Thursday 29 October 2015

Four ways to kick-start your accounting career

The right work experience gained while studying can mean everything when you want to get your foot in the door. Employers want to see you’re more than just a good student.

Whether or not you’re earning a salary, internships and junior roles will pay dividends when it comes to launching your career in the competitive world of tax and accounting. A short four-week stint at an accounting firm or tax office, for example, could be all it takes to set yourself up for success.

But why is this experience so important?

Firstly, it shows prospective employers there is more to you than just the knowledge learnt from accounting textbooks. Work experience will also nurture the non-accounting skills you’ll need to be a valued employee, give you solid project experience and a relevant work history. It will also prove you can work well with others, do the work you’re given and that you can handle pressure.

Here are four possible ways to get a jump on your accounting career while still studying.

1. Volunteer bookkeeper

Demonstrate your initiative by actively seeking out opportunities that will provide you with practical experience. Offering your time as a volunteer at a local charity or non-profit helping to handle their books can be a valuable addition to your CV. You’ll gain plenty of hands-on experience, as well as possibly getting the chance to spearhead the implementation of new systems and processes that will continue after you’ve left.

Also consider the insight programs many large financial institutions and professional services offer. These vary in length and range from offering information to involving you in group activities and assignments. They are a good way to show potential employers what you can do and, in some cases, lead to a formal internship.

2. Clerk or assistant positions

Many accounting firms prefer to take and shape recruits early via formal apprenticeships and placements, often advertising for roles such as trainee accounts clerks and trainee accounting assistants. Similar junior roles can be found inside large companies in other sectors that have their own in-house finance departments or accountants.

The alternative is to gain experience in a closely related field. Again, joining a firm as a junior bookkeeper will help you gain relevant skills you can build upon and from which you can jump sideways into accounting when the right role comes up.

3. Non-accounting work experience

Don’t dismiss roles that are not directly in accountancy or financial services. Many firms value external experience and the maturity and people skills they teach. Most experience offers transferable skills, however unrelated it may seem.

By gaining experience as a paralegal, for example, you will acquire solid writing and research skills, commercial awareness and client-relationship skills that will stand you in good stead for your future accounting work.

4. Temping

A great way to spend your mid-semester break is as an office temp. Not only will you be able to apply for more relevant vacancies within that firm as they come up, you’ll already be known and valued – giving you an edge over external candidates. Not to mention you’ll know all the ins and outs of the company.

Even retail roles will show employers you have people and numbers skills, which will at the very least help build your work ethic and show you are able to run projects and manage people.

Don’t forget to keep building your formal skills

The Tax Institute’s education programs are another good way to ensure you build the right mix of relevant skills and qualifications. Find out more information on tax and accounting courses that can set you up for a successful career. the next step in your tax career with the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law 

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Wednesday 21 October 2015

Is work-life balance really needed so early in your career?

As a newcomer to the workplace, there’s perhaps an expectation that you should be clocking in early, enduring late nights and taking lunches at your desk. Why? To prove your worth on the proviso that the ‘reward’ of downtime will duly come as you move up the ranks.

While many young guns (and even seasoned veterans) are happy to jump at the opportunity to prove themselves with additional work, it begs the question: do you need to sacrifice your personal life for the sake of your career, or is that an antiquated notion?

‘Personal hours’ and ‘work hours’ can become increasingly blurred in a new role, especially when you are trying to make headway. According to a report issued by Randstad, over 51 per cent of workers are now expected to answer work calls outside of traditional work hours. This expectation also extends to annual leave, where 41 per cent of workers believe they should be available despite their holiday status.

But does being available and ‘on call’ make you a better worker?

The same report found that if there was a greater expectation on employees to work beyond traditional hours, the likelihood of them also dealing with personal matters at work would increase. It also suggested that the difference between strictly work and personal matters was now obscured because of the intrusiveness of technology like social media. So work-life balance (or lack thereof) could actually interfere with your working productivity more than you might think.

The case for work-life balance

Contrary to the work ethos that many seniors expect of young recruits, according to a recent study by HR Magazine, two in five junior-level employees actually believe that maintaining a healthy work-life balance helps them work more productively.

