Category Archives: Employment

3rd Year Lessons – Business Professional

If you were already a student of McCombs prior to entering the MPA program, you are probably already very familiar with the dress standards of McCombs and the degree of seriousness to which these dress standards are taken. If you’re like me, you joined the program from another university and had never dressed Business Professional in your life. I hope that you were able to blend in better than I did on orientation. I believe orientation was Business Casual. I wore white jeans. JEANS. I thought my sheer-ish chiffon shirt and heels were nice enough that a pair of hole-less white jeans were formal enough. Needless to say, I didn’t blend in very well amongst my peers of already-well-acclimated-McCombs students who all looked interview-ready in their blazers and slacks. I learned later that week in BA 101 that I had broken more than a handful of professional dress rules. The good news is that I think even the most lost souls have an understanding of these expectations by recruiting season (if you don’t feel like you’re there yet, go see Merri Su Ruhmann and ask her for one of her pamphlets, it saved me). The truth is, 3rd years typically live in Business Professional during their Spring semester. Because Business Casual is essentially Business Professional without a blazer, do yourself a favor and have more than one outfit on hand, and keep one clean at all times. If you’re a woman you are typically expected to wear heels. Please don’t kid yourself and think you will survive in heels all day. BRING YOUR TOMS, Nikes, bunny slippers or whatever it is that saves your feet. Just make sure you don’t hobble into your big interview on clearly suffering feet. Take your pants off as soon as you’re home and don’t put them on all weekend if you don’t feel like it, but your appearance really does matter significantly during that interview window. You will feel that you have been lucky to have been trained to look like a professional when you come across someone at a recruiting event who hasn’t been so lucky. This program really prepares us to be professionals in a way that will benefit our careers for years to come, if we allow it to.

Which impression would you like to make?

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A Little Recruitment Advice

Today’s blog is about recruitment. No, this isn’t recruitment for college football. No stopwatches and no campus visits to see the big game. No, this recruitment is for… wait for it… full time jobs! As daunting as this may sound, especially if you are considering joining the MPA program in the future, recruitment is an exciting time when, much like college football recruiting, you get to showcase your talents, network with the big leagues, get treated like a queen or king, and even get flown out to office visits in exotic locations such as Dallas or Austin! It is a very important time for all students who enter the program, and I would like to offer up three pieces of advice for the whole process.

gourmet fillet mignon steak at five star restaurant.1. Bring your appetite. For those of us who entered the program without full time jobs already secured, recruitment began before classes even started with a networking reception. The first part of the reception was a fancy dinner! Nothing says lets talk about work like a giant steak and potatoes! Then, after you start connecting with companies and applying for jobs, you get to go to interview pre-dinners! If you apply for four or five jobs, much like I did, then these dinners will be happening almost every night of the week for two or three weeks! And these dinners are NICE. We are treated to the nicest restaurants in Austin and you better bet your buttons that dinner will include an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert! Sometimes there may even be drinks! Just be cautious about how much you drink, because recruiters are making judgments from the moment they first meet you and you want to be careful about how you come off. THEN, if you make it to the office visits, you get to go to another nice dinner in the city of the office you are going for! Again, so much steak, fish, chocolate cake, peanut butter pie. Everything is just delicious and you just keep eating and eating and eating! I think that with all of these meals, the recruiters are testing your ability to eat because as future accountants, we will always be having lunches with clients or dinners with our audit team or late night snacks with our audit team or even later night snacks… with our audit team. They just want to make sure you can handle all that food!

2. Don’t let the perceptions of others interfere with your perceptions of a company. This was something that I struggled with a lot throughout the recruiting process. I would go to a recruiting event and absolutely love the people I met, but one of my friends might have not meshed well with the people or the company. This is okay and it will happen, I guarantee it. Everyone is different, and everyone is going to view the people and culture of a firm differently. You just have to make sure that others’ perceptions don’t get in the way of your own perceptions. You need to decide where you fit in best and what people you can really see yourself with, because it’s going to be you who is working there, not your friends.

No Limits Sign3. Do not limit yourself. Coming into this program, I was convinced that I had to do audit or tax, much like most people who major in accounting. However, after just beginning the program, it became very clear that our options were indeed limitless, so why not explore every option. I went to industry nights and learned about jobs with Intel and Google. I also learned about jobs with oil and gas companies. I even explored consulting and advisory within the Big 4. Just know that you are not limited in this program. If you really want to work in a certain industry, then pursue that option. Advice number 3: Do not limit yourself.

Now the recruiting process is over! We all have our jobs, and are all very excited. Take time to celebrate with your fellow MPAs. You deserve it! Nothing feels better than being excited about your future job and knowing that the sky’s the limit!

Orientation, Recruiting, and Easy Tiger

Things have been quite busy for us MPAs these last few weeks between the close of summer classes, orientation, recruiting events, and the start of the fall semester. With the kickoff of fall classes comes OCR deadlines, employer information sessions, and mock interviews in the next week or so. Some tMPAs have already had actual interviews and before we know it, we will be receiving offers even though we officially started school just one week ago!

Despite the hustle and bustle, I managed to find some time to explore Austin. Most notably, I checked out Mozart’s on the lake (stunning lake view, tasty coffee drinks, and delicious pastries), relaxed on the rooftop of 219 West (great view of downtown and tasty drinks of another variety), saw the kickoff football game versus North Texas (burnt orange everywhere; we won!), and most recently explored Easy Tiger.

