Transitioning from the high school job to the professional career while studying a degree?
February 12, 2012 12:34 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way for a university student studying online to transition from general work to a more professional setting while pursuing an accounting degree?

Okay, so I've found myself in a pretty unique situation. Long story short, I'm a 20 year old student working full time in the fast food industry and going to online university as full time as I can make it ( I've managed to study between 4 and 5 courses each semester) in pursuit of a Bachelor's degree in Commerce with an Accounting major. Sadly, I'm still chipping away at the last semester of my first year due to numerous reasons, such as a job change and an increase in work hours when I found myself saddled with a managerial promotion.

I'm getting tired of working in and training for an industry that ultimately isn't going to be beneficial to the degree I'm studying. I want to know how I can begin to get my foot in the door and start gaining experience relevant to my courses. I understand that with an Accounting major, I can't expect to step in to the role of an accountant right away; I was thinking more along the lines of entry level administrative assistant or a receptionist who's responsibilities are similiar to that of an administrative assistant.

I'm willing to take on extra studying if it gets me out of this rut I seem to be stuck in; I've been trying to leave my current job of a year and a half for over three months now, but I seem to be missing a few key pieces that actually qualify me for entry level positions as an office assistant. Are there any short courses outside of my degree that I should be looking at that would help out? I've already taken Business and Management courses through my degree, as well as Introductory Accounting. Also, what are important bits of information within resumes that companies look for when hiring for these sorts of entry level positions? (I've been tentatively filling out applications for employment opportunities that don't ask for previous experience; I unfortunately don't have any years of experience in a professional office setting).

I do know that networking can play a big part in obtaining these kinds of jobs, but I'm limited because of where I live. I work in a small town, and I haven't wanted to take the risk of word getting back to my employer that I'm currently seeking out new employment. So I'm trying to find other ways to fluff out my resume and gain some handy knowledge to help make myself more appealing to those companies in the city that are hiring. Any and all help would be appreciated!
posted by crackerz to Work & Money (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's unfortunate that you're studying online - if you were going to an on-campus school they would probably have some internships available....and perhaps that could be something to try. You could continue your online studies, but make a connection with a physical school and take a class or two there, and mention your interests to a counselor.

I'm not sure how it is for accounting, but for my field it's unspoken but understood that an online class/degree is not as good as an on-campus class/degree, so you might also be getting a bit of pushback on that in regards to your resume. It might be different in accounting, but I'm not sure....
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 5:04 AM on February 12, 2012


At my university, many of the summer jobs that are advertised are suitable for students with business/accounting degrees. I'm not sure about entry level positions through the year, but what about checking your university (OR local universities) job/career centre and ask them if they have a listserv for jobs, or know of any suitable summer job postings. A summer job is a term position, yes, but it could still be a foot in the door.
posted by sarae at 5:41 AM on February 12, 2012


One problem you're likely having is that businesses don't want to hire someone who is almost finished a degree into an entry level position. If it was an entry level position in your field, it would require that the degree be finished. If it's an entry level position not in your field, then the fact that you are soon to finish your degree and then go looking for a real job in your field means training you is a waste of their time.

What you likely need is internships, possibly in a larger city than you're currently living in. Or a willingness to give up your old job and take on temp work, possibly in a larger city than you're currently living in.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:11 AM on February 12, 2012


From what I've observed, accounting is a profession that has a pretty standard recruiting calendar and structure. Most of the firms develop relationships with a targeted number of brick-and-mortar universities that provide them with a steady stream of interns (at both the bachelor's and master's level) and they tend to hire staff from those interns. Most of the recruiting is done in person, at meet-the-firms events, networking socials and job fairs. I would agree with the poster above who suggests that attending an online university will make it difficult for you to break into this structure.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 8:41 AM on February 12, 2012


You don't need a degree to start out as a data entry clerk, and you don't need to work at an accounting or audit firm in order to gain accounting experience. Since you're in fast food, do you have experience running a till? Have you participated in inventory counting? Can you demonstrate responsibility for closing down at the end of the night? Can you type? You mention a recent promotion; can you demonstrate your ability to work well with other people? How are your written and verbal communication skills? Are you trainable?

These are things I would look for to fill an entry-level position in my department. By nature, it's a high turnover position; I'd only expect someone to stay in that position for a max of two years. I'm looking for someone who wants to move up to a junior accountant position, or specialize into accounts payable or accounts receivable, but who is willing to put in the grunt work time necessary to learn the specific quirks of the industry I work in and my company in particular. I have a bias toward continuing education, so online or not, taking accounting classes is always a plus.

A decent cover letter can convey some of this information, even when it may be difficult to work it into your actual resume.

Beyond that, if there is a temp agency in town that fills office positions, I would suggest going to talk to them and seeing if they can help you out.
posted by sillymama at 11:01 AM on February 12, 2012


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