ASU Grad Student Discusses Accounting Internships

Today’s blog post is written by one of the Career Development Center’s Career Information Officers, Christopher Carpenter, who interviewed an accounting graduate student here at Appalachian.  Enjoy her insights on internships and general career advice!

Uzenski

Today I’ll be writing about my interview with Grace Uzenski, an accounting graduate student at Appalachian State University. Grace received her undergraduate degree from Appalachian and somehow was able to do a total of THREE internships: two audit accounting internships with Cherry Bekaert, LLP and one tax accounting internship with Grant Thornton, LLP, all based out of Charlotte, NC.

Grace’s first two summers off from school were spent working in the accounting department for a packaging company, but the experience was not what she was looking for in a career, so she sought out the advice of one of her accounting professors. Grace tells me, “Dr. Brackney told me about leadership programs and I participated in one between my junior and senior year of college.” It was actually this conference that lead to Grace’s first internship with Cherry Bekeart, LLP. When asked what aspect of the internship she enjoyed most, Grace answered,

“The work, the people, the learning. All of that. I know that’s strange but I just loved getting to work with my co-workers on projects that were initially way above my head. The whole process allows for so much learning, and it was a pleasure to go from the beginning of the experience, where all of the material was brand new, to the end of the process when I was able to really contribute to projects and ask intelligent questions. It was a pleasure working with everyone that I encountered and I’m convinced that I learned something, be it crucial or seemingly trivial, from everyone I worked with.”

I’m sure we all would love some obviously relevant, on-the-job learning opportunities in areas that we are genuinely interested in.

I then asked Grace what, if anything, did she learn about herself through her experiences, and she said,

“I learned that it is important to laugh through the more difficult parts of your day. There will be days when the client is being difficult, or the problem in front of you is just baffling, and you won’t know where to start. Those are the times when it is most important to turn to your peers to find some relief. They will either help you get started on your problem, or share anecdotes about their own experiences. Regardless, everyone is in it together and they all understand that you have a million and one questions to ask. Ask them! It’s worth it.”

Grace brings up an excellent point here and offers spot-on advice.

When companies hire interns, they expect the individual to know very little about the day-to-day operations and how to handle all the different situations that come up. Companies want their interns engaging and asking questions. The interns that sit there twiddling their thumbs or staring at a computer screen hoping the answer will just present itself don’t get offered full-time positions. Don’t believe me? Just ask any one of the dozen recruiters that are constantly visiting our campus; they expect questions, too.

Every internship has its surprising aspects. Grace explains, “I was surprised by how quickly it flew by! When you’re finally out there doing the work that you’ve been learning throughout your college career, a twelve-hour day feels like three hours and the days just fly by. That might wear off after a couple of months of busy season hours, but it was still pretty exciting.” Which sounds to me like an excellent surprise.

Grace has already provided such great advice, but given that she did manage to do three internships, I asked if she had any additional advice to offer. Grace told me,

“Get to know your professors! If you’re going to them for questions, that’s excellent and they love that. If you feel confident about the subject matter, go ask them something else about their career in accounting, or any recommendations they have for your plan. They are here to help you, and thanks to my excellent professor, I was able to get a foot in the doorway sooner than is typical for other accounting majors. Work hard, study harder, and reach out to your teachers and your peers.”

Sometimes it’s difficult for us to realize that our professional network begins with our professors- Excellent advice from someone who has had success.

As Grace storms into the accounting profession, I had to know what was next for her. She told me, “I will be starting in the Fall of 2015 as a tax associate in Grant Thornton’s Charlotte office, once I finish with grad school.” Which was actually where she did her third internship. I’m sure we are all very thankful for Grace sharing her experience and wisdom and wish her luck in her future career.

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