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Easy Tiger is a unique space that combines bakery and beer garden in a way only Austin could. When you enter the building, you are first presented with their bakery counter that serves house-made breads, pretzels, sausages, and corned beef. You can see straight back into the bakery itself and watch the magic in action. If you proceed downstairs, you find yourself in their dining and bar area where they have a large selection of craft beers, wines, spirits, cheeses, sandwiches, etc. Go through the back door and you are on their outdoor patio that straddles Waller Creek. There are walkways and bridges around the creek that are fun to wander around. Easy Tiger is right on the edge of “dirty sixth” where it turns into east sixth and is a low key and welcome alternative to the nearby offerings of sixth street. I will be going back for the bread, chai tea, and the outdoor atmosphere.IMG_9108

What is a CFP?

Too often we find ourselves in a certain track, not realizing there are other paths out there also worth exploring. Accounting students are prone to this mentality with so many thinking that a CPA is the only certification worth pursuing. While this may undeniably be the Holy Grail for accounting, there are other worthwhile careers like a Certified Financial Planner or CFP that is also worth looking into. My fellow MPA student Brooks Butler has written some on this topic but I’d like to delve deeper into this particular certification, especially since we just had a speaker talk about that in our most recent MPAC General Assembly Meeting.

Mr. Pilgrim and I

CFP is a certification for those who are looking to help clients, mostly individuals and families secure their financial future. Mr. Alan Pilgrim, coordinator for the UT Professional Development Center, visited with MPAC this week and likened the profession to that of a doctor-patient relationship. A CFP is someone who helps clients in planning their finances for life events, such as having kids, paying for school, saving for retirement, etc. With the recent financial crisis in 2008 and the marketing push initiated by the CFP Board, this role has never been more important. Mr. Pilgrim asserted that this profession would be in the top five in demand careers in the next decade, especially when you consider the retiring baby boomers needing help with their finances.

There are a few caveats to a CFP, however. First, as eager as MPA students may be to jump in this opportunity, the profession and the clientele mostly reward seasoned folks. Those with significant work experience will succeed and our young age right now, according to Mr. Pilgrim, is not going to be an advantage. This is understandable because I wouldn’t trust a 21-year old with my retirement nest egg, assuming that I have one. Nonetheless, I think it is important to be aware of this, because the demand for CFP is only going to get higher and this would be an excellent opportunity 10 or 15 years down the road.

Second, with more women handling the family’s finances, Mr. Pilgrim also observed that women CFPs have become even more in demand. Given the highly personal nature of the profession, it is not far-fetched to expect clients to be able to relate to their advisors, especially the ones helping with their finances. There’s a lot of client interaction in this profession, so solid relationship building skills are absolutely imperative.

All in all, I think a CFP is a rewarding career because at the end of the day it is about helping people. It is about creating a financial security for clients and lending one’s expertise so that they may live the life they envision for themselves. The good news for us accountants is that this is a path we can take and it’s not about collecting an alphabet soup of letters just because. One has to really examine whether a certification is suitable for one’s goals and ambitions. Because in the final analysis whether it is a CPA or a CFP or something else, it is about the value we derive from it.

Food for Thought

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is all of the delicious food. In honor of that, I have decided to offer you all some food…for thought. This sugar free, zero calorie advice is for all of the third years heading into recruiting season, fourth years ready to tackle their internships, and anyone else interested in career prospects as an MPA student.

Public accounting is not a prerequisite for success – Public accounting is a fantastic option, and I highly recommend that MPAs recruit for an internship in this industry if they are interested. However, I have heard of far too many students accepting a full time offer in public simply because they wanted the firm name and experience on their resume. They disliked the work and envisioned a very short-term career in the position, but they felt that it would open doors and allow them to pursue other opportunities in the future. I strongly disagree with this attitude; I feel that you will have more opportunities in the future if you can talk about work experience you genuinely enjoyed and were invested in. Furthermore, work consumes the best part of your day, and you don’t want to spend that time hating your work and regretting your decision. If you are not excited about the prospect of an internship during recruiting season, or if you do not enjoy your internship, don’t do it. There are countless other opportunities available to MPA students, which leads me to my next point…

MPA students are not limited to accounting – You build up a very strong knowledge base in accounting from the MPA program, and this obviously will be an asset in any accounting career. However, it also makes you attractive to industry, consulting, finance, public service, and many other employers that are looking for candidates with strong critical thinking and research skills. I received full time offers for industry, consulting, and financial services positions because of my MPA experience, not in spite of it. A director at a financial services firm I recruited with put it best when he said, “We prefer to hire accounting students because we know we can teach you finance and you will pick up quickly. It’s much harder to teach a non-accounting student accounting concepts.” Ultimately, though, the most important piece of advice I can offer is…

Do what makes you happy – Incredibly cliche, but so true. As you recruit, you are going to find that everybody has an opinion about different firms and career paths. Your friends. Your parents. Professors. Acquaintances. Random drunk people you meet at parties. You’ve got to block all of that out and make a decision based on what you want. Others may perceive certain companies or jobs to be more prestigious or impressive, but they are not the ones that will be working there. While Company XYZ may impress people at your high school reunion, the fleeting glory doesn’t really seem worth it when the tradeoff is spending 40+ hours per week in a job you dislike.

The job search is stressful in many ways, but it is also fun. Never again will you have access to hundreds of incredible employers right at your fingertips through OCR or career fairs specially planned for you, so take advantage of this time. Explore different opportunities, talk to as many company representatives as possible, and identify what you value in a career. This research and reflection will help you make the right decision.