7 Tips to Help You Make the Most of an Accounting Internship
By Kristian Gardner –
March 14, 2016
For many aspiring college graduates looking to enter the accounting profession, landing an internship is an important step to attain the job of their dreams. Whether the internship is with the Big Four, a regional firm or a local practice, each of these organizations are very likely to hire directly from their interns instead of solely looking at résumés, hoping to find the right candidate.
Here's some advice on how you can successfully transition from intern to new hire:
1. Ask questions
The professional environment of accounting feels like a new world for most interns. Thankfully, your most valuable asset to adapt and learn in an accounting firm is to ask questions. Don't be afraid to find out how to do a specific task or how to interpret a document. But most importantly, ask "Why?” It signifies a deeper intellectual curiosity and helps you build autonomy as you progress in your role.
Networking can sound like an intimidating idea, but it just means building relationships with people. Just like when you get to meet new people in your class or in a school organization, the same concept works in the professional world. Converse with as many colleagues at your firm as possible. It can lead to new opportunities and insight that could help you personally and professionally. And if your internship doesn't turn into full-time work at that firm, your new connections may know of other companies looking to hire.
3. Have a positive attitude
Most interviewers and accounting managers looking to hire interns will agree that a positive attitude is paramount in the workforce. Teamwork is essential in both auditing and taxation, and effective collaboration yields positive results. Additionally, your positive attitude can help build a lasting impression with management as well when it comes time for them to consider you for a potential job offer. Employers will pass over a negative person for a positive one with the same qualifications.
4. Do additional work for the firm
While keeping up with tasks your manager is assigning you, look for other projects and opportunities that could serve the firm. This proactive approach looks very favorable for interns, especially when it's time for the review process. Seek out additional tasks and responsibilities. You'll gain a diversified experience and bring more to the table.
Being able to master one task is a good start, but tackling several responsibilities demonstrates to your manager that you can prioritize and manage your time properly.
5. Be punctual
The team is counting on you. If you don't show up to work on time or don't show up at all, you're placing more work on others. Show that you're committed to working hard and working well. A lack of punctuality and attendance implies disinterest in either the position or the firm. And remember, being 15 minutes early is “on time” and being “on time” is late.
6. Always ask for feedback
More than just offering you constructive criticism, asking for feedback will grant you opportunities to learn and grow as an intern. Use feedback to exceed your employer’s expectations by ascertaining methods that might increase efficiency and productivity and yield superior results. Asking for feedback signifies the desire to excel in a position and can give you the extra inspiration to succeed in your internship. Without feedback, it’s almost impossible to gauge how well you’re doing.
Remember, don't wait until your performance review to get feedback. Be courteous of your manager's schedule and his or her preferred method of communication when you broach the subject.
7. Look the part
Last, but not least, professional business attire in conjunction with good hygiene is part of the formula for success in your internship. If your manager did not directly tell you the guidelines, follow the dress code recommendations outlined in the company's employee handbook. Very often, you can also determine the company's dress culture by observing what others in the office are wearing. For example, you may notice that wearing a polo shirt and khakis in a firm would be inappropriate if they require employees to wear business professional on a daily basis. Or if you work in a firm in which employees dress business casual and wear khakis, it might not be appropriate to come into work wearing a three-piece suit.
Performing as many of the behaviors listed above can help to make your internship as pleasant of an experience as possible. At the conclusion of your internship, you will have left with a wealth of knowledge and experience in a limited time frame along with a potential job offer!
Own your internship, don’t let your internship own you.
Kristian M. Gardner is an accounting and mathematics major at Rider University. He's currently a tax intern for the Mercadien Group, PC. Kristian enjoys reading, math, academic research, and running.