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by Vault Careers | July 29, 2015


After graduation, most students assume their lives will drastically change as they transition from a college classroom into their careers of choice. After starting work, however, they may be surprised to find the number of ways life does not change. Many skills, habits and routines learned or experienced in school apply in the professional world. In fact, by approaching an accounting career as a student, one can not only survive, but thrive in the industry. Here are five lessons learned in the classroom that can help accounting professionals throughout their careers.


1. Take Notes

School supplies like pens and paper should be the first things you stock in your desk. Keep them on-hand at all times because you never know when you will need to jot something down. You would be surprised at how easily you can forget information or instructions during the walk from a conference room back to your cubicle.

Taking notes can eliminate asking questions more than once. Instead of asking someone to repeat an answer, you may ask someone to clarify an answer, which is a much better use of time. Your notes can be one of your most valuable resources giving you a reference, which can be particularly helpful if you don’t begin to work on a project immediately.


2. Embrace Group Projects

By choosing a career in accounting, you chose an industry that relies on group projects. A team consisting of coworkers, clients or both will work with you on every assignment. Working well with others is important professionally because your level of compensation and consideration for promotions can depend on your performance in group projects. Plus, you create endless opportunities for yourself as you will always be in demand if others trust you and enjoy working with you. The rewards of a successful group project in the office go far beyond any "A" you received in school.


3. Choose a Major

Just as you chose a major in school, it can be beneficial to choose a specialty as you grow in your career. Each client assignment offers a "class" on its industry, structure, size, etc. Learn from those “classes” and identify areas that interest you. 

It’s important to take the time to think about why you enjoy particular projects, and keep an eye out for ones that seem similar. Finding your niche within the accounting industry can help you grow professionally and make your work more fulfilling.


4. Get Involved 

Nearly all colleges have an abundant amount of opportunities for campus involvement. These are found everywhere – in instructor announcements, e-newsletters and even on the walls of restroom stalls. After college, this abundance of opportunities may disappear but opportunities for involvement in your community do not.

Staying involved and active in extracurricular activities can provide endless networking opportunities as well as a sense of fulfillment that your career may not always offer. No matter what you involve yourself in, finding ways to use your time and talents outside of the workplace will build relationships and boost confidence.


5. Learn 

Right now, entry-level associates probably know about 0.1 percent of everything they will need to know throughout their careers. Every day, you will learn new things – about accounting, technology, industries, working with others, and yourself. Take in as much as you can, and use this new information to move forward in your career and your life. 

All professionals, from recent college graduates to CFOs of Fortune 500 companies, are still students. Having been students for the last 20-plus years, recent graduates have a competitive advantage.

School may not have given you all of the information needed for your career; much of this comes from on-the-job experience. However, it did give you all of the tools needed for your success. Just as you did in school, strive to understand new concepts. Embrace what others can teach you. Get involved. Ask questions.

Keep being a student.


Emily Baird is an Associate at MarksNelson LLC, an accounting and business advisory firm committed to working with clients to safeguard and grow their businesses. The firm provides a variety of services including Assurance, Accounting Services and Business Advisory, Business Valuation, Consulting, Cost Segregation, Employee Benefit Plan Audits, Litigation Support, Forensic Accounting, International Tax, State and Local and Tax Services.  MarksNelson has significant accounting and business advisory experience in the auto dealership, construction, insurance, manufacturing, distribution and real estate sectors. The firm was named one of the Best Accounting Firms for Leadership Equity by the 2014 Accounting MOVE Project and was named one of the Top Accounting Firms in the Midwest by Accounting Today.