An overview for accounting students at Saint Peter’s University.
Applying for internships can be a daunting process but with preparation, you can break it down and go from the classroom to the first steps of your career.
First, take a deep breath and know that you have support on campus, in the form of faculty, CEEL, advisors, and more. This is a process, it can be daunting, but you’re not alone.
Here are the basic steps; think of this like a general checklist:
Get your resume updated. If you need help, check with the experts (eg CEEL) and run by your faculty advisor (e.g. me).
Understand the type of role you may be interested in (public accounting, private accounting, government, etc). One great asset to an accounting degree is the directions you can take it into the workplace.
Scan resources to better understand what’s available.
Understand the internship timetables (Summer, Winter, etc)
Do basic research about the companies you want to apply to.
Apply. Apply. Apply.
Stay organized in your search; keep a list of where you’ve applied and when. Maintain a list of any and all contacts by organization. Cross-check contacts at an organization with classmates, alumni, and others you may know at those organizations. Networking can help.
Check out in more detail below…
1. Get your resume updated.
If you don’t yet have a resume on file with CEEL, please get this step done first. The resume is the one-page “elevator pitch” about your experience and qualifications. The experts in CEEL can help by providing career assessments, dialoging with you about what your interests are in terms of career paths, and in general help you better understand the types of roles that may be available.
Once you update your resume, be sure to also update LinkedIn, and ensure your LinkedIn is a mirror of your resume and vice versa. Also, connect with your professors and the staff at CEEL (my LinkedIn page is here – connect with me). LinkedIn is a vast network of support; join it, engage in it, and help support others too.
Understand the roles you can pursue.
Accounting offers various pathways. Here a few directions it can take you:
Accountants in private industry, including entertainment, sports, food and fashion, and more. One example I love to share with my students is Shark Tank, and the portion of each pitch when the “sharks” grill the entrepreneurs on the numbers; that’s fantastic insight into the power of knowing your numbers. Obtaining the certified management accountant (CMA) is one credential on this path in addition to the CPA.
Accountants in public accounting, working as CPAs or Enrolled Agents who help clients with tax, audit, or advisory services; this type of work can often be project-driven and dynamic. It can vary day to day and demand skillsets that stretch outward in 360 degrees, from sales to project management and budgeting to technical analysis of complex laws.
Accountants in law enforcement, helping “follow the money” on criminal investigations for federal agencies like the FBI or IRS. The IRS specifically states ‘as a Special Agent you will combine your accounting skills with law enforcement skills to investigate financial crimes.”
Run your own business
3. Scan resources — there are many
Let’s say you know you want public accounting. You can aim for the big 4 or a smaller firm; the important thing to recognize is that you do have a wide range of options.
For example: I created the visualization below to help illustrate what we mean by the “big 4” but also to highlight: there are many other great firms to choose from. Saint Peter’s University is located in Jersey City … in the heart of the tristate area … this means many potential job opportunities simply based on location alone (see my regional firms list below, too). Scan the lists…adjust the revenues filter to zoom into smaller firms, where they are located, and so on. Try and have fun exploring the different firms.
A quick note: the size of the box connotes the size of the revenues; this is a fun example of how data can be visualized to help explain a concept like “the big 4.” Important, too, to note that once you filter the “big 4” out (which you can do by adjusting the revenues filter down), you can see the remaining 96 firms highlighted. Have fun with this, and let your curiosity guide you.
Interested in government? Law enforcement? The IRS? The FBI? Some of these governmental roles will prize an accounting skillset and while some roles (eg FBI agent) typically require work experience, there may be entry level roles. For instance, check out the IRS’ Student Careers page here.
The IRS hosts numerous virtual and in-person events each month.
CEEL / Handshake / And More…
There are also jobs posted on CEEL‘s Handshake portal. CEEL also recommends Way Up for internship and entry level postings, and and Jopwell which is a site aimed to support Black, Latinx, and Native American candidates specifically.
4. Understand the internship timetables.
Accounting firms are typically recruiting nine to 12 months out; meaning, if you want a Summer 2023 internship, then be ready to apply and interview in Fall 2022 for those opportunities. This means: sharpened resume, a clear story about when you’ll obtain your bachelor’s and your plan to obtain the 150 credits. All before you return to school next fall.
Also be on the lookout for CEEL’s career fairs. There are two upcoming career fairs; a virtual fair on April 27th focused on business and accounting majors and a public sector fair scheduled in person (location TBD) for April 28th. Connect with CEEL for more details as those dates approach.
5. Do basic research around the companies you want to apply to.
This can start with a basic search online and some initial discussions with the CEEL office which will have touch points with many employers. I’m sharing below another handy data visualization: this is the top regional firms from Accounting Today’s Top 100 list.
6. Apply. Apply. Apply.
The Spring 2022 job market for accountants is incredibly hot. Put your best foot forward (follow the steps above) and then: apply. Put your hat in the ring and have confidence in your process and yourself. Remember: you’re a Peacock!
7. Stay organized in your search.
Create a list — use Google Docs, Google Sheets, a notebook…whatever process will keep you most organized – and keep track of where you have applied, who you have made contact with, and when. You will find a groove as you go; the main point is: keep yourself and your search organized. Luck has been defined as “preparation meeting opportunity”; when opportunity presents itself, if you’re prepared, you’ll be able to strike while the iron is hot and make an impact.
As always, keep in touch with questions.
/ Professor D’Souza