Job Outlook: Bad News for 2013 Accounting Grads?

grads tossing capsYou’re getting ready to graduate with your new, hard won degree and you’re wondering if you made the right decision.  Was accounting the best field to choose when it comes to actually finding a job?  Will you have to move back in with your parents?  According to my research, if you chose accounting, you chose wisely my friend.  Accounting and auditing positions have had job growth second only to that of software developers since 2010.

Robert Half, an international staffing firm, recently published their 2013 Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance.  If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s worth a look.  Not only do they detail the positions that are in demand, but they include projected salary ranges for 350 positions.  They also include a metric that will allow you to tailor the salary information for your geographic area.  If you don’t want to bother with the math, you can take a look at their salary calculator.  This is a nice tool to keep in mind when you want to ask for a raise in a couple of years.

Right now the current unemployment rate stays around 8%, but for the accounting and finance industry it ranges from 2% – 5%.  Robert Half predicts that the accounting and finance industry will have job growth of 3.6%.  According to their research, the certified public accountant (CPA) designation is still highly sought after by employers.  Always nice to know there is hard data to back up your career choice.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) sees the biggest trends in accounting employment in 2013 as the same things that influenced hiring in 2012: the Dodd-Frank Act,International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and the need to specialize.  The AICPA’s top picks for specialization:  personal financial adviser, business valuation, forensics and IT auditing.

So, what if you decided you don’t want to be an accountant?  According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE) Job Outlook 2013 study, employers are predicting that they will hire 13% more new college grads from the class of 2013 than they did for the class of 2012.

The baby boomer population has created numerous jobs for the accounting graduate.  You could put that business degree to use as a financial advisor or a compliance professional in the healthcare industry.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that financial advisors are among the top 10 of growth occupations.  The nation’s high number of aging baby boomers seeking advice on retirement and estate planning is expected to continually drive demand in this field.  Compliance professionals will be in demand to help companies keep up to date on changes in Medicaid and Medicare.

Now that you know you can find a job as an accountant, take a look at the following video to find out where these jobs are located.  Manpower Group does a quarterly survey of more than 18,000 hiring managers across the United States.  Here is a video of the company president, Jonas Prising, telling us where the jobs are for Q2 2013.

Studying for the CPA Exam: It’s Not for Wimps

Exhausted Student Falling Asleep While Cramming

The Uniform CPA Exam: those are four of the most dreaded words an accounting major hears.  While not all accounting majors take the exam, the majority do.  The exam is made up of four sections and according to the AICPA the 2012 pass rates for each section are more than a little frightening.

  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD) 46.89%
  • Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) 52.83%
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) 47.97%
  • Regulation (REG) 48.15

As you may know, once you complete one section, you will only have 18 months to pass the remaining three parts or risk retaking the sections you have already completed. That 18 month clock and the low pass rates are the reasons you want to have a plan.  This is not an exam that you can take without some preparation.

You’ve come this far which means you must have developed some good study habits.  Now is the time to take the habits that have successfully worked for you in the past and put them to work.  Additionally, you will need to develop a study plan. Plan your exams and study schedule around a 3, 6, 9, or 12 month timetable.  Do not procrastinate and wait for that 18 month window to close.  It will go faster than you think.

Strategies differ on the order in which the sections should be taken.  One school of thought is to take the toughest section first.  Your energy level, focus, and motivation are at the highest point in the beginning and passing the hardest part will keep you motivated to finish the other sections.  Others believe that taking an easy section is a confidence builder and allows you to become familiar with the testing format and facility.

So, how do you determine which sections are the easiest and the most difficult?  You can judge by the pass rates above:  AUD is the toughest and BEC is the easiest.  Or you could make the evaluation based on time:  BEC and REG are each 3 hours long while AUD and FAR are 4.

Most experts (i.e. people who have taken and passed the exam) recommend taking the section that is relevant to the coursework you just completed.  This information will be fresh in your mind and you should feel more confident in your knowledge.

