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The transition from studying accounting to doing it can be an adventure: instead of spending sleepless nights and wearing sweats, life shifts to sunrises and power suits.

There may be no more homework and tests, but work in the professional field is tracked and assessed with even higher stakes, and “A-level work is becoming the norm,” said Shabinaaz Mahdi, senior tax accountant in Washington. Cabinet Baker Tilly Virchow Krause.

But these challenges, along with those of studying for the CPA exam and working very long days during peak season, of course pay off. Accounting is a rewarding career with many opportunities for growth. Accountants enjoy a solid salary, plenty of opportunities for advancement, and the ability to serve the general good, so newbies have plenty of reason to hang on.

Here are some tips for young accountants to ease the transition from backpack to briefcase:

Honing “soft skills”: It’s easy to just focus on academics in school and assume that the skills guiding personal and professional interaction will take care of themselves. Employers say many new grads who grew up in the age of technology are less prepared for the human element of a new career. As a result, students who can hold a professional conversation, offer a firm handshake, and make eye contact gain an advantage in hiring and promotions. For that reason, make it a priority to hone those skills, said Rina Henning, hiring manager at UHY LLP in Farmington Hills, Michigan, part of the UHY International network of accountancy firms. “Soft skills play an important role in our business,” said Henning, who recruits between 60 and 75 students a year. “The days of ‘I have a 4.0 and I’m in it’ are over. »

To practice, visit campus career services for mock interviews and one-on-one feedback, she suggested. The skills learned will prove useful for years to come.

Keep learning: The degree does not mean you have to remove the reflection cap. Most companies have a long onboarding program to teach company culture and procedures. “That’s what isn’t taught at the college level,” Henning said.

Prepare for a period of transition as you meet new colleagues, learn new computer systems, and acclimate to a full-time, fully professional world. Take advantage of this early period and “embrace as much as you can and be a sponge in the first year,” she recommended.

Henning and Liz Niemczura, a UHY staff accountant also in Farmington Hills, recommended asking lots of questions. “You’re going to learn so much in your first few years, and the more questions you ask, the more you’ll develop not only your technical knowledge base, but also your people skills,” said Niemczura, who completed an internship. during the winter of 2016. tax season and started full-time last September.

Navigate successfully in high season: The young accountants face great challenges in their busy first season. “You’ll be working weekends and you’ll be exhausted. Sometimes it can feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day for work, socializing and sleeping,” said Allison Towle, who joined accounting firm Mazars USA in New Jersey in 2015.

That’s why many companies offer benefits aimed at reducing stress, such as catering or the possibility for employees to work from home for a few hours. Niemczura does little things like taking a full hour lunch break, getting up every hour or so for a short walk break, and using a small water bottle that needs to be refilled frequently to remind him to stretch his legs. But brace yourself: after the end of the busy season, many accountants treat themselves to a well-deserved vacation.

Use time wisely: It’s easy to get distracted by your friends’ snaps and this viral Facebook video trend. You don’t have to turn off your life outside of work, but you should keep social activity to a minimum, especially if your job involves hourly billing.

Mahdi said his employer recognizes that social media is a way to network and access market and industry information and news. Still, she suggested minimizing all distractions during work hours. “If you feel drawn to social media, set aside time to connect either at lunch or during a scheduled break,” she said.

Plan to study: In addition to adjusting to a real-world career that includes busy times when vacations aren’t allowed, beginners should set aside time to prepare for the CPA exam. Remember, “you will have to make short-term sacrifices but for long-term benefit,” Mahdi said.

Niemczura said she drew a study schedule on her bedroom wall and worked towards a daily goal. “Dividing chapters and sections into smaller parts for each day made it much more manageable for me, which made the review less daunting,” she recalls. Towle recommended getting a license as soon as possible. “Make a serious effort to buy your study materials and let your friends and family know that you are fully committed to this,” she said. “The longer you wait, the harder it is to get back into the rhythm of constant study.”

Take care of yourself : With all these changes, it’s easy to put things like exercise and healthy eating on the back burner. “Make sure you stay active,” Towle said. “Bring your own lunch instead of buying fast food. The little things can make a huge difference in the long run.”

Dawn Wotapka is an Atlanta-based freelance writer. To comment on this story, contact Chris Baysdenresponsible for newsletters at the AICPA.