CFOs: Previous Work Experience Important For Accounting, Finance Graduates


Experience is key.

It’s not what you know, but who you know.

Be open to other options.

These job search strategies – we’ve all heard them before – sound cliché, but they have a wealth of truth ringing through them.

With the summer break now in full swing (I don’t think I ever fully appreciated how lucky I was as a student to have summer holidays beginning in April), students will be thinking about landing a position that can give them solid experience in their field.

A recent Accountemps survey found that 78% of more than 270 CFOs interviewed believe it is important for entry level accounting and finance candidates to have gained work experience while in school.

“Even for entry level roles, many employers are in search of new hires who can apply their previous experience and contribute to the organization immediately,” says Kathryn Bolt, Canadian president of Accountemps. “Although this may seem like a catch-22, where it’s difficult to land a job without experience or gain experience without a job, candidates who have internships or temporary assignments on their resume are more marketable to a prospective company.”

How to get experience while you’re still a student

  1. Network network network. Make connections through classes, summer jobs, internships, volunteer placements, etc., and stay in touch with these people. Never underestimate the power of who you know.
  2. Be involved. Participating in groups related to your field will expand your network and give you further experience. However, do not just join – look for opportunities to take on leadership roles. It is important not only to be involved, but to stand out.
  3. Consider temporary work. This can be a way to obtain work experience while meeting prospective employers and getting your foot in with different companies.
  4. Land an internship. Internships give you direct, resume-worthy experience and often lead into full-time employment.
  5. Volunteer. Find roles that align with your professional goals, if possible. Therefore, if you are an accounting major, consider acting as the treasurer for a student group that interests you. This not only acts as applicable experience, but also helps you discover your strengths in the field you are pursuing.

As a recent graduate myself (although I’m not sure how long I can keep this “recent” thing going – it has been a whole year now), I can definitely attest to the difficulties surrounding the “real world” job search. Thus, I can simultaneously vouch for the power of networking and volunteering! Even something as small as having a previous co-worker or professor forwarding on job opportunities simply because they heard about it and thought of you can go a long way in making your job search more efficient.

Visit the Accounting Career Guide to learn more about careers in the accounting industry, and find student and entry level jobs from top accounting employers!

Photo credit: International Suit Up Day by Mista.Boos on Flickr

About the author

Leah Ruehlicke works in video production, living in a tiny apartment in Toronto with bad water pressure and an amazing book collection. Follow her on @LeahRuehlicke.