Monday 28 July 2014

Job trends for tax graduates

At the turn of the financial year, the short-term trend for jobs is usually accountancy based. What are the long-term trends tax graduates should heed?

Mid-year is always a busy time for tax professionals as individuals and organisations work to sort out their tax affairs following the turn of the financial year. As a result, tax graduates looking for work will find that tax accountancy roles are plentiful, ranging from filing individual tax returns to assisting larger businesses by joining corporate tax teams.
Core strengths
According to the government’s Job Outlook website, job prospects for tax accountants are high, with this trend to continue for the next five years. In the same period, job prospects for finance managers and analysts have an above-average rating. These three core areas for tax graduates are healthy and can all provide stepping stones to more complex areas of the tax industry if desired.
The nature of each of these areas, however, is shifting. In accounting and financial management, the roles will be less about compliance and more about providing advisory services, taking a holistic view of a client’s financial position. The complexity surrounding superannuation and trust structures in particular will require a tax professional’s advice.
The effect of tax reform
Changes to the tax system will inform the trend for tax analysts. The ongoing saga with the carbon tax is one to watch as it will affect a number of organisations directly and may have indirect follow-on effects for other organisations.
Further into the future, comprehensive tax reform is another item on the agenda that tax graduates will need to follow. There are roles on both sides of reform in policy research, advisory and development at the Australian Tax Office and other stakeholder organisations, as well as post-reform roles educating clients and rolling out the changes.
Globalisation will continue to occur with both Australian organisations going global and international interests being directed here. There are many legal and financial implications that intersect with the tax sector, including inbound and outbound employment, business and trade.
Understanding different tax jurisdictions will be an advantage if you want to work for multinational organisations, import/export businesses or in the foreign investment sector. There are a number of advisory and compliance roles in these areas, as well as a requirement for business planning and tax-structuring skills.
Being across the tax implications of foreign workers earning an income in Australia and Australian workers being employed elsewhere will also be helpful. You may work with individuals or the employing organisation.
While there is a general demand for tax professionals in the foreseeable future, you can ready yourself for specialisation by taking a look at what’s happening at different levels in the sector and angling towards the niche that interests you.
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Thursday 24 July 2014

CV writing advice: Using language to frame your strengths

You have a wealth of new knowledge alongside a catalogue of desirable attributes – everything you need to earn the job of your dreams. Transcribing these assets to paper, however, can be daunting.

Language sets the framework for how you present yourself to a potential new employer. Here are a few dos and don’ts to make sure this important document promotes your best attributes.

Use the active voice: This is passive: The project was completed successfully. This is active: I completed the project successfully. The latter not only emphasises you as the agent in the role, it articulates your contribution.
Be specific: Short examples of your achievements are more informative than throwaway lines. Something like I am a fast learner can be improved by saying I started the role not knowing how to use the system but became an intermediate-level user within a week.
Highlight initiative: Even if your previous roles or experience haven’t been illuminating, you can frame it in a better light. Don’t describe the role that was given to you. Instead, narrate what you actually did. It’s the difference between answered phones and drafted emails for my manager and dealt with 30 to 40 customer enquiries a day and provided executive-level written correspondence.
Be positive: If you have a blight on your CV – for example a poor performance in a role – you can turn this around with the emphasis on the lessons you learnt rather than the negativity of the incident. Avoid words like struggled and use overcame, focusing on the outcome rather than the issue.
Be confident: Be upfront about owning your skills, knowledge and achievements, and use testimonials and other evidence to support this. Instead of writing managers have told me I'm good at writing reports, try I have strong written communication skills and managers often highlight the high standard of my reports.
Use buzzwords you can’t support: It’s good to be positive, but don’t burden your writing with clichés or jargon that you don’t understand or can’t support with examples. Instead of using team player, for example, explain what you brought to the team.
Overuse lists: Bullet points are handy and they make a CV scan well, but overuse makes it look like you’ve handed them a list. Keep it to no more than five points per subheading and always add a concise explanatory note of no more than one line to clarify points if required.
Forget to conduct a spelling and grammar check: Small things like poor punctuation could put you out of the running if you’re coming up against a candidate of equal strength. One tip is to read the whole document aloud, or ask a friend to check it once you’re ready to send it.
Remember that a CV is a document that sells your skills and knowledge to a potential employer. By using the right language, they will understand what you can do and then use that information to decide if you should progress to the next stage.
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Friday 11 July 2014

Surviving the semester: Unlikely tricks to train your memory

Your studies can feel like an overload of information with only a fraction of it becoming knowledge. Retain more with these six tricks to train your memory.

