Graduating soon with accounting degree (undergrad + grad)

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carthago
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16 Nov 2013, 3:59 am

Hi everyone, I'm new here. I'm posting this in exasperation as I near the completion of my degree (bachelor's and graduate degrees) in accounting at a state school in the US. I have a 4.0 GPA for grad and under grad combined and will probably graduate above 3.9. I've managed to eke out two internships this past year. First at Deloitte and then at the FDIC. Deloitte didn't like me by the end, but the FDIC loved me. I wasn't invited back to the FDIC though because it's a federal agency, which requires posting (interns are not a pipeline to fill job vacancies). Deloitte on the other hand was an unmitigated social disaster. It was in London in a US-focused service group, which meant that all of my colleagues were Americans. I am American, but I get along with Americans less than Brits or Chinese, or almost anyone else for that matter. I made friends with the few non-Americans in the group, but they unfortunately held no political power, and I was thus tried and hanged for social awkwardness in the kangaroo court of vindictive 22 year old girl cliques. I will never go back to a place like that.
On paper, I'm told I look great, but out of the 30+ interviews I've given for those internship rounds, those were the only two I conducted by phone, and the only two offers I received. This helps me narrow down where my problem is, the pre-interview social event, the interview, the post-interview social events, the informal dinners, the pandering email exchanges. At times it reminds me of a hyped up version of a social fraternity during rush. To make matters worse, I was sick for most of my 20s, so now at 29, I am finally at this stage, where my peers are generally 22 years old. I don't have much to say about those years, but it might be on people's minds. I'll try to come up with a good story for that.
Has anyone ever been in my situation? Any accountants, tax, big 4 people? I would be curious to know how you navigated the maze of social approval to be allowed to do something you already knew you'd be great at. Surely not every intern is expected to bring in clients, and surely there are internally facing groups that I could transfer to. I don't understand why they screen everyone through front-office criteria, when they might be on their way to the mid or back office jobs. Does anyone have any advice for me? I don't want to be the stand-out failure of my graduating class by taking a job that I'm overqualified for (placement in my school is 100%, average starting salary $50k, mostly in public big 4 and mid-market public accounting firms), but at the same time, I need to find a job to start next summer.



LabPet
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16 Nov 2013, 4:31 am

You're amazing - really well done! Please always remember you DO have the skills. Have you considered too that your confidence is lagging, given the hard circumstances you've already faced? Yes, there is an element of social scoring, as you are already well aware. Maybe you do not need 'advice' but instead encouragement. Do not let someone else get you down....go with the places and the people who you get on with. Make yourself powerful!

Try to find 1 or 2 mentor-colleagues and stick close to them.

OK, I posted this video a long time ago but it's still really helpful for me. It's well worth the 21 minutes and I promise you will be surprised when you hear what Amy has faced. All the best, carthago, and keep going! :)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks-_Mh1QhMc[/youtube]


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16 Nov 2013, 11:10 am

Yes, I have been quite close to where you are. I have undergrad in Finance and grad in Accounting, both with noteworthy academic success. I was with a Big 8 (yeah, I'm that old) firm for 4-5 years before moving into industry.

My experience with the large firms is that, as you discovered, there is a very large emphasis on social skills. I finally left my Big 8 position mainly because I tired of the social side, and realized that my advancement within the firm would be forever limited by my social characteristics.

I ultimately had a successful and rewarding career of over 20 years was with a very large corporation. Their Human Resources commitment was very good, and the company was large enough that I could transfer jobs within it as my interests evolved.

Was I underemployed? Well...... a comparison of my academic achievements and my job title might suggest "yes". But, when I include consideration of my AS characteristics, and my years of job satisfaction, then I conclude that I was employed at a level precisely right for my combination of education, training, skills, and abilities, (including those related to my AS).

I confess that over the years I had occasional moments of feeling less-than when I learned of the professional advancements of former classmates. For me, remembering to accept myself as I am, and being grateful for what I have, has gone far to keep those moments brief and infrequent.

Best wishes ! !



