A question about first year at the job

Hello,
I recently graduated with my bachelors in accounting and I'm actually starting grad school in a few days to fulfill my 150 to sit in for the big
test.
I already have job as a staff accountant in a mid sized firm, starting a couple of months from now and I'm wondering if some of those who've been in this business can tell me what I should be expected my first year.
I have a good GPA because I've worked hard however I feel as though half the stuff I've learned and I've been tested on I've since forgotten.
What do staff accountants do their first year? Am I going to be grabbing coffee for people and just doing data entry or am I going to be doing real work?
How much pressure is put on rookies? I am very adaptable to change and I know that I can and will handle whatever is thrown at me but if some of you can share your personal experiences I'd really appreciate it.
Thank you.
k.
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Congratulations onthe job. Many graduates don't have one in their field - yet.

You'd be surprised how much will come back during the exam. Not that it's easy, but you'll get more right than you might think. It's in your head, and it'll come out if you let it.

Gosh, what a first year staffer does is all over the board, depending on the firm and their needs. But primarily you'll be learning (it never ends). They'll teach you from the ground up (ok, maybe the landing between first and second). And no, you'll probably not be asked or expected to get coffee for anyone (exceptions for clients, always ask the client if you can get them something).
You might work on basic accounting work - yes, data entry. It's part of the learning process. You might work on audits, generally more data entry, tabulations, counting inventory, bank reconciliations, etc. Heck, you might get to work on some very basic tax returns (corporate or individual).

Depends on the firm, but they should be expecting you to learn, so ask a lot of questions as you go. And don't spend hours or days struggling with something before asking for help or guidance on an issue.
They should not expect you to develop clients (although if the opportunity arises, go for it), nor should they expect you to handle something from start to finish without supervision throughout. You'll probably have client contact, but not directly, just as part of your job.
If you haven't yet, when you start, ask them what they expect from you, who your supervisor/mentor is, who you report to, etc and so on.
--
Paul A. Thomas, CPA
Athens, Georgia
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wrote

Thank you for the useful informoation Paul. From the responses I've gotten, it seems that asking questions seems to be the key. I normally like to solve problems on my own but it seems like to get the most out of everyone's time, asking questions is the way to go.
Thank you.
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Ask general, and some specific questions, up front, then take a stab at the task give you, then seek someone to review the progress of your work (before you claim you have finished just to find out you have been doing it all wrong for seven hours), and if not provided, seek feedback on what you need to do to be better.
And remember a few things:
1) quicker is not always better 2) they might not have done it right "last time" 3) never ask the client what you should be doing 4) if you think of a better way to do things, ask before you take the initiative to make any changes 5) be prompt to work 6) unless you are told otherwise, turn off your cell phone at work, and always when you are with a client.
I'm sure there are other pointers you should know.
--
Paul Thomas, CPA
snipped-for-privacy@bellsouth.net
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good points Paul.......

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~^ beancounter ~^ wrote:

Yes, I particularly like #1.
As a customer I'd rather have accuracy rather than speed, and I'm still prepared to make allowances for plain old human error.
Unlike machines, humans were only meant to go so fast... yet the emphasis is on ever increasing productivity.
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Thanks again Paul,
Also next month I think that I'm going to be spending around $1000 on clothing. I've never spent that much on clothing at once. It should be interesting.
I know that I need to be at work for atleast a month or so, so that I can get a feel for the culture and see how others who have been there longer than me do things.
Just 1 more direct question. I know that in nearly any profession, hard work pays off.
Are there any negatives (besides the lack of personal life and leisure time) to spending a lot of hours at the job (more than the other co-workers)?
I know most firms encourage this but I'm sure that employees that have been there would not want someone working very hard and setting the bar higher than it has to be so there could be backlash.
In your experience is the accounting field similar to what I described above or is it instead very competitive where everyone is working incredibly hard and putting in large hours to get ahead? So basically other's won't feel like like you are showing them up.
I believe I described that as best as I could. If you need any more clearing up on what I mean please ask.
Thank you,
k.
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Yup. Mistakes. Pace yourself to some degree. When you catch yourself making mistakes, take a break, or go home, or something. Get your head screwed on straight and come back to it.

If anyone needs to be bothered about a newbie working a few more hours, or they fear for their job if you did, then they probably shouldn't be in this business. I've learned long ago that there's no reward for a heart attach in the office working at 2 am on some clients return that's three years late, or when they brought you the stuff at 5pm on the 14th of April. There's no amount of money in the world that can compensate for crap like that.
If you learn that the "team" you are working with is full of "I" people, then calmly begin looking for another position elsewhere.
You get ahead in any buisness by learning your craft - well I might add. And you do that over time through experience and education (ask to go to as many CPE classes as you can, when the time is right). You also get ahead by getting along with your coworkers, supervisors, and most importantly, the clients. No, you don't have to be syurpy sweet to them, but be polite, professional, and personable.
Unfortunately they don't always teach this enough in school, but communication is the key. Talk to them, certainly, but listening is more important. Not always for what they say, but how they say it, and pay atttention for what they don't say.
--
Paul A. Thomas, CPA
Athens, Georgia
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Paul Thomas wrote:

