3 Ways an Internship Will Benefit Your Career
By Fatema Raza, CPA, WithumSmith+Brown, PC –
August 28, 2018
Landing an accounting internship can be one of the best things you can do for your career. Internships allow you to learn a lot about a firm in a short period of time so you can determine if the firm is the right fit for you … and the best part is most accounting internships are paid. You should apply as early as possible and intern at more than one place so you can get the feel for multiple work environments and cultures. Here are a few ways that internships can help you long term:
- Develop lifelong mentors and friends. One of the best parts of internships is developing relationships with mentors as well as your peer group. Most firms will assign you a mentor, but it is up to you to develop and leverage the relationship. Ask as many questions as you can. Often, your assigned mentor may only be a few years older than you, so their internship experiences are still fresh. Most mentors are thrilled to share their experiences and be able to mentor someone below them. At the end of your internship, it makes a great impression if you send a handwritten thank-you note. In the nine years that I’ve worked in public accounting, I’ve received one handwritten thank you, and I still have it saved.
- Gain experiences. Most public accounting firm staff work long hours during busy season, and many firms hold fun activities and events. At Withum, we have a foosball tournament and a shuffleboard tournament. The interns are always asked to play. This is a great opportunity to get to know the partners in a very informal environment. Activities like this are a great opportunity for interns to shine. Be outgoing and show your personality. The work that CPAs do is pretty consistent, but when you ask accountants why they stay where they currently work, most of them will say it’s the people and relationships they’ve formed.
- Expand your knowledge. You will gain as much or as little as you want from your internship. I interned twice in public accounting and once in private. During my public accounting internship, I was able to work on everything from tax returns to audits and various different industries including manufacturing, real estate and not-for-profit just to name a few. I worked with many different in-charges, managers and even partners. Once I started full time, I had an advantage over the other new hires because I was a familiar face around the office. People thought I was more experienced, and that allowed me the opportunity to take on more engagements. Interns in accounting are usually assigned work that a staff I would be assigned. Internships provide you with real-world, hands-on experience in something that you will be doing when you start full time. Plus, you will always have a great support system around you with an in-charge and manager so you won’t feel overwhelmed. If you are willing to stay late to help the team finish a project, that is definitely something that will be noticed.
CPA firm typically hire their entry-level staff from their intern pools, so it is good to get as much exposure as possible. Start looking for internships in the spring semester of your sophomore year. Most firms will offer a summer internship to sophomores. This will allow you to then also be able to intern the following fall and spring semesters. Start attending college career fairs to get a feel for the type of firm or private accounting job you think you will be interested in. The New Jersey Society of CPAs holds an annual career night every fall which is free to NJCPA student members. Take advantage of the NJCPA website as well; there are many valuable tools and resources.
Fatema Raza, CPA, is a senior manager with Withum. She is a member of the NJCPA.