From Intern to Full-Time Accountant
For those of you in the end of your winter internship, this advice may not help you as the decision has most likely already been made. Below I’m going to cover the decision-making process, as well as some key things I would do to close the deal:
The Decision-Making Process
It’s important to remember that the entire internship is kind of an extended interview wherein clients, staff, managers, and partners are all evaluating you, every day. Talk about stressful! I remember my first week in training as an intern; it can be completely overwhelming, especially if you’ve never worked in an office before.
You should be excited about one thing: they expect you to know absolutely NOTHING when you start your internship. They’re expecting an empty glass and their goal is to have it overflowing in a few weeks to see how you handle the pressure of the experience. That’s why the podcast above on enthusiasm, curiosity, and not being weird is so important. It’s not about what you know, it’s about how you approach learning, struggles, client interaction, and being part of a team. It’s not any single event that determines whether or not you obtain the position; it’s a series of positive and recurring things you must do to ensure the offer. I like to use the baseball analogy:
Seldom does a grand slam win the game. It’s usually a consistent series of base hits that lead a team to victory.
Disclaimer: While there is no single event that can ensure you obtain the offer, there are many single events that could ensure you do not get the position. Here are a few that I have seen over the years:
- Drinking heavily at an event
- Drinking at an event and being under the age of 21
- One intern used the client’s parking lot over the weekend to go clubbing. When she returned to the garage, she realized she left her key card to enter the garage in the car. She then broke the garage door (all caught on tape) to get in her car. The client confronted the partner and the intern was fired.
- Playing Angry Birds (or another game during training)
While there are many more stories in addition to the above examples, most interns in large accounting firms do convert their internships to full-time positions. In my personal experience, over 95% do obtain full-time offers. However, if you’re like me, you DON’T want to leave it up to chance.
Now that we’ve covered some examples on how to ruin your internship, what can you do to increase your chances of getting the offer?
Always offer to help
Often times when you’re an intern, you are put on the busiest engagements to help out. With that being the case, the team can often be overworked, tired, and easily irritable.
The last thing they need is an intern who is more work to manage than what he or she produces. To make things feel easier to the team, take every opportunity you can to help. This doesn’t just mean helping with the actual work. Offer to pick up dinner, run by the office to pick up supplies, or grab the mail from the office for everyone on the team. You want to try to help make others' lives easier on a daily basis.
I would recommend privately asking team members what you can do almost on a daily basis. When you’re walking to lunch, sharing an elevator, or are the only two in the room early in the morning, ask how you can help. Taking care of these small administrative tasks can make a huge difference in the way you are perceived by the entire team.
Get in early
This can be a double-edged sword. As an intern it can be a burden to always be there early if you don't have much work to do. As soon as your supervisor arrives, you’re already asking questions. The way to get around this is to always make sure you have something to do. Keep a list of administrative tasks for HR, CPA application process, or anything for school and be ready to fill up your time if needed.
Bulk up questions
This is a very particular point, but it is imperative. Never go to the person you report to when you only have one question to ask. Try to bulk up 5-8 questions at a time, then sit down and go over them. You always want to keep a status on what you have completed, what you still need from the client or team, and what questions you have. You may talk with your team or the client more than 2-3 times per day, but try to minimize the number of times you ask questions and increase the number of questions per meeting. People will respect how prepared you are and that you don’t waste their time.
Smile and be ready for anything!
Internships are a ton of fun! You should be excited about this opportunity and the potential career you have with this company. Be willing to invest the time in doing any work, no matter how basic or repetitive it may be. This is your first grab on the job ladder. You won’t be doing this work forever, but you need to make sure you crush the easy stuff, are trusted by your team, and always add a level of enthusiasm to the room!
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Also keep in mind that converting your internship and getting promoted have many of the same goals and strategies with a few subtle differences.
If you haven’t checked out my work on getting promoted, see my three part series below, and check out How to Get Promoted.
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