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Corporate America and the Job Market

September 15, 2011

Growing up in the US has been fascinating. My generation has grown up in a time of uncertainty, economic volatility, technological and social breakthrough, rampant consumerism, endless wars, and politicians who refuse to do what we want them to. We can’t forget about a few large corporations that influence how we live each and every day.

Large corporations are massive institutions that wield an unconscionable amount of political and economic power. They get our politicians elected, both Democrats and Republicans. A large corporation has enough money that it can hire lobbyists to go to Washington and persuade politicians to act on its behalf. The average citizen can’t do that. The issues that we want our politicians to address will never be addressed as long as large corporations are running the show.

As far as economic power goes, a corporation has the ability to hold a community hostage. If a corporation sets up an office or factory in a town, it can employ hundreds of people and give the community a substantial boost. But the second that corporation decides to leave the area, the people it once employed are fucked over.

My parents have always emphasized doing well in school so I can get a good, secure job, get married, move to the suburbs and have a family. They called that the American Dream. Well, the American Dream is quickly turning into complete BULLSHIT. The American Dream is based on 20th century, post-Great Depression ideals. This idea that a college education equals job security is obsolete. A college education does not guarantee a job like it used to. Even a college education with several years of solid experience doesn’t ensure you’ll be safe. It doesn’t matter if you work for Goldman Sachs, GM, or the US Government. If your ass isn’t factored into next year’s budget, you’re history.

My parents both work for the State of Minnesota. Government jobs have always been thought of as the most secure, but I can assure you that this assumption is also BULLSHIT. If the government fails to pass a budget on time, your ass could be out of a job. My dad has worked for the state for over thirty years and was laid off for a while this summer because MN state politicians couldn’t get a budget together.

For a very brief period last year I was in US Air Force ROTC. I wasn’t totally committed to joining the military but ROTC allowed me to experience the culture for a while without signing my life away. In the few short weeks that I was there, one of the cadre was basically let go. He was a decorated officer who had served his country honorably, but his ass was expendable since the Air Force was going through budget bulimia.

After seeing all this I don’t trust the government to keep me employed, and I definitely don’t trust large corporations that will outsource our jobs the first chance they get. At this point, I will only work for another company for a while so I can gain enough financial experience to start my own business. When you take a step back to realize that the organizations that employ you don’t give a fuck about you, entrepreneurship makes perfect sense.

A college education has become a mere hunting license, nothing more. There is no sure-fire way to get a job in a volatile economy like this. Many small businesses are really struggling and don’t have the money to hire more people. Large corporations do have openings but the competition for them is mindblowing. During my internship last summer there was an individual in my department who left the company. Over 200 people applied for the vacant position. This wasn’t an entry-level job that anyone with an accounting degree could apply to; it was a very specific job requiring several years of SEC reporting experience. That is a clear example of how tight the job market is, even in a supposedly recession-proof career like accounting.

It’s a tough world out there, and I’m not looking forward to becoming part of the “professional workforce” after graduation. Speaking of graduation, I better stop drinking Ron Diaz 5 days a week and focus on landing a gig so I can start paying off the $50K worth of loans that I have.

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The Internship: Part Two

July 30, 2011

I’ve been interning at the corporate headquarters of a commercial bank for the past two months. It’s been eye-opening to leave the classroom and see what a corporation looks like on the inside. The group I’m working with this summer does a lot of financial reporting for the SEC and Federal Reserve. They also prepare some variance analyses and managerial reports as well. The main focus on my internship is to help out with the quarter end filing of the 10Q. There are various schedules and tables in the 10Q that basically consist of data copied and pasted from other tables in the 10Q. These are the reports I’ve been working on. It’s probably difficult for my department to hire an intern because their work carries a lot of responsibility, so I’ve been given assignments that are almost impossible to screw up. I don’t mind though, the pay is too good to complain!

Now that quarter-end has been wrapping up, I will be doing a few presentations. Every week, all of the bank’s interns get together and have lunch with a leader of the company, someone high-ranking that many employees never get to see. Before each leader lunch, a couple interns give a presentation about the speaker for that day. My presentation is coming right up, so I’m pretty pumped. I’ve sat through a lot of presentations filled with corporate jibberish for the last two months, so mine will be short, simple, and engaging. If I do a good enough job it might improve my chances of getting a full-time offer. Only time will tell.

