College recruiting in public accounting is highly competitive. Ten years ago, firms were recruiting students for internships in their senior year and graduate students were presented with many full time opportunities. Times have changed.
Fast forward to 2017. Now, firms are seeking sophomores and juniors to attend their summer leadership conferences, with internship offers often going to those who attend. As a result, students find themselves committing to a firm even before they have completed all their accounting courses. This leads to a few key questions. How do accounting programs best prepare these students to make the right career decisions? Do they have all the information they need to commit to a job that could tie them to a firm for a full time opportunity two years down the road?
To help answer these questions, the NC State Jenkins MAC Program has developed a mentor program to help connect undergraduate accounting students with accounting professionals. The program was first launched in 2009 and has grown in size every year. Mentors are typically Jenkins MAC alumni or professionals with close ties to the Jenkins MAC Program. Last year, 35 students and mentors participated, with extremely positive feedback from both students and mentors.
Students in the Accounting Internship Recruitment (AIR) Program are asked to participate in the spring semester of their junior year.
“To me, mentoring provides an important opportunity for college students to fine-tune their interests and skills and to understand the concrete reality of their proposed careers,” says Kristen Tabor, tax director at KPMG. Tabor has participated as a mentor in the program since 2014. “I enjoy being an ongoing mentor for NC State accounting majors,” she said. “I find it very rewarding to help guide my mentees from their studies to their first jobs, and I keep in touch thereafter.”
Like Tabor, Davey Steele, audit manager at Johnson Lambert, has been participating for several years as a mentor at NC State. “I know a lot of times the students can really be going into the accounting field – and especially the recruiting process – in the dark. I am glad to be a knowledgeable resource for them through the entire process,” he said.
Mentors and students both agree to participate in the program from April thru September. They meet a minimum of three times; with at least one of those meetings being in person. The MAC Program plans kick-off and end-of-program meetings on campus. The main objectives of the program are to provide professional guidance to accounting students who want to prepare for future careers in accounting, to inform accounting students earlier in their college career about various options and opportunities as an accounting major, and to assist students in developing their professional network.
Student feedback on the mentor experience has been very positive as well, with students noting that the mentors provide expert knowledge on the complicated ins and outs of the accounting recruiting process. “I feel I would have been less prepared for interviews and summer conferences without my mentor,” said Lauren Aten, a senior in accounting at the NC State Poole College of Management. “Her insight confirmed my decision regarding the audit practice and gave me information on the accounting field as a whole,” she said.
The NC State Jenkins MAC staff is looking forward to working with a new group of undergraduate accounting students and mentors when the program kicks off again this spring.
Accounting professionals interested in serving as mentors are asked to contact Andrea Young, associate director of the MAC program.
Scott McKay with Cherry Bekaert discusses fraud investigations with students in Dr. Al Chen’s accounting course in spring 2017. He is a member of Poole College’s Department of Accounting Advisory Board and one of the college’s frequent guest speakers and mentors.