In short, no – they are not.
Internships are a great way to see if you actually like a particular field. During university, I have found that studying a particular subject and working in it are two different things. Having completed co-ops in accounting, I know that I enjoy the work. After coming back to university, however, there were some accounting classes that I truly hated. What got me through them is realizing that accounting in the real world isn’t as bad as those classes were.
For some people, it’s the opposite. I know people who have loved their finance classes, for example, done finance co-ops, and realized that they absolutely hated it. So, internships are a great way to experiment.
Internships are also a great way to land a full-time job – and hasten your career progression. In accounting, for example, most employers will hire their co-op students for full-time roles. Because these co-op students have several months of experience with their employer, they start full-time at higher rates of pay than those who are starting fresh.
Oh, and you will most likely (but not always) get paid. That’s always a plus.
NOTE: There is a very nitpicky difference between doing a “co-op” and an “internship”. Co-op students have their salaries almost wholly subsidized by the government, while interns do not. As such, many firms prefer hiring co-op students instead of interns.
Have you done an internship? If so, how was your experience? Thinking about doing an internships? What's your dream internship/employer? Post below!
During my co-op orientation in first year, my classmates and I were told that the overwhelming majority of us would have one co-op employer during our undergraduate studies, and that we would likely work for them after we graduated. While this was true for several of my classmates, it couldn’t be further from reality for me.
For various reasons (for the record: I was never fired), I went through the recruiting cycle numerous times. When I first started out, I had an inaccurate perception of the recruitment ins and outs for public accounting. By the time I went through my last recruiting cycle, I’d like to think that I gained a solid grasp on what accounting recruiters look for. So here are my top 3 tips to securing an accounting internship!
Tip 1: Grades Aren’t Everything
As a Brock student, I went through my first co-op recruiting process in the first semester of my second year. Throughout my first year, I studied hard and ultimately ended up with a high GPA – all because I assumed that the Big 4 only hired the smartest students. This is not the case; Big 4 recruiters place an emphasis on the “overall package”: someone who not only has decent enough grades (this a good indicator that you will pass the CFE), but who is also personable, outgoing, and involved in extracurricular activities/hobbies.
Tip 2: Target Your Firms and Network Hard
Before recruiting season, make a list of 2-4 firms that you really want to target. Read their campus career websites in detail and look up LinkedIn profiles of people who work there in co-op/entry-level roles to get an idea of what type of work you will be doing. Don’t be afraid to reach out to recruiters or other employees via email or LinkedIn to ask for a coffee meeting. Use this meeting time to not only learn more about firm opportunities (try to avoid questions which can be easily answered by logging onto the company’s website though), but to also highlight any memorable facts about you. A good time to do this is the early summer (May – June), when recruiters (and most other employees) are not too busy.
Tip 3: Get Involved ASAP
Getting involved with extracurricular activities is a great way to not only build your resume, but to also give you “material” for behavioural questions in interviews. Getting involved with your university’s Accounting Students’ Association, in particular, is a great way to demonstrate you have the “overall package” (see Tip 1). Apart from the transferrable skills you will pick up, being an executive on an accounting society can bring informal networking opportunities – many firms sponsor accounting associations, and as an executive, you will likely have the opportunity to interact with them in capacities that regular students will not. For example, you may be communicating with recruiters to coordinate sponsorship funds. Accounting society executives typically do not have difficulties in landing internships or full-time opportunities.
I’d like to end off with an overarching tip: make sure you’re aware of the covert “Client Test”. At the end of the day, accounting firms are profit-oriented businesses which are driven by client relationships. As a client-serving professional, you will not only be a face for your firm, but also a potential relationship builder. Therefore, one of the first things that goes through a recruiter’s head when they meet you is “Would a Partner at my firm be comfortable putting this person in front of their most important client?”
Good luck with the job hunt! If you have any questions or tips of your own, please post them below or in my AMA (https://yconic.com/discussion/ama-brock-bacc-grad-carleton-macc-student-big-4-employee/kfgfkIHxNHJJsXygG3zHvgLKhvu8QqS7).
-Neal, yconic Digital Brand Ambassador