All the experts agree on one point.  Don’t put off taking the CPA exam after you graduate.  Not only is the information fresh in your mind, you are better conditioned to studying and test taking than you will be once you enter the job market.  If that doesn’t motivate you, studies have shown that CPAs earn more money than non-CPAs.

Study aids for the exam are a booming business.  There are several sites out there that detail the pros and cons of the different companies and packages that are offered. One that I particularly liked is Crush The CPA Exam.  Not only does he do a detailed pro/con list of the different products, he also has a table that compares the different features.

Many of the videos that relate to studying for the CPA exam are published by the large companies that sell the prep courses.  These videos have small amounts of useful information but are really just advertisements for their products.  This video was put out by Roger CPA Review, but focuses on basic studying skills that would help with any exam.  He’s a little over the top but it makes it fun to watch.

And just a little more information that I found helpful. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) has a comprehensive website (the Accounting Licensing Library) that details the licensing requirements for each state.  You should definitely be looking at this if you aren’t sure of your state’s requirements.

The Elevator Pitch: Are You Prepared?

Are you prepared?

Every student looking for a job knows they should have a well-crafted elevator speech.  The problem is trying to come up with something that is both memorable and sincere. The good people over at Forbes have come up with nine steps to help develop the perfect elevator pitch.

  1. Clarify your job target.  You need to be able to clearly describe the position you want or field you are looking to enter.
  2. Put it on paper.   Compile a list of all the skills, accomplishments, and work experiences you would want a potential employer to know.  Now the hard part! Edit your list mercilessly until you have it narrowed down to a couple of main points.  You don’t want to tell your life story, but pique the listener’s curiosity into wanting to know more.
  3. Format it.  Your pitch should answer three questions:  Who are you?  What do you do? What are you looking for?
  4. Tailor the pitch to them, not you Focus your message on how you can benefit the listener.  Instead of saying you are “a human resources professional,” say you are a “human resources professional with a strong track record in helping to identify and recruit top level talent into management.”  This will let them know how hiring you can help their company.
  5. Eliminate industry jargon. Your pitch should be easy to understand and shouldn’t confuse someone outside of your industry.
  6. Read your pitch out loud. You want to sound authentic and conversational, not like an infomercial.
  7. Practice, practice, practice.  Record your pitch with your phone or computer and then play it back. You don’t want to sound rehearsed (even though it is!).  Keep practicing until it flows smoothly and sounds authentic. Now, go give your pitch to some friends and get their feedback.  Do they clearly understand the key points you are trying to convey?
  8. Prepare a few variations.  The experts at Forbes believe you should have variations on your pitch that range from 15 seconds up to 2 minutes.  During an impromptu encounter you might only have 15 seconds to interest someone, while a formal interview allows more time.  To help with this, they suggest using the word count feature on your computer; a rule of thumb to use is to equate 150 written words to one minute of speech.
  9. Nail it with confidence.  It’s not just what you say, but how you say it!  Remember to smile, look the person in the eye, and be upbeat.

First impressions are important and developing a great elevator pitch will ensure you make a good impression every time.  After you graduate and land that first job don’t forget to update your elevator pitch.  It is something that should grow with you and evolve over time. You never know when you will need it!

If you still don’t know where to start, Harvard Business School has an interactive Elevator Pitch Builder.  Also check out this video by Boston University’s Center for Career Development that offers tips on creating an elevator pitch.

Inspiration for this post came from here and here.

Networking: Make the Connection

handshake4Today, successfully finding a job requires more than a resume and a LinkedIn profile. Networking is essential since having an established connection can help you stand out from the other candidates in a crowded job market.   Cultivating these relationships takes time, effort, and a little know-how.  While networking means different things to different people, there are two things on which the experts agree:  it is crucial to build relationships before you need them and it isn’t all about you.

