Whether you’re just beginning to explore internship options or you’re about to accept a full-time job offer, the decisions you make in college are important for the first part of your career. To that end, we recently spoke with four professionals at top accounting firm BDO: Madison Evans, a Tax Manager; Casey Parsons, an Assurance Associate; Joseph Sakla, an Assurance Senior Associate, and Courtney Baker-Schroat, a Tax Associate. We asked these professionals about their work experience as well as the advice they have for students thinking about pursuing a career in accounting. Below is an excerpt from our conversation.
What major should students pursue if they think they might be interested in accounting?
“Don’t pick a degree. Pick a career. Start looking at the different things you can get into with each degree and how each career opportunity will work for you.” – Joseph Sakla
When should students begin their job search?
“Start early. I started talking to firms when I was a sophomore, so I had three solid years of getting to know firms, which helped me make the best decision for me.” – Casey Parsons
If you’re only a freshman, should you go to career fairs?
“Career fairs are great for pre-interview practice. I used to get really nervous, and I’ve bombed my fair share of interviews. Talking to recruiters in a more informal environment can give you confidence and teach you how to carry yourself.” – Joseph Sakla
If you go to a smaller school, what’s the best way to connect with firms?
“As much as firms would love to visit every school, it can be difficult. I went to a small college in Pennsylvania, so I did my research and went to college fairs at larger schools in the area, which helped me make the connections I wanted.” – Courtney Baker-Schroat
If you’re not sure you want to go into accounting, should you still meet with accounting firms?
“If you’re at all interested in accounting, go! The more face-time you get with professionals, the more information you’ll have to make a decision.” – Madison Evans
How many firms should you interview with?
“Try to talk with every firm you can—and make sure to keep an open mind. Considering lots of firms helps you better understand which ones you like or don’t like … and why.” – Casey Parsons
How many questions should you prepare for in an interview?
“A lot of people told me to have ready-to-go interview questions, but after going through the process, I don’t agree. Have a couple of back-ups, sure, but if you ask pertinent questions, rather than rehearsed ones, you’ll come off as more authentic.” – Casey Parsons
How can I calm my nerves before an interview?
“Take a deep breath, grab a drink of water, and just clear your head for a minute. And remember, interviews are a two-way street. As much as this potential employer is looking for the right person, you’re looking for the right company.” – Joseph Sakla
How will you know which firm is right for you?
“Go with your gut. I know it’s difficult, but if you make a connection with a person or a team during the interview process, that’s a good sign.” – Courtney Baker-Schroat
What if you don’t like the business line you chose once you start my career?
“No one expects you to know exactly what you want your career to look like from day one. It’s a process. So if you want to explore something new or think another path might be a better option for you, speak up! People are more than willing to help you find your fit.” – Courtney Baker-Schroat
Why should students consider a firm like BDO?
“It’s easy to think that there are only a select few firms that are worth pursuing if you want to get into public accounting. That’s how I felt for a long time, until I started talking to people. There are a lot of firms out there that can give you career opportunity. At BDO, you’ll have the chance to get involved in important projects early on and to build real relationships with partners and clients.” – Joseph Sakla
What if you don’t know what you want to do?
“If you don’t know what you want to do, or what industry you’re interested in, find a firm that can offer choices. Explore different areas. The path you end up taking might surprise you.” – Madison Evans
What can a larger firm offer me?
“At large or midsize firms, there’s a level of knowledge that can’t be matched. Local or regional firms can have limited resources, so no matter how experienced the partners might be, they can’t know everything about every area. Larger firms have a team of specialists in nearly every single area.” – Madison Evans
This post was sponsored by BDO. If you’re interested in learning more about a career with the firm, click here to explore what life is like at BDO.
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