Archives for Employment

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.

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.

Can you Identify a Fraudster?

Currently I am taking Professor Bradshaw‘s Fraud Examination class as an accounting elective. In the course we learned about the typical white-collar criminal and I believe most of us were surprised by the statistics. (I know I was!)

Maybe I have watched too many episodes of Law and Order: SVU, but I pride myself in being able to read others and anticipate who is the “bad guy” in a movie or TV show before it is revealed to the audience. Being able to read people is a valuable skill to have and, unfortunately, a necessary one because professionals in the workplace may not always be as honest as we hope they will be. In this respect, we cannot let stereotypes bias the way we view our colleagues and others in the professional environment.

Before discussing who is most likely to be a corporate fraudster, Professor Bradshaw prompted the class to describe the quintessential fraudster. In our minds, it would typically be the sinister looking professional who is either A) quiet and viewed to be anti-social or B) really aggressive. It is easy to convince yourself that the corporate “bad guys” are going to resemble the ones that you see in Hollywood dramas. However, statistically, the typical fraudster is not who you would expect.

Here are the characteristics of a typical corporate fraudster:

  • Male, aged 35+
  • Strong accounting/finance background and above average education
  • In a position of trust
  • Stable family/personal situation
  • Good psychological health
  • No criminal record

These characteristics, as Professor Bradshaw humorously pointed out, are more believable to be descriptive of the average McCombs professor, not a white collar criminal.

I would highly recommend Professor Bradshaw’s class if you are looking for an accounting elective to take! And remember to be wary in the workplace- the fraudster may not be who you most expect!

“It’s never the person you most suspect. It’s also never the person you least suspect, since anyone with half a brain would suspect them the most. Therefore I know the killer to be Phyllis, AKA Beatrix Bourbon, the person I most medium suspect.”
                                           -Dwight (during a Murder Mystery on The Office)

Recruiting Pep Talk

Be prepared- It is nerve racking coming into an event trying to make a good impression on an employer. Being prepared will ease your fears, and let you focus on what you are there to do. Being prepared goes farther beyond company research, being prepared means also know your own schedule and accommodating your recruiting events so you are not stressed about how much study time you are missing out on. Being prepared also means being sure on what the dress code is, where the event is, and how you plan on getting there, so you can show up on time and ready. Unfortunately, in both accounting and recruiting, the devil is in the details, and taking the time to account for them will help you not sweat the small stuff.

Be inquisitive- Ask lots of questions at these events. You have questions, and they have answers, so be sure to ask away. Asking questions about the work you are going to see as first year staff, advancement opportunities, training and mentorship programs, etc., shows you are serious about pursuing a career with the company.

Be eager- Every year, I see students at events for a firm they have firmly decided to not accept an offer that are completely disengaged and are making no attempt at hiding this decision. Even if you have decided to not go with a firm, if you find yourself at that firm’s event make an effort to seem be eager to be there because this network you establish in recruiting will follow you during your professional career. Not to mention recruiters talk to each other. In my experience, eagerness is the quality that translates to recruiters the most and is the hardest to fake. Recruiters remember people that are eager to be at their events.

Be professional- You will bond with recruiters, but remember they aren’t necessarily your friends. Avoid topics and language that would make a future employer hesitate to put you in front of a client. Again, remember that recruiters talk, so things can carry across firm lines.

Be yourself- This is the most important “Be” by far. The whole purpose of recruiting is to see where your personality and skill set will fit the best. It’s impossible to determine if you fit if you are not being yourself, and being whoever you think recruiters want you to be.