By Guest columnist CARLOS C. RENDON CATACORA, an accounting student at Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business.
The financial crisis in 2008 was truly a devastating blow to the people and the economy. This scenario presents a serious problem, particularly to students: finding a job after graduating college.
A study conducted by Rutgers University reported that only 51 percent of graduates since 2006 are currently in a full-time position. Accordingly, the New York Times states that the starting salary for graduates in 2009 dropped to $27,000 from $30,000 in 2007.
Unfortunately, this was not fair to many college graduates. As soon as I began my studies at the university level, I knew that keeping this in mind could determine my future.
I began my academic studies at Georgia State University in the fall of 2009. After witnessing my father’s small maintenance business lose customers and spending tighten up around the household, I realized that I wanted to prevent this situation as much as possible. This was an important lesson in order to help me chose the correct field of study at the university level.
Business had always been one of my top interests, so I wanted to pursue a career in this field. Even though financial institutions faced stricter regulations with passages such as the Sarbanes-Oxley and the Dodd-Frank Act, the financial institutions and external auditors seemed to demand new talent.
Taking into consideration my interest in business and a tougher job market, a degree in accounting was the obvious choice.
As an accounting student at the J. Mack Robinson College of Business, the opportunities to establish an excellent future appeared to be endless. Job opportunities and internship options are always posted in the online career center for many types of industries and businesses. Postings from large firms such as the “Big Four” and even many local accounting firms seek to fill positions with students.
Perhaps two of the most important qualities that have helped me grow as a business student are to be competitive and to develop relationships.
Staying competitive meant that my grades and grade point average needed to be as high as possible. However, grades alone are not enough. In the summer of 2011, I was part of a team of five students to represent Georgia State in a national case study competition sponsored by KPMG.
Since the competition was at a large convention, it was a great way for participants to showcase their skills and to find jobs and internships at the career fair.
In the business world, building relationships and creating a network is essential to meeting new people and maintain new relationships. Professional associations — such as ALPFA (Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting), NABA (National Association of Black Accountants) or Beta Alpha Psi — provide students and professionals channels for networking.
As a member of ALPFA, I have had the chance to keep in contact with various professionals from many firms and companies such as Invesco, Ernst & Young, and KPMG. Also, each year ALPFA has a national convention with workshops, speakers, and a large career fair. This organization has been instrumental to my network of connections and my professional development.
An internship in one’s field or industry can greatly help a person gain exposure to their field or industry. Internship experience with a particular firm also helps get one’s foot in the door. Contacts within the firm or company can also be established to further build one’s network.
This June, I am beginning the Horizon internship program with Ernst & Young. The program will allow me to experience three areas of accounting: audit, advisory, and tax. This rotational component of the program serves a great purpose in implementing an experience that involves various aspects of business with different clients.
This internship will provide me with valuable experience in the area of accounting, and provide great insight into how businesses function. In today’s competitive job market having an education combined with real world experience can truly provide the tools to be successful.