JacobV
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16 Nov 2013, 5:14 pm

carthago wrote:
Hi everyone, I'm new here. I'm posting this in exasperation as I near the completion of my degree (bachelor's and graduate degrees) in accounting at a state school in the US. I have a 4.0 GPA for grad and under grad combined and will probably graduate above 3.9. I've managed to eke out two internships this past year. First at Deloitte and then at the FDIC. Deloitte didn't like me by the end, but the FDIC loved me. I wasn't invited back to the FDIC though because it's a federal agency, which requires posting (interns are not a pipeline to fill job vacancies). Deloitte on the other hand was an unmitigated social disaster. It was in London in a US-focused service group, which meant that all of my colleagues were Americans. I am American, but I get along with Americans less than Brits or Chinese, or almost anyone else for that matter. I made friends with the few non-Americans in the group, but they unfortunately held no political power, and I was thus tried and hanged for social awkwardness in the kangaroo court of vindictive 22 year old girl cliques. I will never go back to a place like that.
On paper, I'm told I look great, but out of the 30+ interviews I've given for those internship rounds, those were the only two I conducted by phone, and the only two offers I received. This helps me narrow down where my problem is, the pre-interview social event, the interview, the post-interview social events, the informal dinners, the pandering email exchanges. At times it reminds me of a hyped up version of a social fraternity during rush. To make matters worse, I was sick for most of my 20s, so now at 29, I am finally at this stage, where my peers are generally 22 years old. I don't have much to say about those years, but it might be on people's minds. I'll try to come up with a good story for that.
Has anyone ever been in my situation? Any accountants, tax, big 4 people? I would be curious to know how you navigated the maze of social approval to be allowed to do something you already knew you'd be great at. Surely not every intern is expected to bring in clients, and surely there are internally facing groups that I could transfer to. I don't understand why they screen everyone through front-office criteria, when they might be on their way to the mid or back office jobs. Does anyone have any advice for me? I don't want to be the stand-out failure of my graduating class by taking a job that I'm overqualified for (placement in my school is 100%, average starting salary $50k, mostly in public big 4 and mid-market public accounting firms), but at the same time, I need to find a job to start next summer.


I'm not an accountant, but I can relate. Most aspies with college degrees end up with "assistant" type jobs and the associated lower-than-average pay. We are not the leader-types. We are not wired for a western-capitalist type environment where ego and greed is rewarded more than creativity and serving the greater-good. Asians and Europeans tend to have more of a socialist-oriented worldly culture, which is easier to relate to as aspies.

People say these are changing times for people on the spectrum... and I agree... but its changing for the worse.



DancingDanny
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17 Nov 2013, 10:33 am

I'm 26, going to be 27 in February. I'm thinking about enrolling for an Associates degree program. What do you think are my chances of finding a job?



Stargazer43
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17 Nov 2013, 11:14 am

I have absolutely no concerns over your ability to get a job - even if you are a terrible interviewer.



carthago
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18 Nov 2013, 3:17 am

Thanks everyone for the responses.

LabPet, I have seen that video somewhere before. It's great advice, and I also try to put her advice into practice. However, I also think there is always going to be a social difference for those of us on the spectrum. Thank you for the encouragement!

Marky9, I'm relieved in a way to know that it's always been like that. If you don't mind me asking, which industry did you transition to after your stint in public accounting? And do you think it would have been possible to make the jump without the clout and networks from the Big 8? I've been noticing a trend in more than a few industries that a couple of years in the Big 4 is a minimum requirement. I'm worried that my resume will be rejected by a computer before a human eye even sees it. This might be a new reality of the job market, but was there anything like this when you were at this stage?

JacobV, times are certainly changing. I think when the economy is down, the counterintuitive happens, pressure is disproportionally put on interpersonal social skills. I suppose that's partly because a shaky economy makes people feel insecure, which makes them unconsciously want to surround themselves with people who make them feel good. I seriously doubt the interpersonal social skillset of office workers has as much to do with sales effectiveness as it does with satisfying the social (or "other", in the case of EY) appetites of the established workers and managers.

DancingDanny, I might not be the person you were asking, and I'm probably the least qualified to answer, but I'll share what I know if you'd like. What do you plan to get your associates degree in? Are you near any major cities? Your age might not be an issue, depending on what field you're going into and if you have a reasonable explanation for the past 5 years, or some work history, or if you look relatively young (it's illegal for interviewers to ask your age, at least in the US, so a youthful appearance can potentially help).

Stargazer43, thank you, I appreciate your confidence.



DancingDanny
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18 Nov 2013, 3:39 am

It would be an Office administration technology associates degree with an accounting focus. I'm near St. Louis, MO. I have some work history. I'm the math grader at an afterschool tutoring center and I've been a processor at a tax store.