Quick question, Paul: What's the average number of returns a first-year preparer (right out of UGA, for example) does for you? 150? 200? 250? 300?
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I don't think I have ever hired an actual new graduate from UGA (or any other school for that matter). Now, It's been maybe seven or eight years ago, but I hired a UGA student, who eventually graduated (so they say) and passed the CPA exam (so says the state). The latest person hired was a transplant (called a damned yankee in these parts) from up north. That person has been here for a tad over three years now.
Now to the point of your question. The number of returns I expect a first year hire to do - maybe a dozen to two dozen and primarily corporate or other entity. It really depands on how long they've been here and how much they've learned during that time. I rarely hire late in the fall (November or December) except for purely clerical work. I never - ever - hire during tax season (although I've fired a couple during tax season). Generally, idealy actually, it would work like this, the new hire would do some basic accounting on a specific business client, and with guidance, up to the point where they wrap up the clients year-end financials, then they'd prepare the corporate return (for example the "S" return), and if not too complicated, have them continue on with the shareholders personal returns.
But it really depends on the client and their needs and situation and then if I feel the employee is ready to move up to do more complicated work.
--
Paul Thomas, CPA
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Paul Thomas, CPA wrote:

Interesting... The firm that fired me never had me work on business returns (Forms 1065/1120/1120S), although of course I saw K-1s from the flow-thru entities all the time. I guess they figured they would give the guy who had three years of experience (and four at the firm itself) from PricewaterhouseCoopers all the business returns. But, I don't think the business returns would have been that bad really.
Do you use Ultra tax? I liked Ultra tax ok, but the organizers could have been better in my opinion. Basically, for all the returns I did, I had to input the data into the organizer by hand, then input the data into the system, then print the return and tick off to what I entered in the organizer. So I guess the average return maybe took me 4 to 5 hours whereas it should have only taken me only 2 hours according to the tax partner ... but I did about 100 individual returns. I'm just wondering whether I should mention this fact in interviews when trying to defend myself, but I'm thinking probably not.
I live in Spartanburg, SC, though, so I'm thinking there should be lots of industry jobs around here. I doubt another public accounting firm would look at me right now.
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They are easier than individual returns in my eyes (save for multi-state) if you have a clean or mostly clean set of books (BS & IS) to pull numbers from that is prepared on the income tax basis of accounting, which most small companies are. Data entry is the easy part. Getting the raw numbers is what all the fuss is about.

Currently starting a long term relationship with Drake (from Franklin, NC). Used them this past season with much success. The way your other firm does things sounds old-school, with a lot of duplicate work and a lot of printing pages just to shread them at a later date. We copy as many source documents as practicle, and work off of those (makes great space to jot a note or three) highlighting what got entered as we go. Then those same copies of source documents are used in the review process being checked off as they are verified they are entered correctly. The copies are put in the client file mostly in return order. W-2's, 1099-INT, 1099-DIV, broker statements, self-employment information, etc, with itemized deductions at the back. That way if the client or reviewer (me mostly) has a question about something, we're looking directly at a copy of the source document and not our hand written notes (which we find often contain errors or are otherwise lacking some critical piece of data).
Believe it or not, clients don't always complete a tax organizer correctly.

Home of the Marshall Tucker Band, I believe, or what's left of them.

Maybe. It couldn't hurt to get out there early.
--
Paul Thomas, CPA
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k. wrote:

Public accounting for me was somewhat tedious, yet also stressful. I worked at two different small firms over the course of a year, so things may be different at your larger firm. But, I had no formal training and I was basically doing a lot of bank/checkbook reconciliations, compilations, payroll tax returns, and many individual tax returns.
The main challenges throughout the day were trying to stay alert while doing fairly tedious work. The problem is that if you start to get tired, then your speed starts to go down. The entire day is like a big test. You will most likely be timed. And you are expected to get things right within a resonable amount of time. The only difference, of course, is that you can ask questions. But, yes, accounting firms love to employee the timesheet. Not all accounting firms make employees fill out timesheets, but I think most do.
The other problem for the first-year preparer (in a small firm at least) is that you are doing work at an INCREDIBLY depth, while at the same time you may be required to swing to employing knowledge of incredibly breadth (recognizing lots of different broad issues when you see them).
For example, I did compilations for law firms a lot of times, and if you really want to understand the accounting for a law firm, then you really need to have a good understand (depth) of law firms and the myriad of transactions they MIGHT engage themselves in. Yet, there really was no manual for this in my office. This was "ok" because I could always ask questions or look at what was done last period, but this would not necessarily help me in gaining a complete understanding of what was really going on. Often, only after months of doing something, would I then finally understand why something was happening the way it did. Some things you will not understand until you've been at a place for a year or more.
Here's my advice: If you're just a normal person who's not some genius, then to increase your probability of success in public accounting, you're going to sort of have to give your life to it for a while. You have to read read read read read and read some more. Learn to use Microsoft Excel well, and stay late... One problem I had with my old firm is that one of the partners didn't really like people staying past about 8 or 9 PM during tax season. That's unexpected, I know, for an accounting firm, but that's the way it was. Basically, all that mattered was how fast I did returns, and I was not fast. I did in fact have a hard time concentrating sometimes, and I sometimes would try to figure questions out myself before asking. So, I did about 100 returns, where I think the firm probably expected something closer to 200 or more, but I'm not really sure. That's not what they looked at anyway I believe... average time spent was what they were concerned with.
Also, you may hate tax but like audit. The tax code can be extremely arbitrary in nature, so that what matters more is your ability to get into tax -- not so much your analytical abilities, although those always come into play in accounting. Auditing is more of a "common sense" venture than tax, though.
Anyway, good luck.
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Thanks a lot, I've done about 50 or so tax returns in the past (Volunteer Program for IRS) over a 2 year span and I like to take my time to make sure everything is done right.
Looks like the firms out their seem to want to rush you which I need to get used to.
Thanks again.
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