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    Valuable Insights I Wish I Had Before Starting My Accounting Internship
    The Vault

    Valuable Insights I Wish I Had Before Starting My Accounting Internship

    June 2024

    You want to put your best foot forward during your accounting internship. You are trying to look like a competent budding accountant and build a solid reputation, especially if you’re trying to score a return offer to come back and work there. You may choose not to work there, but you could leave with references for future job applications.

    Whether you get accepted into your local CPA firm’s internship program or one with the Big 4, here's what you need to know before your first day as an intern.

    Review Technical and Software Skills

    You’ve learned a lot on your way to becoming an accountant and there is a lot to remember. Study some fundamental technical accounting and software skills to prepare your mind and calm your nerves. Prevent mistakes by giving yourself a mini refresher course. Look over old notes from class, skim your old textbooks, or review concepts online.

    Memorize a few key Microsoft commands (shortcuts), as you'll likely use Excel and even Word to some extent. Commands like the following will make you more efficient in your work.

    • Ctrl+X = Cut
    • Ctrl+V = Paste
    • Ctrl+Z = Undo
    • Ctrl+C = Copy
    • Ctrl+P = Print

    Consider learning to use a 10-key calculator if you've never had experience with one. Many accounting firms use these instead of the standard or graphic calculators you might be more familiar with from school. Inputting numbers is a bit different with a 10-key. For example, to subtract two numbers, type in the first number followed by a “+” and then the second number followed by a “-”.

    Say ‘Yes’ to Invitations

    No matter how shy or introverted you think you are, make it a goal to accept most invitations to attend social events. Have a 'yes' mentality, whether you get invited to an intimate coffee chat, events your recruiter sets up, or a professional networking function.

    Expanding your network and building connections is essential to your success. You can't know everything all at once, but you can learn who to turn to when you need advice, answers, or assistance.

    Someone you meet could offer you a job. Someone could become your mentor. They might make an excellent resource or reference down the road. At the very least, they could become a lifelong friend. And friends enrich our lives.

    Orientation Week

    Take it easy on yourself, especially your first week there. Don't expect perfection from yourself. You couldn't possibly know everything there is to know about your job or firm. As with any big change in life, you will need time to adjust and settle in.

    Develop a Growth Mindset

    We've touched on a growth mindset in a few of the above tips. Having a growth mindset means you readily acknowledge and accept that you don't know everything there is to know. However, you can learn it no matter how challenging it is or how long it takes you.

    Your style and learning speed won't look like someone else’s but be humble enough to admit when you don't know something. It helps to be open and committed to learning from others, even though constructive criticism.

    You'll have performance reviews. Don't expect a perfect score on them. Take all critiques as lessons. Modify your knowledge or behaviors and continue onward and upward on your career path.

    Overcome Impostor Syndrome

    Should you walk into your first day feeling overwhelmed, underprepared, and like you don’t belong, don’t sweat it. Lots of us have felt the same. Accounting is an important job full of nuances, and it’s easy to feel like you’re a fake among seasoned professionals.

    Again, no one expects you to be perfect. Please don’t expect it from yourself. You’ve put in the work. You’ve taken the tests. You’ve applied yourself. You got accepted into the internship, so you belong there!

    Ask Questions the Right Way

    Your mentors expect you to ask questions. Here's how you ask them the right way:

    • Learn who to go to for questions. Is it one particular person? Is it client or department-dependent?
    • Accumulate several questions before asking. That way, you won't pop into a person's office every five minutes with one-off questions. Do your tasks to the best of your ability until you can't proceed any further, then get your questions answered. Make notes of those questions as they come to mind or pop up in your work so you will remember them.
    • Always ask if it's a good time to ask questions to show you respect another's time and workload. If they tell you, it isn't necessary to ask that every time, cut back on how often you do it, but don't cut it out completely.

    Take Notes

    Refrain from relying on your memory when you learn something new or when an employee tells you what to do and how. Write things down and refer back to it. If you don't, you will be going back and asking them to repeat themselves.

    Manage Time Wisely

    Work wisely but not so fast that you make extra mistakes or overlook important things. The employees around you are likely billing their time out to clients. It's more challenging to do that when they have to wait on you for work or rework something that wasn’t right the first time.

    The Importance of Internships

    Visit your college’s career center or type ‘finance internships in Charlotte, NC’ into your browser’s search bar to find out more on accounting internships in your local area. Internships provide valuable life and career lessons you can't always find in a classroom setting. Take full advantage of them to help you grow in wisdom and career success.

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