As spring begins to turn into summer, so do students into graduates. Hopefully, part of their transformation will be to swiftly metamorphosis into a professional. Graduating from college can be monumental, scary, soul-numbing, disappointing, liberating, expensive and thrilling. By the time graduation finally rolls around, many students are eager to throw their cap towards the sky and move on. However, life beyond college is unpredictable, no matter how high your GPA or how well you mapped out your future.
As a true member of Generation X, I share a certain cynicism about the future, which is coated with a nagging passion to make it better. I am reminded of the quintessential Gen X film Reality Bites, which starts off with the valedictorian (Winona Ryder) giving the following graduation speech:
“And they wonder why those of us in our twenties, refuse to work an 80-hour week, just so we can afford to buy their BMWs; why we aren’t interested in the counterculture that they invented, as if we did not see them disembowel their revolution for a pair of running shoes. But the question remains…what are we going to do now? How can we repair all the damage we inherited? Fellow graduates, the answer is simple. The answer is…The answer is…I don’t know.”
Although this speech was poignant back in the 90’s (and the dream is alive in Portland), it is not exactly the inspiration I am seeking for newly accounting graduates. Therefore, I turn towards those who have made the successful transition from student to professional for their advice and guidance. Here are some of their golden nuggets of wisdom.
My advice to new accounting graduates is to keep your eyes and options open. There are such a wide variety of careers out there for you! Whether it is working in public accounting doing tax and/or auditing, or being part of the accounting team at a manufacturing, high-tech or service corporation, or volunteering your skills at a non-profit agency … go find an industry that you enjoy with people that challenge you. Good luck and Happy Accounting!” – Megan King (Associate, Fluence) class of 2001 Gonzaga University
Accept that school doesn’t fully prepare you for work, and that you will have a lot of on the job learning. Just take your first step into your career with an open mind, and a strong willingness to learn and grow as you take on new challenges.” – Rikki Amari (Tax Associate, KPMG) class of 2009: Portland State University
Get used to having no idea what you’re doing. Seek out an experienced mentor/buddy, somebody who will take a walk with you to get coffee and reassure that is in fact normal to be equal parts scared and exhilarated by your new position. Plan for your future. When you’re in the midst of sorting through exceptionally boring or unstructured data it can be hard to get motivated. Think about how developing that skill or understanding the process will help you get where you want to be, at your firm/company/agency or to the next place you want to go, wherever that may be. It may not make it fun, but it can make it useful. Delight in your mistakes. Figure out how to fix them and look at them as part of the learning process. Laugh about them, never be embarrassed when you screw up, everyone does.” – Alexis Fowlks (Staff Auditor, Oregon Secretary of State: Audit Division) class of 2011: Portland State University