Standing Out as an Intern

by: Smith and Howard

February 7, 2017

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An accounting internship is one of the most important steps to begin your career in accounting. Fulfilling an internship is important because it provides you with a real world experience which is one of the most valuable tools to have when interviewing for a full time position (regardless of the company or firm). While interning, you form relationships with accounting professionals who can help you achieve your goals while understanding what work ethic is required to be successful in this industry. Learning how to communicate with these professionals is also important. An Internship gives you exposure to either the audit, advisory or tax practices, which will assist in identifying what area best fits you.  Some may view the internship experience as a long “interview” by the firm, but you should think of an internship as a two-way interview – you are also interviewing the firm to ensure the firm culture is right for you.

To get the most out of your internship it is important to set yourself up for success and stand out from the rest.  At Smith and Howard we asked members of our manager and supervisor groups what they believe is needed to stand out as an intern and what characteristics are important to be successful. Here is what they said:

Sabre Linahan, Senior Tax Manager stated:

“Get to know the people you work with.  We spend a lot of time together working on client projects and sharing meals.  Take this time to get to know the people who make up the Firm and decide if this is the place for you based on your personal and career goals.”

Chris Conrad, Senior Tax Manager named his three keys to success:

“1) Communication – every aspect of our job involves communication.  2) Attitude – you can be great at what you do, but if you have a poor attitude and aren’t willing to help, you won’t make it in this profession and 3) Work Ethic – this one may be obvious, but you have to constantly get out of being comfortable, work long hours, and raise your hand when no one else is willing or able to do the work.”

Scott Whalen, Tax Manager stated:

“An underrated skill for any accounting intern is general computer proficiency. Interns who are very familiar with productivity tools like Excel and Adobe generally get comfortable with the process quicker than those who start from square one.”

David Lee, Senior Audit Manager stated:

“The purpose of an internship is to show people what you are made of. If you do the bare minimum during busy season, we will assume that is what you will do the remainder of the year and you will not make it to the next step. We are a high performing firm and we are looking for high performing individuals.”

Caleb Lloyd, Audit Manager noted his 3 keys to success:

1) Don’t just ask questions, try and ask the right questions. 2) Focus on understanding the concepts behind what you’re doing rather than just the steps, and 3) Do not be afraid to admit that you don’t know how to do something.

Joel Alzola, Audit Manager stated:

“Being successful as an intern is having a willingness to learn as much as possible and having a positive attitude.  As you get more comfortable look for ways to go above and beyond, and be proactive in looking for work. The more you do the more you will learn.”

Nicole Davis, Tax Supervisor

“To me, a good intern is one that is a team player with a positive attitude.  Especially during busy season, those are probably the most important qualities.  Beyond that, having close attention to detail, good organizational skills, and sticking to the process help an intern have a successful experience at Smith and Howard.”

Bo Mann, Audit Supervisor

“A good intern is not afraid to ask a lot of good questions in January (when we know they don’t know anything).  Then, a great intern learns quickly from their questions and applies their knowledge so they’re not asking the same questions in late-February and March.”  

As you can see the primary themes here are having a willingness to learn, being a team player, communication and having a positive attitude.  There are many other characteristics that can lead to success, but these characteristics are the foundation to standing out in an internship.

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