Starting out at as an accounting intern at a Big 4 firm, your goal from day one is to show your senior and other superiors that you have the skills to work as a full-time staffer. To help with this, I have compiled below a list of things that I found impressed my seniors, and that I appreciated as well once I became a senior. Keeping these in mind during your engagement will go a long way in earning you high evaluation marks from your senior.
- Take Notes When Your Senior is Giving Instructions
This simple task will help your relationship with your senior get off on the right foot. You will receive an assignment on your first day and it is important you understand the assignment and take notes while the senior is giving instructions. If you are unclear about any of the instructions, do not hesitate to ask. Seniors are frustrated when interns or first years act like they understand the topic when they don’t in reality.
- Take on any Task with a Smile
As an intern, you may not always enjoy the work you are doing, but it is best not to make this displeasure known. Handle every assignment given with enthusiasm. Although a task may seem small or unimportant, it goes a long way in helping the team to complete the engagement and keeps everyone’s stress levels down.
- Ask Questions, but Show You have Thought About Your Question Before You Ask It
While working through your work paper, do not rattle off a question to your senior every time you encounter a problem. Before asking a question, think about it, see if there is anything from last year that will help you answer it, or see if something you covered in training will help you answer it. If you are still stumped after this, feel free to approach your senior about the issue, but be sure to pose the question in a manner that shows you have thought about it.
- Be Willing to Direct Your Questions to Other Staffers
Building on the previous tip, it is a smart idea to try and divert some of your questions away from your senior by asking them to other first or second years on the team. More than likely they completed the same work paper the previous year and will be able to answer your questions. Also, I was more comfortable asking the staffers the simpler, more general questions that came along. Seniors greatly appreciate this tactic by interns as it helps to reduce their already heavy workload.
- Take on the Challenge of Talking with the Client
I was lucky enough to be assigned to engagements during my internship that allowed me to have client exposure. A couple of times I was in discussion alone with the client about the work paper I was completing at the time. If you are lucky enough to have this opportunity, take it. You may be afraid (I was), but it is a good experience for you because it forces you to learn more about your work and yourself. If you are unable to have a direct meeting with the client, ask your senior if you can sit in on the discussions they have with the client. Express your desire to see what it is like to speak with a client as this can be a great learning experience as well.
- If You Think You Have Found an Issue, Point it Out
As you are completing a work paper, be cognizant of any errors you think you may have found in the client’s evidence or support. If you believe you have found an issue, point it out to the senior or staffers. If there is an issue, it is something they will want to know about immediately and take care of it. Too often, an intern or staffer will sit on an issue until it is time to return to a senior for review, at which point, valuable time has been lost. So to reiterate, if you think you found an issue, discuss it with your senior as soon as possible. The fact that you found a problem will also go a long way in impressing your superiors.
At times, it can be hard during your internship to stand out given the remedial tasks you may be asked to perform. However, if you follow the above guidelines I have given, you will undoubtedly leave a positive impression with your senior no matter what the subject. He or she will have no excuse not to give you a solid evaluation after your engagement is over, which is the ultimate goal for every intern.