Marky9
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18 Nov 2013, 8:41 am

Having Big 4 type experience was a benefit on my resume, but I doubt that it would have been a deal-breaker in my getting the job I mentioned. From public accounting I moved into a large technology company. I might place greater importance on getting with a larger-sized employer because they often offer greater opportunities and often have more advanced Human Resources policies. I might also pay close attention to offers from the public sector or any quasi-governmental enterprises.



carthago
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18 Nov 2013, 4:03 pm

DancingDanny, there's a reasonable chance of getting an office admin/tech job if your community college has good connections with employers. The economy in St. Louis isn't great right now, but the new healthcare law technology and documentation requirements are going to push up demand for network specialists in your area. You might want to get a head start by asking instructors and career counselors at your school about opportunities from the time you start the program. Some general skills that employers look for are SQL, database management, M.S. Office (especially excel), VBA, Cisco, and Unix. In healthcare, you might want to also be familiar with some medical equipment, as some of it will be on the networks.

Marky9, good advice, I appreciate it. I'm leaning in the direction of government, but right now it seems like a thousand people apply for every vacancy. I'll keep looking in industry as well. It's regrettable, because I was looking forward to living in a different country. I have found that AS is much less condemning outside of the US--people seem to pin your awkwardness to your foreignness instead of the uncanny valley.



DancingDanny
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19 Nov 2013, 12:19 pm

Thanks, I plan on enrolling for the summer semester. What are my chances for finding a job in accounting?



carthago
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20 Nov 2013, 2:36 am

To get into accounting, I would suggest taking some accounting classes. At the very least, know your debits and credits, expenses and revenues, assets = liabilities + equity, accrual vs cash method, know how to read a balance sheet and an income statement, become familiar with internal controls, know how to do a bank reconciliation. I don't know how much you already know, so this may sound elementary to you or it may seem like another language, but all of these can be learned to an employable level in about 3-6 months (with dedication). You could get into bookkeeping with an associates degree--or even before you degree. Bookkeeping is a 30-40 hour job in most companies, paying around $14-18 per hour. Another similar job, requiring similar skills would be an accounting clerk (accounts payable or accounts receivable, etc). To be an accounting clerk you may want to have a general idea of fund accounting (it's different from corporate accounting). Brush up on your excel skills and learn Quickbooks inside and out for these jobs. There are Certiport certifications for both Excel and Quickbooks--these look good on your resume, especially if you don't have much else going for you. Instructors and school connections can help you get your foot in the door, but also jobs you can find advertised on Monster, Craigslist, and so on are real jobs--you can potentially get an interview by dropping your application and following up once or twice. Another thing I haven't mentioned is the NACPB and AIPB licenses. For these, simply passing one of the certification exams might be enough to get you somewhere, even though you'd still lack the experience requirement to be fully licensed. It may be worth considering, because it would demonstrate commitment to the vocation in addition to competency. Hope it helps, and good luck.



DancingDanny
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20 Nov 2013, 6:56 am

Thanks for the help.



lammiu
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04 Dec 2013, 1:46 am

I think for those going into accounting, Stephen Shore's life story on his challenges of being an accountant will be a good learning lessons, he also taught a lot of business courses and later switched to do special education particularly on helping aspies.

For me, my career mainly in investment banking technology, so I do met a lot of accountants and finance people and have some insights. The interesting thing is that for me, I am very strong in finance and very weak in accounting. I think business people has a strong emphasis on social skills which we're a bit disadvantaged. So I agree with Mark9 that we may get compensation way below our academic performance and I still think it's fair because compensation should be aligned with overall ability rather than academic performance. So I suggest people going into accounting/business to pick up skills on office politics by reading or classroom training on EQ or SQ (social quotient). I found youtube has many good resources. We're naturally more socially and politically naive than NT.

I think the following advice is very crucial for the survival in workplace, In "The unwritten Rules of Social Relationships" by Temple Grandin:

“Being able to gauge when I'm turning someone off means being able to read their facial cues and body language to some extent. This was a skill I had to develop in myself; it wasn't automatic for me, nor is it for most people with ASD. It's an important source of information and situational clues, and is a teachable skill. Lots of good books and materials are on the market today that address this issue in a concrete and fun way.”

Most aspies, will tend to have substantial down time in their career i.e. unemployment, so if you're able to secure a professional job. It is very important to try to live below your means and save something for the down times. Having an unstable career doesn't mean, you should not buy a modest shelter because you got to live whether you've job or not. I think purchasing helps to lower the long term cost. With real estate market, sometimes double and some times drop by half. Purchasing at the right market timing is crucial to Aspies' financial independence. Financial well being means reduced stress during down time.

