Accounting internships are great vehicles to building a successful career in the accounting industry.
In spite of all the advantages that are on offer for the participant, some brands have shortcomings that are impossible to avoid, wasting the exercise for all parties.
When does that occur?
No mentors or qualified leaders
In the event that accounting internships fail to provide an appropriate mentor for the program, then the business is leaving too many elements up to chance. Young professionals entering the workforce need to have a sounding board to lean on, asking questions and inquiring for tips and guidelines. This is the type of support structure that differentiates quality firms from average ones, with others lacking the foresight or focus to give these emerging talents the engagement and communication they need. Other department members who take on the role of a leader in a self-appointed fashion might try and fill that void, but interns require people with experience and qualifications.
Lack of empathy for the internship experience
If firms have no understanding about the challenges that are faced for participants of accounting internships, then they are not fit for purpose. This is akin to the first day at a new school, needing to be introduced to peers who are all accustomed to one and other and an environment that has been foreign until now. That transition from high school and university to a professional business space can be confronting, so a degree of empathy for this circumstance is incredibly valuable.
No planning for the program
The worst types of accounting internships will see newcomers brought into the fold as a means of cheap labour, filling in the gaps for other professionals without any understanding of their role within the practice. From working on tax to sorting financial reports, assessing data sets and managing client budgets, there are methods that outlets can use to guide these individuals through the process. They can be designed for a specific task in mind or work to broaden their horizons over the week or month that they are in the office. Rather than operating within an ad hoc environment, there must be structure.
Lack of supporting resources
Very rarely will recipients of accounting internships have the financial capacity to access a wife variety of supporting resources. From laptops and tablets to stationary, backup disks, calculators and more, it is beneficial for a firm to go the extra mile to support their new members. These programs are a valuable testing ground to prove the credentials of young men and women entering the filed, but if they do not have the same resources to utilise then they are already at a massive disadvantage.
Lack of a pathway to full-time employment
The entire exercise of accounting internships is geared towards one central objective – proving a pathway to full-time employment. A major red flag should be raised if none of these candidates have gone on to become full-time employees of the business. It will illustrate that the interest in the internship initiative is only surface deep, using the cheap labour to bypass paying professionals a full-time wage. From an intern position there should be a clear pathway to a junior role leading into an assistant position and eventually in a leadership slot with upper management potential.
Paul Siderovski – blogger, freelancer, journalist and father. I love writing about anything related to business, politics, money and accounting. Especially writing about accounting internships.
In reality there are no real accounting internships that are considered entirely a wasted exercise. Even under the worst case scenario with these conditions, individuals will come out the other end complete in the knowledge that some firms are only out to maximise their profits. That type of experience is few and far between though, with many other outlets proving to be fertile ground for development in the accounting discipline.