to where you currently find yourself and can offer invaluable experience and advice. Seniors and supervisors have some experience under their belt and can provide insight as to how they decided to focus their careers. Don’t be intimidated by managers and partners. They want you to tap into their years of experience to help you learn and succeed. So, if you’re getting a glass of water or cup of coffee in the company kitchen, introduce yourself and have a conversation.
Discover Your Interests
While pursuing your accounting degree, try to obtain as many internships as possible in as many different fields as you can. This is the best way to hone in on the areas that interest you. Experiences at a public accounting firm are vastly different from working in a private corporate accounting department. If you already know what accounting field you would like to work in, read up as much as possible about that field as well as the accounting industry in general. The people you will be working with will be impressed and will see that you are taking your career seriously. If you’re unsure, read as much as possible about the various accounting concentrations and ask questions of those around you. Why did they choose assurance over tax, international over state and local? You’ll be surprised how many people have the same thought processes as you.
One of the most important things to remember when beginning an internship is that you are not expected to know it all. Be enthusiastic, take notes when given a project and ask questions if you’re unsure about a task. And remember to have fun too. Immerse yourself in the firm’s culture. Attend as many functions as possible (whether they be summer outings, young accounting professional events or even lunch with your colleagues). If you see some of the staff in the kitchen or cafeteria, don’t be afraid to join them. The kitchen is the perfect place to get to know the people you’re working with. Say good morning, stop by to say hi at some point during the day. Be social and make sure you are not glued to your desk. This is your time to shine, show the company your personality and that you are a good fit for their organization. The social aspect of an internship is extremely important. After all, accounting isn’t just all numbers – it’s also about relationships with both your coworkers and clients.
The Bottom Line
Remember that your internship is an opportunity to learn as much as possible and make a good impression. You may decide that the firm you are interning with is the perfect fit for your goals or that it’s not your cup of tea. Remember that all experiences are learning experiences. Make as many friends and contacts as possible as you never know when your paths may cross again. Most importantly, have confidence in yourself.
Maryann T. Reyes, CPA, PFS, is a senior manager at Withum. She is a member of the NJCPA and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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