While this doesn’t necessarily mean set-in-stone hours should be the only option, it does encourage the belief that your routine work hours should comfortably and healthily fit into your overall ‘life’ schedule – no matter which rung of the career ladder you are on.

According to the same study, a larger portion of junior workers would prefer to mix their personal and work lives, while this was only true across a substantially smaller cross-section of senior managers and directors. So while you may be interested in networking and consider this an out-of-hours activity, such a mantra might be difficult to encourage among senior employees who consider this activity to be an additional ‘in-hours’ operation.

The solution

Work-life balance is about creating and maintaining supportive and healthy work environments, which should in turn strengthen employee retention as well as their productivity on the job. While for younger employees this might include activities such as networking, older employees are interested in seeing quantitative results. As with most things in life, moderation is key, so it’s a balancing act between what is expected of you as a new recruit and which tactics will most impress your new employers.

Work-life balance is the first step to having a tax career that soars. While certain parts of the year will call for overtime, it’s important to keep it all in perspective. And if you ever find yourself feeling overwhelmed, be sure to communicate your situation to your manager.

Give yourself the edge with free Student Membership

If you are a tertiary education student, The Tax Institute can help you progress in your career journey.

Find out about Student Membership.

Wednesday 14 October 2015

The X factor: Four ways to stand out in your firm

So you’ve blitzed the competition and landed a role at the accounting organisation of your dreams. Congratulations! But don’t get too comfortable just yet.

It pays to remember that winning over your employer is only the first phase when it comes to proving your worth. Taking the initiative and making regular contributions can go a long way towards helping you stand out as your firm’s newest shining star.

Here are four tried-and-tested strategies for moving past the first rung on your career ladder.

Be as proactive as possible

When you’re a new hire at the start of a learning curve, it can feel daunting to take the reins – you don’t want to appear like you’re overstepping your rank. But whether you offer to help an overworked colleague, volunteer for a new project or voice your opinions in a meeting, taking decisive action shows your employer you want to be considered a future asset.

Invest in your professional development

Few things impress a boss more than an employee who is committed to improving their knowledge and learning new skills – even if they already have a degree under their belt. Enrolling in a Graduate Diploma or applying to become a registered tax agent at The Tax Institute is proof that you’re willing to continually invest in your professional development. This sends the message that you’re unwilling to be complacent, and also increases your value as an employee in the process.

Flag issues as they arise

Although it’s tempting to take on tasks without thinking about the consequences, the ability to anticipate and articulate obstacles and issues is a powerful quality that will put you ahead of the pack. From a bottleneck sparked by a client project or a resourcing shortfall that will put your firm behind a deadline, flagging potential problems with your manager isn’t just testament to your skills as a communicator – it’s also proof of your commitment to doing the best job.

Implement a new initiative or system

Remember that star employees don’t just follow instructions – they’re team players who are unafraid to bring new ideas to the table and reinvent the status quo. Implementing a working method that eliminates reconciliation errors, coming up with a project-management system that leads to greater collaboration or simply suggesting a social activity that your colleagues can enjoy together are sure-fire ways to set yourself apart.

It’s important not to rest on your laurels if you want to prove you’re the kind of hire who is prepared to do whatever it takes to master your role.

Whether it’s showing you’re willing to make effective decisions or mustering the courage to talk about problems, stepping out of your comfort zone can help establish your professional credentials in a way that could see you climbing that career ladder sooner than anticipated. the next step in your tax career with the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law 

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Member profile: Lauren Whelan

Employer: HLB Mann Judd

Position: Senior Tax Consultant

I’m a Sydney girl born and raised. I went to UTS and completed a Bachelor of Business majoring in accounting and marketing. After I decided to go down the accounting route, I started at Mann Judd in the corporate tax department and in my first year had a rotation into business advisory and audit. In 2014 I completed my studies with the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAANZ) and in June 2015 I graduated from my first subject in the Chartered Tax Advisor Program with The Tax Institute.

