As an accounting student, you are constantly exposed to a variety of co-op opportunities. From international firms to local accounting offices, from industry experience to public practice, it can be overwhelming and intimidating to understand where to begin your career exploration.
If you ever wondered what it was like working at a small to a mid-size accounting firm, read on for a few insights from my first co-op work term!
Emphasis on Mentorship and Learning Growth
During my first week at Sangha Tone Chartered Professional Accountants (Sangha Tone CPA), I vividly remember being surprised when one of the partners called me into her office to discuss a corporate file I was working on. I imagined that the partners and senior managers at the firm would have limited interactions with junior staff, but soon realized that the organizational hierarchy at smaller firms is flatter, making senior staff more accessible. I found that learning from different team members not only expanded my understanding of accounting concepts but also enabled me to adopt different perspectives relating to professional decision-making and problem-solving. This emphasis on mentorship is embedded in the corporate culture as each staff member, regardless of their position or department, can be seen working with and helping others and contributes to a firm-wide web of constant learning and growth.
Exposure to Diverse tasks and Projects
A key aspect of my work experience has been my exposure to the various roles and opportunities available in public practice. At a smaller firm, you will likely be given various responsibilities to add to your portfolio, increasing access to the projects and tasks you are assigned to – You won’t be doing the same, repetitive task for the entirety of your work term meaning each day will be different! The caveat with this increased visibility is that it can be an intense learning curve, but if you’re eager to learn, open to trying new things, and are growth-oriented, I guarantee you’ll find the experience both valuable and informative. Before my work term, I had limited knowledge of what a career in public practice entailed. Having worked on various projects for different clients and working in a few service lines, such as preparing year-end engagement and preparing personal and corporate tax returns among others, I gained a deeper insight into how multifaceted the accounting industry is.
Distinct Corporate Culture
If you’re like me and are entering the workforce for the first time, chances are you’ll feel quite nervous about your upcoming term. I thought that being the least experienced might make it difficult to find my own place within the firm. However, at Sangha Tone CPAs, I valued the emphasis on corporate culture in creating a family-oriented and collaborative team dynamic. From workplace traditions such as having monthly awards to recognize stellar performance or to acknowledge those who made a positive difference, to celebrating staff birthdays and educational milestones, there were countless team bonding opportunities. During busy seasons and for major filing deadlines, the firm hosted events such as a wine and cheese night, team dinners, and casual gatherings to reflect on our hard work and celebrate our accomplishments. I noticed that everyone becomes an integral part of the team and the combined commitment to sustaining a strong culture within the firm made me feel more comfortable in the workplace. On my first day, I joined the firm with another new full-time staff accountant and we underwent corporate training together. At first, I thought we wouldn’t have anything in common and that we would just be colleagues, but that soon changed as we started to get to know each other better – she quickly became one of my close friends! Being the youngest at the firm I assumed I would feel intimidated by other staff but discovered that a smaller work environment created a friendly, tight-knit community which made it easier to learn and grow.