By Theresa Lee, CPA
After graduation and a well-earned vacation, it is the time of year when recent accounting graduates join the workforce and public accounting firms have classes of their newest associates starting. Here are a few Dos and Don’ts to help you have a successful start to your career:
Do: Ask questions. Learn from your peers, the staff who are one year above you, your seniors, managers and partners. Try to ask questions to the appropriate level and think through your questions before you ask them. You will learn a lot by thinking through how you would approach an issue and then having your supervisor explain how their resolution is different.
Don’t: Complain. Every accounting role comes with long hours depending on the time of month or year. Keep a good attitude. Trust me, not one of your supervisors wants to be at work at 10pm. And absolutely no one wants to be at work at 10 p.m. with a team member who complains about working late. You are all in this together and keeping a good attitude keeps the team moving with less distraction.
Do: Select the correct method of communication to get your message and the tone across. Learn how your company uses in-person meetings, phone calls, e-mail, and IM for various purposes. Also consider your audience when communicating.
Don’t: Take offense when you receive review comments. You are new and have a lot to learn from on-the-job experience. The person who gave you those comments can do the work themselves much faster but choose to take the time to leave review comments, wait for you to clear the comments and bring up questions, and then check that the comments were cleared properly. Review comments are a teaching method. Should you really complain about your supervisor investing time and effort in your professional development?
Don’t: Be “that” guy or girl at the company happy hour. Participate in company and department events, especially charitable events and sports teams, but do not be the person who has one too many. Try ordering a drink you don’t like so you can maintain the appearance of participating in happy hour while remaining in control.
Do: Admit when you make a mistake. Bring it to the attention of your supervisor immediately and in a professional manner. This means laying out the facts, the impact of the mistake, and proposing a plan to fix it. Everyone makes mistakes. Strong performers know how to communicate their mistakes and address them before they become problems.
Don’t: Get overwhelmed with work, put your head down, and try to work through the night to finish your growing to-do list. Ask your supervisor or mentor for help prioritizing your work. If something takes you significantly longer than you think it should, you are probably spinning your wheels. Stop and ask for help.
Do: Volunteer to help out, even if you have no idea how to do the work or it is a mundane task. This is a great way to learn something new and show your initiative. Mundane work has to get done and you will stand out for your good attitude and willingness to help the team. You might even get picked to work on the next exciting project. Hard work does pay off.
Theresa Lee, CPA, is a certified public accountant and a lead accountant in AOL’s Advertising Revenue department. She has an master's in business administration in finance from The George Washington University and a bachelor's in business administration in Accounting from James Madison University. She has six years of experience in public accounting performing audits of technology, government contracting, and private equity clients and two years of experience in internal audit prior to joining AOL. She lives in Reston with her husband.