To be better at team interviews that test your social/team skills, I think it will be a good idea to humbly ask your mentors or NT close friends to feedback on your general table etiquette or social skills. We do have weird table manners that form bad impression on people. e.g. A news article about a master graduate student failed 200 interviews because when the receptionist asked him whether he want coffee or tea. His answer is fruit tea. His response is too particular and too much for an interviewee. I think you have much more common sense than him, but it is always good to have some mentors/counsellors to help you brush up on the basic social skills. I agree with Mark9 that having a counsellor is an important part of my well being. Lucky for me, the government covers one-on-one counselling for me, once a month. My church fellowship also provided me a lot of solid feedbacks, once you''ve honestly told them you need some help on the social aspects. You can refer to my blog for some of those feedbacks and my tips.

The nice thing to know is that, the social interviews are quite standard which means once you work out the script, you will be ok to pass the interview. Some Aspies work as actor with no problem because they know exactly what everybody is going to say and what she is required. So I think with proper help and effort, you should be able to obtain the social/team skills to pass the interviews.


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carthago
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27 Dec 2014, 2:42 pm

Following up on this (a year later), I ended up happily employed and even had the (strangely unsavory) situation of turning down several offers. Again, a very belated thanks to everyone who gave advice.
The resolution for my situation was very much as lammiu mentioned--I refined the script to a point where my application-to-interview-to-offer rate was 69%. It ended up being quite formulaic and rehearsed, but very successful.

A few takeaways from my experience were:

Subject matter expertise is a consideration some companies/firms have in the interview process, while others only have a generalist hiring outlook. Aspies are usually subject matter experts (SMEs), or destined to become SMEs.
Federal employment processes (in the US) generally follow the OPM rules, but most agencies have their own modifications to those rules. The OPM rules, which place emphasis on KSAs over non-verbal finesse in the interview process, put aspies at an advantage relative to corporate hiring policies (which are generally the reverse).

Management consulting firms (even the big 3 and mid market firms) are not nearly as socially demanding in the interview process as they are reputed to be. They tend to be more hard skill oriented than accounting firms, at least in the interview process. They are not out of reach for aspies.

A social/interview script for federal jobs is very different from corporate, public accounting, and consulting. Corporate, public accounting, and consulting may all follow similar scripts. To interview for all of these, you would need, in essence, two scripts. Once you have the script down, you only need to refine and rehearse it to a point where your creative adaptability (in a stressful situation) will be sufficient to pick up the slack in a seemingly natural and fluent way.

The most important part of the script, at least for me, was that you should generally appear interested and energized about the job you're interviewing for, the culture of the company/firm, and the person you're interviewing with. Get them to talk about things they're interested in, especially their experience in the company/industry/city. In every interview and social event, talk or ask about the company/firm's culture at least as much (or more than) the job itself. Avoid asking technical questions at all cost, unless you are talking to someone who specializes in the area of your question and they show some aspie traits (it may seem like a reasonable question to you, but an NT will think you're strange, showing off, or trying to stump them).

There are some genuinely nice and helpful people out there, even in the company where you're interviewing. Hang on to them, even if you don't get the job. As a general rule, don't respond to emails or texts quicker than they do. Don't respond much longer, or with more detail than they use. Initiate conversation if you have something that will interest them. Sometimes your situation might interest them (like if you got a job offer in a related industry, a nearby city, or at all), other times changes to your situation will not interest them. Striking up conversation after a long time has passed (months, years) is perfectly acceptable and not nearly as awkward as it seems or feels before you click send. But quickly run those emails by an NT friend first, if possible.

This post is kind of meandering, but if it's helpful or informative to anyone here, then that's more than I could hope for.



aspinnaker
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06 Jan 2015, 9:59 pm

Great! Thanks for sharing your experience.

Did you interview at the consulting firms that you alluded to and are you working for one now?

I'm interested to understand why you feel that they aren't particularly socially demanding (although I do agree that it should not be unreachable). You do hear of being put in front of clients, and being (hypothetically) stuck at airports with your interviewers, after all. Did you ever get taken to coffee/lunch/dinner before or after your interviews, and if so, how did you fare in those situations, where it is much more difficult to rehearse?

I've never heard specifically of an Aspie's experience with consulting interviews / work life so if this is something you can share, it would be much appreciated.