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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

My First Busy Season...

As a campus recruiter, one of the most important questions I am charged with answering from students on a daily basis is: “How should I prepare for my first busy season at RSM?” The answer can be taken in many different directions because quite simply, there is more than one answer. In this post, one of new our Tax Associates from the San Francisco office, Frank Hernandez, discusses what has helped him during his first busy season.

Frank Hernandez
Tax Associate
San Francisco, CA
You vivaciously throw your graduation cap into the air and excitedly look to the next chapter of your professional career.  You enthusiastically look to all the positive changes you worked diligently toward achieving through college – congratulations by the way!  Of course now, you being you, take a deep breath of excitement, and begin to plan for your succession to RSM - the world renowned, public accounting firm that aligns its overarching values of understanding with your own.  So should you do anything to prepare for your first day, first year?  Well of course you should, and what better way to learn about the transition, than through reading about similar experiences of others.  One important caveat before we begin though: Always know and understand your unique talent, values, and purpose when reading into any advice.  Always improve your strengths, and give yourself the opportunity to refine any uncertain areas.  Simply stated, understand that you were hired for your professional brand, your values, and your goals, not simply your wit.  If you maintain good leverage on these topics, you will be successful. 

So what do I mean by "professional brand"?  Professional brand involves understanding your personal values, ethics, and attitudes.  For example, the reason I truly wanted to work with RSM was the alignment of their overall business model with that of my own.  Specifically, the culture of transparency, strong ethical foundation, and communicative understanding at various levels aligned with my values.  RSM has a business model that aligns with what I believe in, and that’s important in terms of my satisfaction and happiness.  My advice here, is to learn why “you” want to work at RSM - or any place for that matter, and spend the time to analyze the work, environment, and company culture in which you’ll be working in.  Make sure it aligns!

Building on the former, be open to all tasks at the start of your career.  This is the only way you can learn to discover different areas of expertise within your field.  If you’re unwilling to perform certain functions, you’re limiting your opportunity for growth in terms of technical skills, meeting and collaborating with more people, and you’re ultimately niche-ing yourself to early.  Be open to all tasks, and with time, you can learn what, and what you don’t like.

Like most accountants, we all have an innate competitiveness to be the best.  In school, our grades were the reflection of our success, and this culmination of work-ethic was rewarded with a career of choice.  Accordingly, we are proud of our accomplishments, and yet, we must be aware that excessive pride is counterproductive.  More objectively stated, ask questions when you’re unsure, make sure you are always challenging yourself to learn more, and make sure you are willing to teach others when you do know.  You are working with a team, and your team with you.  Being ok with being incorrect minimizes your stress, makes you and your team more effective, and is a sign of confidence in yourself and your skills.  Ultimately, learn to speak up, praise your peers, and build camaraderie at the group level.  This will give your team – RSM - the competitive edge needed.  Moreover, look at feedback as positive reinforcement.  Why?  Because it gives you points to improve upon.  Remember, only you have the choice to make such positive feedback a negative.

The following are some important general recommendations that will assist you in being successful.  The first, do not procrastinate on beginning your CPA license study, always build your communication skills, and make time for a hobby that is completely different from work. 

During my first couple of months of my full time career, I had a difficult time adjusting work/life balance.  However, I took the time to try a variety of different learning styles and schedules - and yes, I beat myself up over the setbacks.  Don’t beat yourself up!  Rather, learn from what isn’t working for you and adapt changes until you find the correct balance.  For me, the strategy that is working best is to study from 6-8am, Monday through Friday, and 6-11am Saturday and Sunday.  To lessen the burden, learn to balance schedule with a non-work hobby.  For me, that hobby is going to the gym at least 4 times a week.  The point is that you should form a work-life balance, so that you are happy with your career and your personal life.  Remember, to be satisfied, you must balance professional with personal goals!  And yes, simultaneously beginning your career while studying for the CPA license is tough, but manageable with patience and positive attitude. 

Best of luck in your career!

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