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The Stuff Your College Professor “Forgot” To Tell You About Getting a Job

While you're busy blowing off Intermediate Accounting to sleep off last night's bender, your college professors are busy telling your fellow students all about how to prepare financial statements, test controls and, uh, whatever else it is you kids are learning in skool these days.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that fancy accounting education won't teach you. Like how not to get a communicable disease from the liberal arts girls who are always suspiciously showing up at your place stealing your beers. And how not to get piled in unmanageable debt before you turn 25. Another thing you probably won't learn in school is how to get a job when you're done wasting your parents money getting your impressionable little brain filled with all the knowledge you need to go on to a fantastic career in the exciting world of accounting.

Lucky for you, This Way to CPA has a little wisdom for you lost little sheep from Lisa Wicker, ACA Team Budget & FSA Administrator at the AICPA that should point you in the right direction. Here are just a few highlights:

It’s a competitive world out there. Remember that you are going up against a lot of other qualified candidates for those coveted job openings. Know what differentiates you from the masses. Commit this to memory and be prepared to sell it to a potential employer.

Network (before and after graduation). You’re not going to get to know people by playing Angry Birds all day. Go to your college’s Beta Alpha Psi meetings, attend professional networking events (maybe your state society), and get to know your college professors. And be sure to ask advice and learn from others who have gone before you – why re-live their mistakes if you don’t have to?

First impressions count – a lot. Always be polite and professional to everyone from the receptionist to the HR representative… and even that random guy on the elevator. You never know who someone is or how they could help – or hurt – you later. For all you know, the random elevator man could be your interviewer or the receptionist may push the decision in your favor because she thought you were nice.

Don’t forget to interview them, too. Take a look around the office and keep in mind that this is your potential work environment for the next several years. Could you see your potential boss as a mentor? Can you picture yourself here making a meaningful contribution? If not, think twice about the job. You don’t want to be miserable for 1/3 of your waking hours every day.

That last point is pretty important, and the fact it was included is one of the reasons why I think This Way to CPA is a great resource for accounting students. A lot of the career advice out there in the big scary Internets focuses only on how awesome accounting is and how great it will be to work for a prestigious firm for a decent salary and learn all these great real-world skills that could potentially send you to exotic jungles just like the guy on the cover of the shiny recruiting brochures but how often do you hear "to thine own self be true" thrown out as a career suggestion? Just read through a page or two of our numerous "I hate my job and my life" career advice posts to see what happens when you get stuck at a firm that doesn't align with your goals, morals and desires. A miserable team and miserable management will make for a miserable start to your working life and no one wants that.

If only it were as easy as showing up to class, pulling decent grades, slapping together a halfway decent résumé, nailing an internship, getting an offer at a decent firm and living happily ever after. We all know that's not how it works, so better figure that out now before you turn into the "OH GOD PLEASE HELP ME" guy frantically emailing us looking for a way out a mere year into his career. Preparing for the realities and taking the above advice goes a long way to making your work life just a tad more tolerable, which can mean the difference between drinking yourself into oblivion every weekend and feeling a tiny bit of satisfaction that you chose the right path for your life.

Aren't you EXCITED?!