For many, an internship is an introduction to a whole new world — it provides the foundation for a professional career.

A tax season intern should expect to prepare tax returns. Asking questions should be done without hesitation, as it is an expected component of beginning a career in any field. An intern should be ready and willing to work very hard, as many employers see an internship as an extended interview, and decide whether to extend an offer to the intern based on their performance. Aside from doing the job well, an intern should socialize with fellow employees. Doing so allows one to see that not all accountants fit the same mold.

We know because we were there.

We were nervous, while at the same time, anxious. At that point, we had no work experience in accounting and never even had professional jobs. We were only college students. It was the real world and we were suddenly going to be wearing a suit five days a week. It was a drastic change from our previous four years in college. Sure, we knew accounting, or at least what we would need to survive as interns… we hoped.

Christina’s Story

Outside of reading a textbook in college, this was my first experience in accounting. I did not know if I was prepared for this. Fortunately, the firm has an open-door policy which was very beneficial and comforting. I was encouraged to ask questions and everyone in the firm was patient and willing to explain things that were new to me. A positive aspect about my internship was that I was not expected to know more than what was taught in college; the firm was willing to take the time to teach me. During my internship, I tried to absorb everything I was taught. Even though I was only an intern, I was respected and treated as an equal.

[IMGCAP(1)]As a tax season intern, I began working at the end of January. At first, the workload was light, which gave me time to train and adjust to the work environment. As the weeks continued and March approached, I quickly learned what the “tax season” hype was about as the workload increased. While I got a lot of tax preparation experience, I was also given the opportunity to see other aspects of the accounting field. I was taken to clients whenever the firm saw it as appropriate, allowing me to see a little of what goes on outside of the office.

Choosing accounting as a major in college was as simple as wanting to do something in business, and liking numbers. However, after interning I knew that accounting was something I would enjoy for my career because there are many challenges that will keep my career interesting and the goals of accountants are set high — both characteristics that are important to me. I am very happy that I had the opportunity to intern before beginning my career, and I highly recommend an internship for all college students entering the workforce within the next few years.

Jack’s Story

I had no idea what to expect as I walked into the office on the first day of my internship. Prior to the internship, I was not sure if I would prefer tax or audit and hoped that I would get to experience both. The first couple of weeks of my internship were quiet.  Due to the majority of staff being away on audits, the office was empty. In the beginning, I spent most of my time preparing a few individual tax returns while asking countless questions. Tax season did not seem so chaotic, or at least I thought that was the case for a short while, until the bulk of the work arrived in March. Although I was consumed with tax returns, I got the chance to work in the field on two separate occasions with clients in very different industries. I was able to distinguish the differences between auditing and tax engagements and the way they are handled.

[IMGCAP(2)]Shortly after the internship began, I accepted a position at the firm and was given the opportunity to travel to Florida and Texas. During these trips, I had more interaction with clients. My internship helped to prepare me for these unique opportunities by exposing me to clients. I have always liked traveling and these trips confirmed that this interest of mine is something I will also enjoy throughout my career.

An important factor in my decision to stay with the firm was the work environment. The surrounding employees made my decision to stay in public accounting easier. It was important to me to have fellow employees who were close to my age who understood what I was going through as I entered a career in public accounting. I enjoyed being around the people I was working with, which helped the transition to my career.  

In Closing

College is a place where students put their feet in the water, whereas an internship is a jump into the shallow end of the pool. Our internships allowed us to see some of the many different avenues of the accounting field. In less than three months, we gained real-world accounting experience and felt prepared to leave our safe havens known as college. At the end of our internships, we felt ready to swim into the deep end of the pool. While every day is a new learning experience, much of a working knowledge of accounting begins during an internship. The experiences throughout our internships were building blocks for our futures in the accounting field.

Jack Mans is a staff level II accountant with WithumSmith+Brown, PC, and a graduate of the University of North Carolina Wilmington, in Wilmington, N.C., with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

Christina Freeland is a staff level I accountant with WS+B, and graduated from Monmouth University, in West Long Branch, N.J., also with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. She is a member of the New Jersey Society of CPAs.

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