How Can I Land an Internship in the Accounting Field?

By in Ask the Coach, Career Exploration, Get Your Foot in the Door, Internship Search Advice, Job Search Advice, Networking Advice on

0 Comments / Leave a Comment

Lindsay from Kaplan University asks:

“I recently have been trying to find internships in the accounting field. My father worked for Ernst & Young for many years and has nothing but good things to say about the company. My school has not let me know about any opportunities with Ernst & Young. Do I need to go through my school to find an internship there? How do I start the process?”

Thanks for your question, Lindsay.  Internships allow students to “test drive” their major and career path before officially starting in their first full-time position after graduation.  I’m excited to learn that you will be including an internship within your academic program.

You are also learning a valuable lesson as you pursue your internship interest as well.  While I strongly recommend that you visit with your university’s career services center, don’t wait for them to line up employers for you.  Your campus career center is serving thousands of other students, so I encourage you to also be proactive on your own.

Also, you have a great inside connection at Ernst & Young – your father.  Since he worked there for many years, he likely is well connected with the company even if he has retired.  I am sure he’d be glad to send your resume to them or introduce you to a hiring manager working at a location in your geographic area.  Networking is the best job search method so leverage this connection to your advantage.

However, if your immediate connection (your father) doesn’t pan out, there are many other strategies you can employ to secure a great internship in the accounting field.  You’ll always want to have a backup plan at your disposal in case the “Plan A” doesn’t work.

Detailed below are some specific suggestions you can implement in your plan to land an accounting internship with Ernst & Young or with another company in this field.

Confirm Your Eligibility

It isn’t clear whether you want to do your internship for credit or simply for experience.  If you are considering a for-credit internship, you should investigate your eligibility.  I work at an institution where students can do internships for credit after their freshman year (or 30 completed credit hours).  Kaplan University (now Purdue University Global) will have specific student eligibility requirements for internships for various programs so investigate this as a good first step.

Contact Your Academic Advisor

Regardless of your eligibility, contact your academic advisor to discuss your career plan and interest in pursuing one or more internships during your student journey.  Your advisor will be able to help you plan how to include an internship in your academic program.  Additionally, they will share with you the required action steps and paperwork that you’ll need to complete to get credit for any internship.  It is a good idea to develop a strong rapport with your advisor as they can offer ongoing advice and support during your college experience.

Tap Into the Power of Networking

Remember, people hire people, not computers.  We need the help of others to succeed both on the job and in life.  Networking (engaging with people) is, was, and will always produce the best job search results.  Embrace saying hello (or connecting) to others, while reconnecting with people you already know.  One of the first things you should do is let all of your friends, family members (including your father), and connections know exactly what type of job you are targeting and that you’d be grateful for any assistance that they can offer to you.  While some may not be able to provide you with a job lead, these individuals can also offer valuable tips, introductions, referrals, and more that can be a stepping stone to landing the job.

Make sure to grow your circle of influence and network by attending community events.  Join professional associations in your field to connect with others in your field.  Utilize LinkedIn to grow your virtual network, find posted jobs, connect with recruiters, further your value proposition through skills endorsements and recommendations, and join industry related groups.

Pursue a Non-Traditional “Internship”

If your institution doesn’t allow you include an internship for credit or you’ve already completed this course (or possibly used an elective) and don’t have space for another internship, then complete a non-traditional “internship” (internship-like experience) by volunteering or working part or full-time with a company in your field.  You would still invest the same commitment and job search strategy initiatives to land a volunteer or paid part or full-time position.  An internship can allow a student to receive credit, but also gain valuable experience.  Even without receiving credit, these experiences can help you build important connections, enhance your resume, learn new professional skills, and position you for employment upon graduation.  Obviously, a non-traditional “internship” can offer you the same benefits as a real internship with the exception of earning course credit.  Additionally, your on-the-job experience will help solidify your career choice and get you more excited about the rest of your college journey.

Contact Your Career Center for Assistance

Most colleges and universities offer career preparation services to current students at no additional cost.  Simply put, students should leverage their career center as it is a valuable student resource.  College career centers are staffed with knowledgeable, skilled, and credentialed professionals who can provide assistance in a variety of areas including resume review, interview skills training, job search strategy, and more.  Furthermore, your career center will likely have a job site exclusively for current students featuring jobs and internships posted with the institution. Set up an appointment soon.

