Tips for Your First Busy Season

Jessi EngelhardGoing into your first busy season in public accounting can be quite intimidating.  If you’ve dubbed yourself an auditor, it’s likely that week one you’ll be interacting with the client.  Or if you’ve chosen tax, you’re given the forms and asked to go with it.  Everything in school seems challenging but then you get hit with the real world of public accounting.  If you haven’t realized it yet, you will soon…school gives you the vocabulary, the frame of reference, and the ability to confidently tell the difference between debits and credits, but it’s your first busy season where you learn how much you don’t know.  I recently came across an article in the Journal of Accountancy that included tips for first-year auditors.  Even though some of the tips seem obvious, sometimes, we have to remind ourselves. Here are some of my favorites:

Stay calm – You don’t know what you don’t know, and you’re not expected too.  Unfortunately sometimes your senior will forget that what they’re asking you to do isn’t common knowledge.  Speak up and let them give you some guidance.  It’s not only typically welcomed, it’s expected.

Show up on time and with a good attitude – Busy season can mean some long days and endless nights.  Having a good attitude makes all the difference when you’re working in small confines with the same team day in and day out.  Positivity is contagious, as is a bad attitude, so keep that smile on your face, even if you don’t know what’s going on.

Know your limits – Knowing when to figure something out yourself and when to raise your hand is a learned skill.  Ironically, it’s the most important as an intern or first year staff.  You may feel like you can’t get through more than one step without having to stop each time to ask for help.  That’s okay, and again, it’s expected.  When in doubt, ask.  We operate in a very technical field.  As if that didn’t pose enough of a challenge, every client is different, and every senior and manager runs their jobs differently.  So asking for clarification or for someone to explain something to you…again, is okay.  Sometimes it also helps if you explain it back to them when they’re done.  It gives you an opportunity to review what you were just taught, and them a chance to correct you if you miss something.

Enjoy the experience – Your first busy season is likely to be a whirlwind.  For me, I learned more in my three month audit internship than I did in three years of school.  If you feel yourself starting to get overwhelmed, take a few minutes and just breath, remind yourself that it’s just accounting (although your client may be acting like someone is dying…no one is dying), and think about what you’re enjoying or learning from the experience.

The public accounting profession is challenging, frustrating, exhausting and chaotic, but it also has the ability to be so rewarding, exciting, and full of amazing experiences, and your first year as an audit or tax associate is only the beginning…enjoy it.

Jessi Engelhard, Assurance Manager