Starting a Career in Accounting or Tax: Interviews, Opportunities, and the First-Year Associate Experience

The Braden School of Taxation and School of Accounting hosted an Open House for prospective students. The event was moderated by Fred Sroka, JD, who is Dean of both schools. Employers in the field, some of whom are GGU alumni, discussed how to interview for a first job and to thrive as a first-year associate. The panelists were Alan Chinn from ACG Certified Public Accountants, Raj Gupta from Moss Adams, Justin Smith from True Partners, and Jennifer Voss from EY. Here is some of what they had to say as captured in this short video:

How to Succeed the First Year  of a Tax or Accounting Career

1)  Work ethic and drive: The life of a first-year associate is a flood of information and experiences: new procedures, laws, software, and personalities to take in, plus a significant workload. Technical expertise may not always be expected right away, but attitude and hard work go a long way.

2)  Adaptability to change: The tax laws are always changing.  It requires deep technical skills, but also flexibility.  The profession is not the same as it was 20, 10, or even 1 year ago.

3)  Application of soft skills: Mere technical skills are not sufficient.  You also need to be able to communicate and collaborate effectively.  As one speaker said, “Our entire business is based on people.”

4)  Analytical skills:  To succeed in this complex field, you need the ability to look at fact patterns, spot issues, and then apply the applicable law to reach a conclusion.

Career Opportunity

The first year in accounting or tax is a challenging but gratifying experience and a great opportunity to grow:

1)  A changing tax environment forces experienced professionals onto the same learning curve as new associates.  The recent tax law changes provide enormous opportunities for new associates entering the field.

2)  Tax challenges students to integrate their academic work (“book smarts”) with real-world experience (“street smarts”).  Discipline and a solid work ethic can convert your knowledge and prior experience into a big career asset.

3)  You can expect to progress in an organization after your first year and “it gets easier”

What do you say in an interview for a first tax or accounting job?

The employers on the panel said it is not so much what you say but how you come across. They look for signs that the person in front of them has drive, as much as anything on a resume. At a networking event, employers like them may have less than a minute to make this determination. Interviewers are also looking for people who can learn to adapt, which means they need to find people who are easily trained.

Where Should I study Tax and Accounting?

Alan Chinn from ACG Certified Public Accountants, a Graduate of Golden Gate University, emphasized the real-world emphasis of the program. “It is taught by people in the field. They come out with life stories. You couldn’t’ even make that up! They have given you ‘bullets’ to use with clients and you step back and think about the gems they gave you. They work and they apply.”


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