Be Creative in “Internship” Search

Following the same path as everyone else with your internship search can be counterproductive.  Utilize non-traditional ways to capture the attention of an employer and its hiring manager.  Consider adding informational interviewing to your job/internship search plan. Through this initiative, you can identify individuals who are already doing the type of work you aspire to do and contact them to line up an informational interview.  Individuals, especially those working in your desired field, are the greatest resource to help you advance your career.  Connecting with established professionals in your field through an informational interview can allow you to get some great advice to help you build your career plan.  During the informational interview, you are looking for information and advice, not a job.  However, who better to be talking to than someone doing what you’d like to do?

Target Employers, Don’t Wait for Jobs to Be Posted

Most job seekers mistakenly assume employers post all jobs/internships online.  Employers are competing for talent similar to the way you are competing for jobs with other candidates.  Current data show that many employers find employee referrals as a great way to fill job openings.  Recruitment by referrals are utilized for over 25 percent of openings according to recent research.

Jobs/internships won’t always be posted online.  So, reverse this thinking by proactively targeting employers.  Don’t wait for employers to post available jobs.  Develop a list of 25-50 prospective employers (or more) in your area that may have opportunity in line with your skills, experience, education, and interests.  Do some additional research and determine a decision maker to whom you’ll address your letter and resume.  This is a great way to get your value proposition into the hands of the person with the power to start a dialogue and ultimately hire you.  Companies are always hiring.  The downside is that they may not always be hiring on your timeline.  Get to the employer before everyone else.

Utilizing this strategy allows you to be proactive, rather than passively waiting for jobs/internships to be posted.  It can make all the difference in the world to landing an interview.  Remember, you only need one job/internship.

Follow Up on Applications and Use Double-Hit Strategy

After applying for internships online, most go into “hope and pray” mode as they hope and pray an employer calls them in for an interview.  Be proactive with employers by following up on all your applications.  If you are not being referred to an employer, the employer MUST receive, read, and value your application / resume before they will call you in for an interview.  If something fails along the way, then you won’t get the interview you desire.  Following up on your application can help you confirm that the company received your resume and find out any next steps or other valuable information.

Additionally, target market your value proposition to the hiring manager as well.  Research to determine who the decision maker is and craft a strong message to this individual highlighting how you can help them.  This is a great way to get your resume into the hands of the person who is making the hiring decision.  The first step is to apply through HR, then target the decision maker / hiring manager – the double-hit.  Utilizing this strategy allows you to be proactive, rather than passively waiting for a response.  It can make all the difference in the world to landing an interview.  Remember, you only need one job.

Putting It All Together

Hopefully, you recognize that there are quite a number of things you can do to move your career interests forward to achieve your immediate objective of landing an accounting internship.  Start by determining your university’s internship policies.  Once you have determined what you need to do to get credit, talk with your father to ask for his assistance to help you network within Ernst & Young.  Additionally, build your backup plan by implementing many of the proactive search methods detailed in the post.

Is it hard work to land a great internship?  Yes, it is!  But, you’ll be learning some valuable lessons and gaining experience and connections along the way.  You can do it, Lindsay!

Good luck and best wishes!

Here’s to your success,
Bob Nealon



Have a question for the Coaches? Submit it Here!

About the Author

Robert Nealon

For almost 10 years, Bob Nealon has been a South Florida-based career coach, focused on training and coaching college students and professional-level clients to achieve success in their employment search campaign and careers. He has trained over 5,000 clients with strategies on how to best compete in today’s ultra-competitive market to land the job and advance their career. Currently, he is a career coach at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management from Indiana University, a master’s degree in Sports Administration from Indiana State University and is a multi-credentialed career coach holding industry certifications as a Certified Professional Career Coach, Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Employment Interview Professional, Certified Empowerment and Motivational Coach, Global Career Development Facilitator, and Florida Certified Workforce Professional. He is an active member of Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches, Center for Credentialing and Education, Florida Association of Colleges and Employers, National Association of Colleges and Employers, and National Career Development Association. Connect with Bob via LinkedIn and Twitter.

Posted in: Ask the Coach, Career Exploration, Get Your Foot in the Door, Internship Search Advice, Job Search Advice, Networking Advice
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.