Amid COVID regulations, the Accounting Students Association continues to provide insider information on the accounting industry.
Like most other RSOs, COVID has put a leash on many of the Accounting Students Association’s activities. However, according to the ASA’s President Jacob Rowland, the association is still active and continues to provide its members with networking opportunities.
“Our mission is to present students with opportunities to network with local and broad big 4 accounting firms,” Rowland said.
Rowland explained that the ASA accomplishes this mission by providing an environment where students can learn from each other and hold meetings with professionals in the accounting industry.
“A big part of it, for me, was I was able to find a lot of study buddies,” they said. Rowland explained further that this association is a particular advantage with the remote nature of learning, as members can meet and form study groups that they otherwise wouldn’t have.
In addition to offering accounting students a virtual space to connect, the club discusses various subjects relevant to getting ahead in the accounting industry.
Last week, Rowland noted that they hold a contemporary accounting forum in which members discuss technology in accounting and provide advice for success in accounting careers. Members can also receive advice for success in accounting careers from business professionals who manage accounting firms. Their weekly zoom and learning sessions put members in direct reach of experienced professionals.
“A couple weeks ago, we had Johnston Stone Pagano, a local accounting firm … and they talked about what they do as an accounting firm, like maybe their internship opportunities, and then they leave it open for people to ask questions,” said Rowland.
“It’s just a good way to network with that person that came in,” they said. “For example, the person that came in from Johnson Stone Pagano, we recommend these students to connect with them on LinkedIn so you can start that network.”
Rowland advised students to make the best of club meetings now that nearly all meetings, like classrooms and other RSOs, are held virtually. They said the biggest key to making the best of these meetings is being constantly engaged.
“I think any professor would tell you that COVID has affected communication in the classroom,” Rowland said, “ … I think zoom fatigue is a real thing.”
Rowland then made note of the advantages and disadvantages of online meetings.
“It’s made meetings a lot harder but a lot easier at the same time,” they said. “There’s a benefit to
hop on to a zoom meeting instead of walking, you can’t replace the in-person relationship environment.”
Attendance in ASA, much like classes, has been affected as well. During the first few weeks of the quarter Rowland mentioned they were seeing roughly 35-40 attendees, but the numbers have since been dropping to anywhere around 15-20 people. Rowland then urged prospective members to make the most out of their meetings by remaining active and mingling with others.
“The biggest thing is attendance,” they said. “It’s really easy as a student to not participate; going to an event and not doing anything doesn’t benefit you compared to if you turn your camera on, they know your face [and] if you ask them a question they can carry on a conversation with you and now like if you were to contact them, they would know who you are, and you just made a greater connection by participating and not by kind of being a fly on the wall.”
Rowland expanded on the importance of networking both with classmates and established professionals. They said that a classmate could be a future coworker at an accounting firm by making connections now.
“Networking with already successful business professionals can help you as well because they could possibly help you take that next step to connecting with that recruiter and maybe getting an interview,” they said.
Rowland said a common subject of discussion during meetings was being proactive by learning outside the classroom.
“The biggest thing we discuss during meetings is learning your field,” they said. “Learning what it’s like outside of taking your classes. It’s easy to take your classes and go home, but it’s a very small picture compared to what you’re actually gonna see once you graduate.”
Rowland said they knew this because many business professionals explain that the content students learn during their time in school is very minor compared to what actually goes on outside of the classroom. They then elaborated on what exactly goes on during meetings with professionals and what they typically learn about the industry.
“We try to keep it as similar as we could to in-person meetings,” Rowland said. “They talk about their business, maybe a specific part of their business, or the difference between private or public, why it’s valuable to get a CPA, or they may mention internship opportunities and then leave it to Q & A.”
Rowland explained that the question and answer segments are the most important part of the meetings due to the knowledge incurred that helps members develop experience in contacting professionals and knowing how to ask the right questions.
Rowland also wanted to point out that students don’t have to be in the accounting field to benefit from these meetings, that it can be beneficial for any student to hone their skills by attending the meetings.
“For students who are outside of the field of accounting, I would say it’s valuable just because I think they learn good professional skills from the speakers,” they said.
Rowland said that for students to face maximum opportunities, they also must face their fears.
“If I’m being honest, I can relate to a lot of people who think walking up to a business professional is intimidating,” they said. “But that’s how you’re going to get the most out of those situations.”
Students interested in learning about the accounting field or honing their networking skills may attend their zoom meetings every Wednesday from 12:30 to 1:20 p.m.
The club is hosting three virtual events this month. An event discussing the distinction between government vs. public accounting on Feb. 10, a meet and greet with Weyerhaeuser Industry representatives on Feb. 17 and another meet and greet with Davida Kidney Care’s accounting sector representatives on Feb. 24.
Giving their final thoughts, Rowland talked about how ASA helps to put students in a position to help themselves succeed.
“We do try to make a positive impact and give accounting students every opportunity in our power to succeed and gain valuable knowledge and give students the best opportunities we can,” they said. “We want to help them succeed in their academics and their careers, but it’s ultimately up to the student.”