Archive for February, 2011

February 16, 2011

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door” – 8 strategies to develop accounting experience

by Scott Roehl

The  Milton Berle quote I reference in the title has been on my mind of late. Increasingly, my conversations with students in university and college includes that all important question “How can I get accounting experience?” To be sure, this can be a challenge for anyone trying to obtain related experience in their chosen field of interest. Companies are reluctant to hire and trust individuals that lack experience. Yet how exactly do you get that experience when no one will hire you without experience?

Sometimes you must build a door.

Here is a list of 8 strategies to assist students in the search for accounting experience. By no means is this an exhaustive list and I welcome your thoughts/suggestions in the comments section. I would also like to acknowledge a couple of organizations (credit below) who contributed valuable feedback through CMA Manitoba’s Twitter Account.


  • On Campus Career Resource Centres – You know that office you have been meaning to visit and haven’t yet? Perhaps now is the time. These centres exist to support students in providing information on career options, locating employment, reviewing resumes and more.

  • Co-Op Programs – These types of programs have grown to become an important source for developing paid entry level experience as well as exposing students to a variety of businesses and industries. Best of all, it could lead in to a permanent position with a business you had a co-op term with after graduation.

  • Volunteering – Countless non-profits and associations can use your help! Look for opportunities to be a treasurer or to do bookkeeping. Don’t overlook this strategy as it can be an important part of developing experience and creating contacts in the community. (Thanks to CMA BC for this tip)

  • Join Student Groups – Is there an accounting or business student group on campus? Student groups exist to connect a community of interested students around a particular topic or focus. Active groups will host regular events and meetings to expose their members to trends and opportunities in the industry.

  • Designated Accounting Bodies Support – Whether you are considering a CMA, CGA or CA, make the effort to connect with each one to learn more about your options.  Find out what supports they offer to students looking to obtain accounting experience.

  • Use Technology – We live in a hyper-connected world – use this to your advantage! Whether it is registering with on-line job banks or using social media to join the conversation and make connections (don’t forget to forge those connections with real human interaction), learn how to leverage technology in your search for accounting experience. (CFO2Grow has some good advice in a recent blog post)

  • Apply Anyways – Even if you don’t feel you quite meet the qualifications for a listed accounting job, consider applying anyways. Be honest and highlight your willingness to learn on your resume. While you may not get that particular job, the company may take a chance on you in an entry level role.

  • Expand your learning – Stay up to date on trends in the world of accounting, continue to develop your knowledge of accounting principles through your course work and learn the software packages that are commonly used in business. Taking initiative to learn “beyond the textbook” can make you more appealing to employers.

Lastly, don’t discount any work experience you have previously developed (ie. working in restaurants, retail, etc.). The soft skills such as teamwork and communication are essential skills to carry with you in accounting and in your career.