1. Repetition

While we don’t expect you to recite textbooks like a multiplication table, repeating something you’re trying to learn helps lodge it in your memory. A typical path might be your lecturer saying something important, you mouthing it and then writing it down to read later. Saying it, writing it and reading it means it has been repeated three times in different ways, creating different pathways to your brain. (Teaching it to another person counts as a fourth!)

2. Building blocks

Memorising is easier when you have a foundation and then make connections between the new information and your established knowledge. If you need to remember a slab of information, break it down and add it to your memory piece by piece. For example, when trying to remember a case study, start with the who and what, and then gradually add the when, why and how.

3. Finding patterns

A mnemonic device is a common technique that links information to patterns that are more memorable, for example remembering the number of elements in a contract then expanding that to the actual elements. Commonly, mnemonics use a phrase where the starting letter of each word relates to the piece of information, or short rhymes such as Thirty days has September.

4. Storytelling

The human brain is attracted to narrative, so developing a story can help you remember details that might otherwise escape you. Turn information into characters you can describe and explain the consequences of their actions. What happens when GST meets BAS? Humour also makes information sticky, and telling someone the story further embeds it in your memory.

5. Write a song

Delve into the meaning of nursery rhymes and you’ll find many are mini lessons in history effectively passed down by putting rhyme and music together. Choose a piece of simple music and write a short song about what you’re trying to learn. You may also find that someone else has done the hard work, like this economics rap on Hayek versus Keynes.

6. Create a game

Many games are geared to aid learning, and memory games reward recollection, such as matching a piece of information with another. Creating the game is often as important as playing it because it helps you structure information for easy recollection. You can also make a game for two or more people as learning in a group and constructive socialising also assists memorisation.

People respond differently to different techniques, so have a go at some of these to see which works best for you. You can also combine these tricks to enhance the effect.

Good luck with your studies this semester!

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Friday 4 July 2014

How to use semester holidays to boost your career

You don’t need to veg out to relax. Doing something different can be just as effective. Why not use the time to help your future career?

Ever heard the expression “change is as good as a rest”? In short, it means learning new things can be a great distraction from the semester you’ve just been through, equating to a holiday. You can use this time to catch up on bad TV, or you can make a small investment towards your career or internship prospects.
1. Work experience
The formal intern rounds have closed, but you can still angle for short-term work experience. One or two weeks is plenty of time to make headway either at an organisation that might take you on as an intern in the future, or one that will look good on your résumé because of the skills and experience it affords. Start ringing around at least two weeks before you want to start.
2. Volunteering
Along similar lines is volunteering. If you don’t usually have time to spare during the semester, use the break to do an intensive volunteer stint. Some volunteer roles can give you what you need to secure an internship or an entry-level position, while others are just a good way to do something different to recharge your batteries. Any form of giving time is well regarded on a résumé.
3. Picking up complementary skills
If you have a few skill gaps that won’t be met through coursework, semester break is a good time to focus on bridging those gaps through external training or, because you now have the time, simply practising what you need to.
4. Looking for prospects
Time poor while studying? Semester break gives you the chance to do some career research. While you’re investigating the job market and taking a closer look at different organisations, pursue any promising prospects you come across. Being proactive during this period could pay off by summer break.
5. Refining your résumé
Having an up-to-date résumé on hand means when an unexpected opportunity comes your way, you’re ready to take it. Prepare yourself by spending time refining this crucial document in the semester break so when job-hunting season opens you’re first out of the blocks. Remember to compose your résumé in a way that will make it easy to update when you have more skills and experience to add, and don’t forget to get started on platforms such as LinkedIn.
Your mid-year break needn’t be idle time. There is plenty you can do to boost your career prospects while still catching some R&R from semester one, so make sure you use the time to prepare. When you’ve set yourself up, it makes for a less stressful second semester!
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