If you are a college student who wants a job in accounting or finance, make sure you have some work experience under your belt.
According to a new survey from Accountemps, 83% of chief financial officers (CFOs) interviewed said it is important for students to gain work experience in the field during their college years if they are hoping to compete for entry-level accounting and finance positions upon graduation.
“There is strong demand at all levels for skilled — and experienced — accounting and finance professionals today,” said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Managing Your Career For Dummies®. “While good grades used to be enough to land your first job, professional work experience has become increasingly critical for entry-level applicants in a competitive hiring environment.”
Here are six tips for college students on gaining industry experience — and making the most of those opportunities:
1. Seek internships. In addition to connecting with your college’s career center, research employers of interest, and tap mentors and professors for internship leads. Scour the big-name job boards, but also check niche career websites geared specifically toward accounting professionals or internship seekers.
2. Think beyond the dollar signs. While paid internships are no doubt appealing, don’t let money drive your search. Look for opportunities that will provide maximum exposure to a range of projects, experiences and connections.
3. Be a volunteer. Many organizations — from nonprofits to industry associations — need helping hands. Consider, for example, reaching out to community programs in your area that offer free income tax assistance to the needy or elderly. Seek volunteer opportunities that will give you a chance to strengthen skills most likely to boost your marketability.
4. Explore all your options. Temporary assignments enable you to gain real-world experience, get your foot in the door and demonstrate your potential. Some interim accounting and finance assignments lead to full-time job offers. Connect with a staffing firm in your area to learn more.
5. Take opportunities seriously. Don’t view yourself as “just an intern,” “volunteer” or “temp.” Treat each opportunity like a real job by adopting the mindset of a full-time employee. Closely observe how staff members interact and adapt your work style and behavior accordingly.
6. Stay in touch. After an internship or temporary assignment wraps up, be sure to write thank-you notes to anyone who helped or mentored you. Then, keep in close contact for the remainder of your schooling to better your odds of securing job leads, recommendations or even an employment offer.