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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What Path Will You Choose?

Written by Daniel Schmidt
Audit Intern
Cedar Rapids, IA

Realistically there is no “one size fits all plan” that will guide a person from their dorm room freshman year to their office after the glory days of college. Every person must make decisions. Some of them are harder than others and some are more beneficial than others. But there are certain check points that a person can follow to set them up for success. If I had to give advice on making career decisions I would offer these three points. The first is to follow the path in which you have a passion for and strive to be the best at it. This may not mean do what you are good at. Growing up I was very good at operating a pitch fork but I knew very well that I would not be doing that for the rest of my life. What I did figure out is that I have a passion for change, challenge, and numbers. This resulted in me finding the best opportunity that I could have possibly sought out – an audit internship with McGladrey. The second is network with anyone and everyone. Getting to know as many people as possible is one of the best ways to set yourself up for success. The third point (which may be the most important of all) is to be yourself and find a way to differentiate yourself from everyone else.

A run-down of how I learned about the Pathways program at McGladrey, which transitioned into an internship, kind of goes like this…after church one day I struck up a conversation with the lady behind me in the winter/spring of 2011. (Networking!) She happened to be a regional Marketing Manager at McGladrey. She mentioned that McGladrey was in the process of looking for candidates for the McGladrey Pathways program and that I should seek out this opportunity. I sent her and the recruiter my résumé right away. After some time, I received a phone call and went through the phone interview process and was immediately accepted into the Pathways Program.

The program was a three day event in June that mostly consisted of interacting with staff, Partners and the other participants.  The first day was spent in the office doing different activities and learning about the Firm.  We did a scavenger hunt through the office, participated in a Partner Panel and got creative during the team building activity.  The second day was spent volunteering for a local not-for-profit organization.  We cleaned classrooms in preparation for their summer school program, swept the parking lot, and cleared out an area that had been overgrown with brush and weeds.  After volunteering for several hours, we were told that the third day would consist of interviews for internship and full time positions. 

My interview process went as well as possible.  I interviewed with the Office Managing Partner and an Audit Director and both were very down to earth.  I don’t remember talking much about actual accounting related topics during the interview.  What I do remember is finding topics that I could relate to with the interviewers and capitalizing on that.  All three of us had farm backgrounds and a knack for hard work.  I have always enjoyed the outdoors, which translated into a story of how one of the interviewers had recently sliced his finger while fishing.  In all reality, the interview was more of a smooth and fun conversation.  If I had to guess on what sold them on me, it may have been just being myself during the interview – I expressed passion in the things I enjoy and demonstrated that I want to work in a place where I can excel as an employee and provide value to the firm.  (All things that deal with my personality – be yourself!)  What ultimately sold me on deciding on McGladrey was an answer the interviewers gave me.  I asked why they chose McGladrey.  Their simple response was they (like me) want to be the best.  So, why not work with the best?  After that response, I knew that if I were to be offered a position, I would accept immediately. 

After the interviews were over, we were treated to a local minor league baseball game. It was scorching hot that day, but thanks to McGladrey, we had the option of sitting in an air conditioned suite. I ended up sitting outside during the majority of the game and talked with the recruiter.  (Differentiate yourself!) 

One of the most important parts of the interview, and waiting to hear back on whether you receive an offer, is communicating back to the firm after the interview in a timely manner. A handwritten thank you is the number one way to respond. I took it beyond that measure. I purchased the largest box possible that could be shipped via USPS and sent my little handwritten thank you card in that baby. Less than three days after the interview I was offered an audit internship position. I accepted, knowing that without a doubt, this was the right firm for me.

On a side note….I was in the recruiter’s office the other day and noticed that box sitting on top of her shelf. (Differentiation at its finest!)

The internship has been everything that I had hoped for and beyond. I have been treated as a level 1 employee and haven’t had to do a single “typical intern task” you always hear about like running to get pizza or coffee for the audit team. I have had zero bad experiences with any of the staff that I have worked with. Everyone is more than willing to help when I have a question. They are even willing to go beyond just answering the question and usually will explain why things are the way they are.

This path that I have chosen has been full of challenges, opportunities, and a 100% hands on experience of what an auditor actually does. The only question I have for you is, what path will you choose?

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