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Survey: Many Accountants Felt Unready for Post-College Work

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Aug 18th 2015
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Even though they earned their diploma, college graduates may not have everything they need to enter the working world, according to a new survey by Accountemps, a division of Robert Half that specializes in temporary staffing for accounting, finance, and bookkeeping professionals.

Of the more than 2,400 accounting and finance professionals who were surveyed, 56 percent said they felt only somewhat prepared for their first job after graduation, while 14 percent said they were not at all prepared.

“Relying solely on your academic institution to prepare you for the working world won't cut it, especially in today's competitive hiring environment,” said Bill Driscoll, a district president of Accountemps. “Students who show initiative by actively seeking internships, volunteer experience, or temporary work will be better prepared for work after college. These students will also be better networked and poised to graduate with opportunities ahead of them.”

Respondents were unready for their first professional job in several ways:

  • Forty-nine percent said the knowledge they gained in the classroom didn't translate to the real world.
  • Thirty-three percent said they felt ill-equipped to handle office politics.
  • Twenty-three percent indicated they lacked technology skills or software knowledge.
  • Twenty percent said they had inadequate functional accounting skills.
  • Fifteen percent thought they had inadequate soft skills.

Driscoll advises students to be open to all kinds of work experiences while in school.

“All work is valuable and teaches people how to interact with and handle different types of people and situations,” he said. “By exposing yourself to professional environments and projects in your area of interest, you can gain needed skills – and make yourself more marketable to employers.”

Accountemps offers the following five tips to help students prepare for their first job out of school:

1. Join student and trade groups. Participate in an industry organization to expand your network. Take on a leadership role; your involvement will enhance your visibility.

2. Seek internships. Visit your college career center to identify internships in your field. You'll gain hands-on expertise, technical knowledge, and make potential contacts.

3. Get connected. Stay in touch with key advisors, professors, and mentors. These contacts can provide references and be a resource after you graduate.

4. Consider temporary work. Staffing firms often have assignments in which you will gain real-world experience, meet prospective employers, and learn about different companies and corporate cultures – all while earning an income.

5. Give back. Look for volunteer opportunities that align with your professional goals. For example, if you're an accounting major, offer to help a local nonprofit with its bookkeeping.

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