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As You Prepare To Graduate...

by Karen B. McCarron, PhD

The big day is almost here. You are about to graduate with your accounting degree. What are you going to do now? Hopefully, you interviewed and you have a job. If not, getting one is your first priority! However, just think about all the free time that you will have now that you are not going to be studying 22 hours a day (okay, it feels like 22 hours; it is really just 14). The reality is that you will always have to study in order to be a good accountant. It is a life-long consequence of your chosen profession. Everything in accounting---from statements issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to the income tax law---changes in a nanosecond. Most of you will be preparing for some type of certification exam, such as the CPA, CMA, or CIA exam. Then, there is that fifth year of education that you need---not to mention that you will be expected to work harder than ever at your new job. If you want to remain an accountant and not "burn out" before your career is well lit, you will need to find time for some activities that you can enjoy.

This may be the first time that you have been on your own...really on your own. Location has probably influenced your job choice, and it is likely that you know something about your new hometown (either through first-hand experience or pre-interview research). However, you will have to do some more research in order to discover everything that your new home offers. Once you know what activities are available to you, you can decide which ones are appropriate in benefiting both your career and your personal life. A new accountant usually has to build a system to include more than professional responsibilities. While the process is not easy for anyone moving to a new city and a new job, it is an extremely daunting task for even the most enthusiastic fledgling.

Former classmates, friends, and relatives who live in your new home can provide valuable information about the expected amenities. If you don't know anyone in your chosen city (and it happens), remember that your alma mater can provide you with all the help you need in making new friends. Every college or university has an alumni/ae association; you may be surprised to find a nearby chapter. Call the alumni society in order to obtain contact names in your area. You will, of course, have something very important in common with the people you meet there. If you have a religious affiliation, attending the church or synagogue of your choice can offer that same kind of bond. As with any other career, the ability to interact socially on a regular basis is especially critical to fostering both personal and business relationships.

To learn more details about your town and its activities, try searching the worldwide web. Nearly every city has a website. Even in this computer age, the telephone book and local library remain important sources of information as well. You can gather listings and maybe even catch up on the reading you put off while in school balancing numbers. You might even obtain important phone numbers and listings through your local bank, your landlord, or even your new colleagues.

Now that you have an idea of how to learn about your new home, consider what interests you. Whether you are inclined towards art and culture, sports organizations, community service activities, particular hobbies, or even caring for a pet, there are a variety of outlets to fulfill your interests, and the information is at the tips of your fingers.

You are always in luck when you live in a city with a college. Almost everyone offers some type of continuing education program where people go to learn new things just for fun without the pressure of being graded. If you are not in a college town, many public school boards offer similar programs. Again, check the Internet or the phone book to see if these institutions have a continuing education office. Staying mentally and physically fit complement each other in the long run.

Whatever activity you choose, the rewards are immeasurable. Community involvement in any form is a necessary and expected part of a successful accounting career. The relationships that you forge can assist you professionally and maybe even become a lasting part of your personal life. The degree of involvement is your decision. Obviously, your first priority is to your professional responsibility, but you worked hard to get to this point in your life; you deserve a little fun.

Karen B. McCarron is an assistant professor of accounting in the J. Whitney Bunting School of Business at Georgia College & State University, Milledgeville, Georgia.

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