You might have heard the phrase, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” What I learned from my prolonged and exhausting trip last week while traveling for an AICPA workshop is my attempt at making a cup of tasty lemonade.
My original plan was to fly from Washington DC to Chicago to Austin. I would be arriving around 10 pm on Saturday and the next day I could study for a Monday exam. Everything was great.
But it did not go like that, at all. I ended up arriving in Austin at 10 pm on Sunday night and cramming at the last minute before the exam.
What happened was the flight from Washington DC to Chicago was delayed, so I did not catch the flight from Chicago to Austin. The flight was rescheduled to 11 am on Sunday and I end up staying in Chicago for one night. Next day in front of the gate, I found out the rescheduled flight was cancelled. After calming myself down, I called and booked the earliest flight available, which was on Monday afternoon. When I asked the agent for a hotel voucher, she said there was none but she offered to fly me from Chicago to Nashville to Dallas to Austin, arriving at 10 pm on Sunday. Weighing costs and benefits, I went with the latter choice (already thinking like an accountant!).
Things I learned:
If you are traveling for a job interview, keep the interviewers’ contact information handy (both in your phone and on paper), in case you need to inform them unexpected delays.
Always be nice and calm when talking to agents (especially when you wear a longhorn shirt). Being mad at them does not mitigate the problem. First of all, delays and cancellation are not their fault. More importantly, your emotional arguments could distract them from finding the optimal solution for you.
Be firm on your rights.Know your rights and the company’s obligations in unexpected flight delays or cancellations. Reading the company’s official website or 3rd party forums could be helpful.
Technical side: download the documents you want to review on the laptop when you have internet, in case you cannot find access at the airport. Also, buy a portable battery charger for your phone. Outlets can be hard to find and you might forget your phone in the charging station.
The bottom line: prepare for everything, expect nothing.
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.
Life is full of decisions. In fact, every hour and every minute is composed of miniature ones that we subconsciously make. While some are intuitive, others require long and serious analysis to guide the next course of action. It is these critical decision points that give us pause and rightfully so. As recruiting season for full-time opportunities reaches its denouement, the next phase of decision-making starts. This is where everything comes together.
To choose one opportunity over others is tough. It is not easy considering all the factors that come into play. I find it interesting that in this kind of soul-searching process, money, though relevant, is not the main driver of my decision. It sure helps, but more important than that is the question of future opportunities, ambitions, and caliber of experience.
For lack of a better illustration, I think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and place special emphasis on the top three tiers: Self-actualization, Self-esteem, and Belongingness. In order to make sense of this big decision, I find myself asking the following ten questions (in no particular order): 1) Where do I see myself in 5, 10, or 15 years? 2) Where do I want to live? 3) What are the benefits like? 4) What kind of corporate culture would I like to be in? 5) Does the firm share the same values I have? 6) Did I like the people I visited and those I have met? 7) What kind of training will I receive? 8) Are there opportunities to travel? 9) How can this experience help me get to the next level? 10) How does the position fit in to my story?
It is important to look far enough down the road that the immediate role in front of me matters, but not too far that I can’t see how this decision can lead to what I envision.
What I realize in this exercise is that as much as I have devoted time in getting to know several companies, I am also learning more about myself, my interests, and personal goals. It is interesting how it comes full circle. Through this process, I have had to revise some of my plans and reassess earlier assumptions. So far, I have visited quite a few firms and I am really glad for these opportunities. Though it won’t be an easy one, I’m looking forward to making a decision in the next few weeks and use exactly this framework I’ve laid out. Choosing the next step after graduate school is certainly my next crossroads.
Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a matchFind me a find, catch me a catch
It is hard not to be reminded of this classic song as recruiting season heats up. Though Fiddler on the Roof was referring to a marital arrangement, I think the analogy still holds true with recruiting. At the end of the day, it is about how a candidate fits with the firm culture and whether a relationship can blossom. This is one thing that I have noticed employers emphasize more and more during interviews. The main question is whether our values and personality align with theirs.
I like to think about this exercise as a search for our perfect match. If only there was a Match.com or E-harmony website we can use to help us in this quest, recruiting can be much easier. One only has to look at the number of personality matches and boom we have a match and a 90% chance that the relationship would end up in a lifelong state of happiness. But, there is none.
What I am finding out is that as much as I am learning about future employers, I’m also realizing things about myself, my career goals, the kinds of people I want to work with, and my passion. Just like any serious relationships, I am looking for folks I like and whose company I enjoy. In short, I am looking for my perfect match.
I am reminded of an advice I heard in a career panel once. The question many students ask in deciding which firms to apply to is how the first few years are going to look like. The representative commented on how myopic this perspective is and how much better of a question it is to ask how one sees himself/herself in the firm in 5, 10, 15, 20 years. His point is that finding the right fit, the right people, and the right match to our values can make us happier in our careers in the long run. Putting all factors aside, the crux of the matter is whether chemistry exists between us and the firms or not.
What a relief it is to realize this! Passing an opportunity becomes not so much because of inadequacies but simply a difference in nature and there’s nothing wrong with that. Ultimately, we’re looking for the firm that complements us. This takes the stress of recruiting away and encourages us to simply be at ease with who we are. After all, our personality is our greatest asset and the best matchmaker we have. Now, that is something we can definitely sing about.
When I came to MPA, it was with the knowledge that our Career Services team was top notch, and that employers actively sought students from the program. The fact that the program makes us so much more employable and desirable to employers was a big selling point for me.
What I was surprised by, however, was how quickly that process started. Before orientation, I met with Vinh in Career Services to go over my resume and get some guidance. At orientation, we jumped right in with a great networking event (in particular, the employer “speed dating” was really cool) followed by an MPA career fair. The MPA program uses a fairly robust system for connecting students to employers, including resume submission and interview scheduling.
Less than two weeks after the start of the semester I saw resume deadlines for some employers. The Big 4 recruiting process is particularly involved, so it pays to be on the ball with the recruiting system. I’m in the middle of the recruiting process now, and it does take some effort to stay up to date. At orientation, it stuck in my mind that we should think of recruiting as another 3-hour course. That seemed like an exaggeration, but it’s not. Between writing cover letters, attending information sessions, meeting with employers, interviewing, office visits, and the various other aspects, it’s really true. On one hand, it can be pretty overwhelming to balance classes, extracurriculars and recruiting, but on the other hand, it’s worth the time because this is the job I’ll have after graduation.
I’ve had a couple restless nights thinking about recruiting, but I’ll sleep easy once that work pays off and those offers start coming in.
I can’t guarantee a joke every post, but I do have another one:
Did you hear about the chairman who hated meetings?