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Recent accounting grad and job search challenges

Q: I graduated in May with a degree in accounting and am struggling badly trying to find a job. I don't know exactly what I am doing wrong or what to do next. Advice?

A: Congratulations on your degree! Don’t despair. Let’s focus on some action steps that you can take to hopefully improve your job search.

- Get connected with your career services office at your college. Often the career services offices will have jobs posted by both local and national employers.
- Consider temporary or contract work. There are many firms that specialize in accounting. Shop around to find one that best meets your needs.
- Create a profile on LinkedIn. Join accounting related groups on LinkedIn. Start connecting with folks, former classmates, professors, friends and neighbors on LinkedIn.
- Research Meetup. Meetup.com is an online tool that connects people with common interests from cooking to technology. You can enter accounting into their search engine and see if there is a group that might be meeting soon.
- Join a professional association. Some to consider are The American Accounting Association (www.aaahq.org), The Massachusetts Association of Public Accountants (www.mapaweb.org) and the National Society of Accountants (www.nsacct.org).
- Make sure that your resume is clear, crisp and presents your education and work experience effectively.
- Network, network and then network some more. Your goal should be 2 in-person meetings per day. Coffees in the morning and an ice tea in the afternoon. Translation – you don’t have to pick up the tab for two meals per day for two people. A cup of coffee is more affordable than a meal! You should offer to pick up the tab if someone takes time out of their schedule to meet you for an hour. Offer to pay. They don’t have to accept but offer to pay. It is a nice gesture and demonstrates that you are a professional!
- Develop a 1-2 minute elevator speech. It should include who you are, a summary of your education and work experience and some information on what type of role you hope to land.
- Look at job boards but don’t spend your entire day searching online. I often advise job seekers to limit themselves to two hours per day on job boards. Many find that limit helpful.

I also consulted James Elgart, Chief Financial Officer of Cambridge Biomarketing in Cambridge, MA. Elgart’s advice:

My suggestion for recent graduates in accounting is to look for opportunities in public accounting. If the larger firms are not “biting”, don’t dismiss regional and even smaller CPA firms. Gaining experience in public accounting will provide a real opportunity to roll up the sleeves and get a taste of a lot of different areas within accounting (e.g., individual taxes, business taxes, audits, etc.). Getting exposure to the functional areas within accounting is important. Ultimately, you will gravitate to those areas where you demonstrate competence and hopefully enjoy the challenges offered.

Further, Elgart advises to explore the requirements to be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Although it requires significant effort, it is a differentiator on a resume. Becoming a “CPA candidate”, qualifies you to become a student member of the Massachusetts Society of CPAs (www.mscpaonline.org). Lastly, Elgart recommends to keep up-to-date on QuickBooks and other technologies and software.

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