Gaining practical experience and building a robust professional network is essential for a successful career in accounting. Education is the first step, but the benefits of taking on an internship, with its innumerable learning opportunities, cannot be overstated.
Allison Hodge, a University of Alabama graduate and Borland Benefield intern discovered how beneficial such an experience can be.
Finding Her Footing
Allison’s path to accounting was not a straight line but rather a process of exploration.
“I started college with an undecided major,” Allison says. “I tried out a lot of different things like hospitality and then interior design. I couldn’t stand either, but I found the budgeting aspect of my hospitality course to be very enjoyable.”
That budgeting interest led her to the accounting major, which fit perfectly with her love for mathematics, fostered by her ninth-grade math teacher. “Accounting’s reputation for being boring wasn’t accurate, especially if you like solving problems. It’s a very active profession.”
Allison graduated from UA a semester early but wanted to challenge her abilities in a real-world setting.
The Interview Experience
Allison set her sights on securing an internship to gain valuable field experience before heading to graduate school. She meticulously researched several accounting firms around Alabama, including the “Big Four.” But the exceptional culture and warm welcome she experienced at Borland Benefield solidified her decision.
“Most firms have a very strict and structured interview process, consisting of multiple rounds of interviews and questioning,” she says. “Borland just felt more interested in me. They wanted to know what I wanted to learn from them, not just what I could offer.”
Opting for a tax internship, Allison went through an informal and relaxed interview process where she had the opportunity to engage with Borland Benefield Associates and Partners. The experience left a lasting impression on her and reinforced her belief in the firm’s dedication to fostering success.
Getting to Work
Since beginning her internship in January 2023, Allison’s days have been filled with valuable learning experiences and responsibilities.
“My day usually starts with checking on the prep list – our master list of returns – and any emails to see if there are any returns on hold that need to be finalized. Oh, and coffee.”
Her responsibilities cover many accounting staples, such as:
- Preparing 1099s
- Preparing tax returns for individuals
- Talking to IRS agents
- Contacting clients to flesh out their tax return information
- Assisting Borland Benefield Associates and Partners
Allison admits that the pace during the tax season is intense, emphasizing maximizing billable hours. Fortunately, the stresses were alleviated through Borland Benefield’s signature ingredient: camaraderie.
The Borland Benefield Family
Through her internship, Allison gained invaluable knowledge about firm relations and a realization that real-world application goes beyond the theoretical concepts taught in school. Internalizing those lessons was possible thanks to the closeness of Borland Benefield’s Associates.
“I’ve never liked asking for help,” she says, “because I’m always worried I’ll look like I don’t know what I’m doing. But Borland Benefield chased away that fear. Everyone is so authentically kind here, and it’s easier to learn when you’re being taught by people you consider your friends.”
All Types of People
From the outside, accountants may seem like shy, quiet people who would rather sit behind a desk than talk to a stranger. Allison proves this assumption wrong, as does every other Borland Benefield Associate.
“I know accounting is labeled as a ‘quiet’ profession,” she says, “but I’m pretty outgoing, and so is everyone I’ve met here. I was in Band and the Majorettes in high school, and I was a Crimsonette in the Million Dollar Band and a Delta Zeta member. Accounting seems niche, but it’s open to anyone of any background, and it builds skills in many fields outside of accounting.”
Prepared for the Future
As Allison’s internship draws to a close, she reflects on the immense personal and professional growth attained through the experience. Her time at the firm has solidified her desire to pursue accounting further, and she plans to take on the CPA exam with newfound confidence.
“School is one thing,” she says, “but getting to ease your way into the actual workforce and build your skills and network in the field is something entirely different. I’m much more confident in my grad school search now.”
Even the CPA exam, a major hurdle for those entering the profession, seems surmountable now that Allison has the practical experience of a Borland Benefield internship.
Regardless of the path she ultimately chooses, Allison believes that the knowledge and skills acquired during her time at Borland Benefield will allow her to overcome any challenge that comes her way.
“I can’t say whether or not I’ll be an accountant forever, but what I’ve learned at Borland Benefield will definitely aid me in any path I pursue. I owe that to all the friends and colleagues I’ve met here, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I cry a little when I leave.”
Follow Your Path
Allison isn’t alone. Borland Benefield encourages college students to embrace internship opportunities, foster relationships, and explore the vast opportunities the accounting profession offers.