Describe your current role

I work in the Corporate Tax Division where I have the opportunity to assist the firm’s clients in all of their tax needs – whether it be their company tax return, advising on how to restructure or sell their business in the most tax cost efficient way, or even preparing a tax return for a celebrity!

What are your career highlights?

While I have received opportunities to work with some of the leaders of tax in Australia, a career highlight that comes to mind is recently working with a family business to restructure their business. This not only restructured the owner’s debt, but has also allowed the business to grow and minimised a potentially very large tax bill. This was really a career highlight for me as this client, who reminded me of my own family and their business, gave our firm a glowing recommendation and made me feel like I was making a ‘difference’ to his business.

Why did you join The Tax Institute?

In a world where almost every graduate accountant has their CA, I wanted to stand out from the crowd and continue to develop my knowledge in tax to ultimately further my career.

What advice can you give to graduates?

When starting to look for a job, always go into it with a positive attitude. No matter how big or small the firm may seem, there will always be great opportunities presented to you  - don’t hesitate, make sure you take them!

Who or what inspires you?

Taylor Swift – as a songwriter and performer, I appreciate anyone that has the persistence and determination to see a project from start to finish. Furthermore, at 25 she is the youngest woman to ever be included on Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women list, proving that young people can make an impact in whatever career they may choose. And best of all, whenever I have had a bad day she has taught me to ‘shake it off’.

What do you do to unwind?

Well apart from obviously listening to Taylor Swift too often, I love to travel to warm  holiday destinations (or dreaming about the next one).

Favourite holiday destination?

Hawaii – it’s cheap to get to, can offer everything from traditional Hawaiian luaus to jet skiing to shopping like a celebrity and every meal is supersized. the next step in your tax career with the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law 

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Wednesday 7 October 2015

Uni’s finishing. Now what?

As the end of your undergraduate studies looms closer, it’s time to start thinking about a crucial decision: enrol in further postgraduate tax training and education, or get yourself a job in the real world?

Either way, it’s a smart idea to implement the following strategies as a ‘final year bucket list’ in order to boost your chances of success in the path you ultimately choose.

Focus on the grown-up social network

You’ve reached the point in life where it’s time to spend fewer hours sharing funny cat videos on Facebook or picking the perfect Instagram filter, and a little more time polishing your LinkedIn profile and checking out the site for news and ads that might help you land that dream job or identify worthwhile tax training.

You should also be connecting with alumni, academics and other industry professionals who may be able to provide you with assistance or at least useful insights.

Get an internship

Even if you’re set on enrolling in a Master of Taxation, there’s much to be gained by getting some real-world work experience. And if you’re looking to score a graduate position, few things are more attractive to employers than evidence that you’re familiar with the unspoken expectations and conventions of office life.

The big four firms all offer well-regarded internship programs, as does the ATO. Many big corporations, such as Woolworths, Telstra and Google, also offer great accounting internships.

Build your personal brand

The most effective way to stand out from hundreds of other fresh graduates is to build your personal brand. Start by attending as many networking events as you can and make your face and name known to those who matter.

Also, don’t be afraid to share your knowledge and industry perspective by creating your own thought hub – you can start a blog for free or tap into LinkedIn's built-in blogging features.

Become a mentor

Evidence you can inspire others comes in handy whether you’re considering a career in the business world, academia or both. Your university probably has programs that allow senior students to provide guidance to or tutor junior and freshman students.

If they don’t, Volunteering Australia can match up individuals with a particular skill set (such as several years of taxation knowledge) with those who have need of such skills.

Cleverly combine work and study

If you’re a bit of an overachiever (although that’s never a bad thing), undertake further education while finding your feet in a demanding graduate position by custom designing your study. The Tax Institute offers numerous programs you can complete while working that can equip you with the practical skills you’ll need to hit the ground running as an up-and-coming tax superstar.

While celebrating a job well done for completing your undergraduate degree is duly earned, don’t waste those three years of hard work by failing to think carefully about your next move. Whether it’s further education or a graduate role, the time to think about your future is now. the next step in your tax career with the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law 

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