Tips for Recent Accounting Graduates and New Hires

November 29, 2023


By Jenna Tornatore, Manager

The journey from college to the public accounting world can be daunting. Throughout college, we are exposed to horror stories surrounding public accounting, internships, and the CPA exam, which can be overwhelming for students and new grads. Even though it is normal to feel intimidated and nervous when starting your first job, it is not necessary! The truth is, no matter what firm you are joining, there is no doubt that your colleagues want nothing more than to see you succeed in your new role. But the question remains—what does success look like as a new accounting hire and how do I get there? 

Here at Wiss, we have compiled advice geared towards those who are just beginning their accounting career. Although not an all-encompassing list to success, the below concepts are best practices that I still maintain even six years into my career here at Wiss. 

Be inquisitive. Always ask yourself why? Why are we completing the task this way? Why is this important? Why does the client need this service? Why did this account balance change significantly? Why does this reconciliation not tie out? Not only does this form of questioning show your colleagues that you are eager to learn, but as you start asking and learning why, you will begin developing the skills to critically think and the bigger picture will begin to piece together.

Documentation matters. Creating detailed instructions when learning a new process can be extremely beneficial. Although we all love to believe that we will remember next time around, it is more likely that you will forget a few steps with the passage of time. Despite taking more time upfront to write detailed instructions, this process will save you time down the road when you are able to refer back to your instructions and complete the task with minimal questions. When learning any new process, take note of what areas confuse you. Is there documentation that can be added to reduce confusion when completing the process? Is there a more straight-forward way to complete this task that has the same outcome? 

Think critically. Always strive to have an idea of what you expect to happen and potentially why you expect this to happen. Then, when the result is not what you expected, the goal is to be able to critically think and brainstorm potential reasons why your expectation was not met. In my experience, sometimes SALY (Same As Last Year) can be our friend. This does not mean following blindly, but instead, using your resources to unfold how the prior year worked based on your expectations derived when critically thinking. Once you are able to make sense of the prior year, you can then attempt the same theory to the current year to test whether this solves the current year issue. 

Have time before you begin your new role in public accounting? Consider taking advantage of the downtime and look into advancing your technical skills prior to your start date.

  • Use the time to study for the CPA Exam or any other professional certification.
  • Enhance your Excel skills and familiarize yourself with the below:
    • Vlookups & Hlookups
    • Index Match
    • Pivot tables
    • SUMIFS
    • Keyboard shortcuts
  • Learn a new skill such as Power Query.
  • Brush up on any new accounting standards, such as ASC 842, or any hot topics in the industry, such as artificial intelligence and automation.
  • Consider reaching out to a contact at your future employer and inquire of any software that you can familiarize yourself with prior to your start date.

The most important thing is to begin your new role, and every day thereafter, with an eagerness to learn. Accounting is a profession where the ever-changing regulations and advancements in technology encourage change and the need to learn. Even five years into my career and I still am learning something new every day, whether it be as cumbersome as a new accounting standard or as simple as a keyboard shortcut in excel. It is important to treat every experience as an opportunity to learn and grow!


Reach out to a Wiss team member for more information or assistance.

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