Start Networking Now

Networking has been likened to brushing your teeth.  If you don’t do it regularly, it won’t do you any good.  Good networking relationships are cultivated over time.  Once a relationship has been established it is important to stay in touch.  Keeping that connection can be as simple as forwarding an interesting professional article, offering congratulations when you see a new accomplishment on their LinkedIn profile, or sending a personal invitation to an event that might be of interest to them.  Just remember to always be genuine!

It’s Not All About You

Networking shouldn’t be superficial; it should be about building a mutually beneficial relationship.  When you have that initial meeting with someone, identify similarities and interests.  Actively listen to what they have to say and think of what you could do for them.  Afterwards, make notes about the person on the back of their business card.  Most importantly, don’t forget to follow-up within 48 hours with a personalized note. The follow-up can be done via email or a handwritten note, but each one should be customized to the individual.  Just remember not to become a stalker! If you don’t receive a response after your initial follow-up, you can try again in a couple of weeks. However, if you still don’t receive a response, you should let it go.

Remember the Basics

Every person you meet could be a potential lead to a new job.  Take the time and put forth the effort to create an impression.  In his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie summarized that there are six ways to make people like you.  These principles are as applicable today as they were 80 years ago when his book was first published.

  • Become genuinely interested in other people.
  • Smile.
  • Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  • Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  • Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
  • Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

For more tips on networking, head over to and read “5 Ways to Network in the Real World” or take a look at this engaging interview with Devora Zack, author of Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected.  She gives some great tips and imparts actual networking examples from her own life.

Inspiration for this post came from here and here.

Small Pond or Big Pond – Which is Right for You?


When it comes to searching for a job, many graduates face the same question: Is bigger better when it comes to your career? While many boutique firms are smaller, they are defined not by size, but by the range of services they offer. Boutique firms focus on a limited number of high quality services for their industry.

As a recent graduate and new professional, it is likely you will be performing comparable duties at either a large or boutique firm.   To determine which type of firm is the right fit, ask yourself where you want to be in five or ten years and what type of culture will help you achieve success.

John Furth, President of the Association of Management Consulting Firms, give his pros and cons for both types of firms:

Think Big

Pros Cons
Diverse work: potentially the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects, across a mix of industries. Just another number: it’s very easy to get lost among the thousands of others that work at the firm. Standing out then becomes a bit more of a challenge. Young consultants often don’t get the kind of attention from senior management they need to grow and develop.
Wiggle room: greater chance for internal transfer to international offices or shift practice areas and specializations. The bigger the firm, the redder the tape: there’s a “way” for everything and often times the processes are lengthy and complicated.
The bigger the firm, the bigger the wallet: more resources and training opportunities. Promotions can often be tough when there is a bottle neck at the next level with few opportunities to move up.
Big consulting firms often have better opportunities to offer consultants who want to leave the industry or seek another job. Their brands are attractive to future employers. It could be years before a young consultant works with levels higher than managers at client companies.


Think Boutique

Pros Cons
Leader of the pack: often more specialized work is often done at higher levels in client firms and you’re immediately seen as an expert with something to say. It’s very scary out there without a big brand behind you.
Chance to shine: working in smaller teams will sometimes present an opportunity for you to broaden your responsibilities and develop leadership and management skills. Buckling under the load: with smaller teams and more responsibility comes a much greater work load.
Show them what you’re made of: exposure to senior executives within the firm as well as faster track to client interface allowing you to mix with industry thought leaders. If you discover the area of expertise the company offers is not your cup of tea, the shift in jobs and companies could be difficult.

James Perry of InSearch Worldwide has some different thoughts on what advantages are offered at boutique and large firms.  Take a look at his article “Boutique or Large Firm – Which is for you?.”  If you still aren’t convinced that boutique firms have something to offer watch Chuck Durakis of Durakis Executive Search explain why companies should work with boutique search firms.

Inspiration for this post came from here and here.