An internship is like trying before you buy. It is probably why many professions encourage students to take internships before they graduate. The realities of day-to-day work experiences may reinforce your career decision or cause you to change majors.
With that in mind, how can you make your internship a great one? Look for these things in your accounting firm internship experience. Ask questions. Be open to new things. Make friends. But first, you need to apply.
Applying for Internships
Accounting and advisory firms that offer internships will begin to advertise the application several months in advance. Many firms hire interns for the busy spring tax season, but others will offer spring, summer or fall internship opportunities.
Some internships stipulate undergraduate students while others are open to newly graduated students. Make sure to read the guidelines carefully and plan the timing of your application to coincide with your class and work schedule.
Don’t wait until the last minute to submit your application. Do visit the firm’s website and social channels to learn about the firm before you apply. Do find out how much the internship pays and how many hours are required. (If you have to work elsewhere during your internship to make ends meet, find out if the firm will accommodate that schedule.)
Explore Career Options
Some accounting firm internships will move you around to different departments during your time there. You may work primarily in audit or tax but ask about other departments such as IT or an advisory services group. You could conduct informational interviews about those positions in the firm, too.
By exploring different aspects of accounting firm jobs, you will learn that the work goes beyond debits and credits and is more about client relationships and problem solving.
Ideally, your internship experience will allow you to meet clients, attend internal planning meetings or shadow a team member during a prospect call. Look for opportunities to witness all aspects of operating an accounting firm and serving clients.
Get Training and Job Contacts
Your internship program should not leave you at a desk with nothing to do. You may be asked to run errands sometimes, but most of the time your work should match what accountants do in real life. Look for internships that promise training as well as opportunities to apply your skills.
The best internships assign you a mentor or cohort leader to guide your daily work. This professional will actively participate in the intern training and work review. You should feel comfortable coming to this person for questions and guidance. Ask them for feedback and ask them what it’s like to build a career in accounting.
At the end of your internship, you should feel confident in the contacts you have developed at the firm. Participate in any internship surveys or feedback requests after your internship ends. This helps the firm make its program better.
Your internship experience should be fun. Whether you are invited to lunch or to a community volunteer activity, make the most of these events to get to know more professionals. Often, social activities are the best way to see if you like the firm’s culture. Relax and make friends.
Stay in touch with the people you meet. They can help you prepare for the job hunt with guidance and encouragement.
Learn more about internships and careers at LvHJ. Our California accounting firm is dedicated to mentorship and teamwork to serve nonprofits, affordable housing developers and closely held businesses.