Heavy Metal

July 9, 2011

I grew up in the barren wastelands of northern Minnesota. My hometown was very small and I had a hard time fitting in. This left me disillusioned and alienated during my teenage years. Luckily I found peace by listening to loud, aggressive music. Iron Maiden has been my favorite band since I was 13 years old.

Interning in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area has been awesome for concerts. Going to a metal show used to involve a 4 hour drive each direction. Now I can buzz over after work and see whoever is in town. The club I go to most is quite run down but I don’t mind because the tickets are VERY reasonably priced. I paid only $30 (including fees) and got to see a four-hour show.

Earlier this week was a great lineup of melodic, symphonic, and progressive death metal bands: Children of Bodom, Devin Townsend Project, Obscura, and Septicflesh.

The Internship: Part One

July 7, 2011

After months and months of going to job fairs, interviewing, and getting turned down, I finally landed a summer internship. Getting an internship in a recession has probably been one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life. Even though the economy is picking up and companies are starting to hire again, the amount of competition a fresh undergraduate faces when trying to get a job is daunting. A recession truly is an employer’s market. They can pick and choose their vision of the perfect candidate. So what this means is that many undergraduates meet or greatly exceed the minimum qualifications for internships and entry-level jobs, but they end up getting lost in the crowd because employers don’t remember them or they “aren’t the right fit” for the company, even though many of these kids are willing to work hard and learn.

Last fall was really the first time I’d ever gone to a job fair before, so for a while I had no idea what to say to recruiters to make a good impression. The whole process felt very uneasy and awkward. It just so happened at the job fair in question was the Minnesota Accounting and Auditing Student Conference, so it was twice as awkward as a regular job fair since the recruiters were accountants and not HR people (aside from McGladrey, the biggest firm there).

Things got better over time, but I was still discouraged because my efforts didn’t seem to be working. After going to about 3 more job fairs, I was gaining more confidence and getting interviews. There were a couple interviews I really sucked at big time, mainly due to becoming overrun with nerves. Many felt like they went well; usually the interviewers seemed to like me. But it was the same situation every time. About a week after the interview finished, I would get that familiar rejection email in my inbox. It seems like every company uses the same general template, always saying that they found someone who was more qualified for the position. It’s a politically correct, vague, and bullshit way of denying people jobs. But I guess it’s better than getting no reply at all, which has happened to me and countless others.

In the spring, right before Easter break, an employer called me out of the blue. It was a large company in the Twin Cities that I had talked to at a job fair way back in February. I was almost certain that my resume had been shredded the day I handed it over to the recruiter. But to my surprise, I was invited to come down for an interview and just about shit my pants. It was the most random interview process I’ve ever been through. The weirdest thing of all was that I was basically interviewed one time. I went to the corporate headquarters and had three one-on-one interviews with people from the company’s Financial Reporting department. Each conversation lasted 20 minutes, so I only interviewed for the grand total of one hour with this company. It was the best round of interviews I ever had. My personality was a perfect fit for what they were looking for. They actually appreciated the fact that my extracurricular activities and previous jobs don’t relate to accounting at all. Most interviewers would have probably considered my work history random and unpredictable, while these guys considered me well-rounded.

I called back 5 days later to ask about the status of my application, and was promptly offered a job. What a ride. I want this story to give undergrads hope during while trying to get hired. Going to a non-target school and having no “relevant” experience can put you at a major disadvantage even if you get decent grades and participate in your community. My school was very small and not accredited by the AACSB, so it was rare for companies to recruit on campus. What matters is that no matter how many times you get denied a job offer or blow an interview, DO NOT GIVE UP!

Hello There

June 2, 2011

The purpose of this blog is to help accounting majors through the complex transition from campus to the workplace. I will share job search strategies that have worked for me and will write about experiences in the classroom and on the job.

After taking several accounting classes at my college, my interests gravitated more toward private accounting than public. After taking a tax class I couldn’t dream of working on tax returns all day, and the very mention of the word “audit” just kills my mood. However, I absolutely loved cost and financial accounting when I first took those classes. For me, solving problems to figure out a company’s costs was fun.

Last summer I spent hours researching accounting careers and tried to find out what the workplace environment was really like. Eventually I found blogs such as The Anonymous Accountant Angry Accountants, and after sifting through literally hundreds of comments describing the intense work environment of the Big Four accounting firms, I decided to primarily focus on getting a job in industry right out of college.

Since many blogs of young accounting professionals tend to focus on the public accounting profession, I would like to offer my insights of the corporate finance world to help accounting majors evaluate their potential career paths.

Stay tuned…