So you have landed your first “vision board worthy” internship, congratulations! Internships are a great introduction to what the profession will feel like and the learning and networking opportunities are plentiful. Here are a few things to consider so that you maximize this internship to its full potential.
DO: Be Punctual
It is critical that you are always on time and prepared for work when interning. Showing up on time means that you are in your seat, logged in to software programs, and already caffeinated by your designated work time. If your firm does not give you an exact time to report to work for your internship, that does not necessarily mean that you can show up whenever you please. Follow the office trends to gauge when you should be in each day. Whatever time you are in, try to be consistent in your schedule. People should know an approximate time to expect you in the office each day even without a set schedule.
DON’T: Be a “Know it All”
If you are accustomed to being the most exceptional student and seizing every opportunity to showcase your knowledge , now is when you should dial back on that. Remember that as an intern you are one of the least experienced accountants in the firm. That is not to say that you cannot contribute in ways that are meaningful and substantive, because surely you can. Rather, you should focus less on showing off how much you already know and use this internship to develop new skills.
DO: Sit Down, Be Humble
Every day of your internship may not live up to the picturesque idea you had in mind. Of course you will have the opportunity to work on really fascinating projects. However, if a partner needs you to research a new piece of tax legislation or auditing standard, you should do so with a smile. Public accounting can be broad and while you may focus more on audit or tax, being flexible and well-rounded is an important part of the work. Never turn down a great learning opportunity or complain openly about the work you are given. It is fine to be honest when feedback is prompted, but I would discourage any complaining.
Do: Be productive
Many internships take place when accounting firms are in their slower seasons. There may be times when you finish up work early or simply have no work to do. I promise you this is not the time to catch up on your Facebook timeline. Instead, reach out to the people on your team and see if they have anything you can help with. If that search doesn’t turn up anything, check with the members of the administrative team and see if there are ways you can help them. If that doesn’t work, I assure you it is still not time for your Facebook feed. Once you have exhausted all options, now is a great time to browse the company intranet for any knowledge boosting information. You just may stumble across useful tutorials and training guides. Ultimately, you want to be using your time on the internship to prepare you for your accounting career.
Do: Ask Questions
You will have questions as you embark on your accounting journey. Do not be ashamed to ask questions, even on things you feel you should already know. It is expected that you will need some guidance and your team is there to help. It is ideal to have a designated person on your team to whom you can direct most of your questions. Understand that some people will be more welcoming to your questions than others, and that is fine. Do not allow your fear of asking for help interfere with you completing your work. Completing an entire project with no assistance is less impressive if the work is riddled with errors, so ask questions.
Do: Stay Encouraged
Not every internship will lead to a full-time job offer and that is okay. You may have a great resume, impressive technical and soft skills, and still not be the best fit for that firm. Unfortunately, your qualifications alone do not entitle you to a full-time job offer. While a job offer is nice and typically the goal of interning, you also gain experience and broaden your professional network. The community of public accounting is large but rather close-knit. If you had positive experiences and performed well during your internship, then it was not in vain. You should feel comfortable asking the partners or managers for letters of recommendation. If you have a strong attraction to one firm, don’t be defeated by rejection. I sought employment opportunities with my current firm on three different occasions before landing my job offer and it was well worth the extra effort.