If you have an accounting internship coming up or are planning to land one in your undergraduate career, you may not know exactly what to expect. So we talked to a few students, both recent graduates and undergrads, who told us all about their recently completed internships with public accounting firms in their area.
Mallory Dillman from Baker Tilly tells us about the importance of doing a full vs. part-time internship, what her favorite thing about interning was, and why getting this experience before graduating is such a crucial part of professional development.
1. What were you looking for in an internship opportunity?
I was looking to gain accounting experience and put what I learned in the classroom into use in the real world. I really wanted to just get hands on experience in the accounting field.
2. Why did you apply for an internship at Baker Tilly?
I had driven past it so many times on my way to school. I’m from Green Bay, so when I go to Appleton, I see it all the time. So when I was applying, I learned more about them and knew they would be a good firm to work for.
3. What was the internship program like?
The internship lasted from January 3-April 18. I spent one week at the bigger office in Madison training for audit, and received one- on- one tax training at my local office. I also really enjoyed being trained on the software we’d be using, because that’s half of what I interacted with. Day-to-day, I completed whole or partial tax returns depending on how busy it was throughout. I received a ton of accounting experience and didn’t expect to be doing full blown audits by myself during my internship. But it was a good surprise.
4. What is your favorite aspect about interning at your firm?
The fact that they let me go out in the field on audits. I got to be super hands on and speak with clients and ask them questions. I feel like some firms wouldn’t let you get that type of exposure in your first year, so I really enjoyed it.
5. What did you find to be the most valuable experience during your internship? Why?
When I made mistakes or had special projects, because my manager took those times as times to reach out to me and teach me more about auditing and about accounting in general. I felt like when those moments came up, I had more one- on- one time with upper management, which was very valuable and insightful.
6. What was the most difficult part of your internship experience? Why?
Feeling like I didn’t know enough the entire time. As a college student, I’m used to being graded at everything I do. Transitioning that to a CPA firm without prior knowledge was difficult to say the least! But everyone here was very helpful and said I was doing fine and good work—it’s just hard to find validity when there was nothing I could pull from my past to compare it to!
7. If you could go back and change one thing about your internship experience, what would it be?
I would want to start with corporate tax first. I started with audit and fell in love with it. So when I went to tax, although I liked it, I didn’t feel as passionately about it. If I had switched, I always wonder if I’d feel differently. People always say that you’ll know immediately which area you’d prefer and I always thought that it was tax for me. However, this internship proved me wrong!
8. How has interning affected your personal and professional life?
Personally, I now know I have what it takes to become a CPA and make it through busy season. Professionally, I landed a job with Baker Tilly full time! It’s great to know that after graduation, I have a full time job waiting.
In addition, the connections I made at this firm are invaluable. Speaking with the CFO, controller, and everyone at the firm has helped me tremendously because I feel like I have a strong, supportive network.
9. Why do you think internships are important?
Because you definitely need accounting experience before you jump into it head first. Accounting is both private and public. Some people hate private and want to do public, or want to go to a company and be a controller there. Internships help you figure out what side of accounting you want to be on.
In addition, in my case, having an internship helped me land a job with a firm. A lot of the times, they lead to full-time opportunities which can really help you get a jump start on your career.
10. What’s your best piece of advice for those looking to land internship opportunities?
Get involved in things you’re passionate about, like intermurals. And they don’t always have to be accounting related. During my interview, they looked a lot at who I was outside of school and what my life experience was. They’re also looking for leadership positions and qualities you have.
Lastly, if you have the opportunity to take a full time internship vs. a part time one, do it! You’ll get so much more out of it. The hours and days are very different. Because I was full time, I got to go out in the field and complete audits fully, versus part time where you only do little projects on audits and don’t get the full experience.
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