Career

Navigating My Job Search

MS in Accounting student Josh VanWingerden on his job search process and how he found what makes him happy.

Do what makes YOU happy.

I received this piece of advice from my older brother’s best friend about the job search, and it really stuck with me. We were at a Jimmy Eat World concert a few summers ago, yelling about career paths and the “best jobs.” He kept telling me the same thing: “Do what makes you happy.” This statement truly played out in my heart over the last few months.

I knew I wanted to begin my career in public accounting since the first week of “Principles of Accounting I” in January 2016 at Appalachian State University. One of my professors required all students to visit his office. During my visit, we began chatting about the NFL playoffs (I had to mention this because it is my half shining moment as a Carolina Panthers fan, 15-1 season), and then he told me the benefits of an accounting degree, you know, the whole spiel about the various options in the public accounting industry.

Since that conversation, I interned at an investment management firm in the firm’s internal audit department. It was an exceptional experience, but I still wanted to pursue the traditional audit career route. After completing my undergraduate studies, I then completed a busy season audit internship with a national accounting firm. I was thankful to receive a job offer from this company. I was originally given the traditional two-week decision period; however, I was upfront with them. I explained my plan to attend McIntire’s M.S. in Accounting Program and pursue an upcoming unique work/travel experience, and I was able to have my offer extended for nearly six months by the firm.

I arrived in Charlottesville in mid-August to pursue my M.S. in Accounting degree. It was an amazing feeling to have a fresh start with new people and an amazing university. I wanted to explore my options with Commerce Career Services and UVA in general. I once again was upfront with the previous firm as I declined my offer, and I went through the recruiting process that began in early September. After a few recruiting events, like Commerce Career Day and Accounting Networking Night, I knew which firm I wanted to work for, and thankfully I received an offer. I accepted this offer with a “Big Four” firm in Tysons, VA, during the fall semester.

Winter break arrived, and I began feeling hesitant about moving to Northern Virginia. This feeling was largely due to returning to North Carolina and the sense of home I felt during the three weeks that I was there for winter break. A few weeks into the spring semester, I was sitting in class and something clicked—I needed to be honest with myself. By honest, I mean realizing how much I value familiarity and the freedom to pursue my interests on any given weekend. These, of course, happen to be in my home state of North Carolina.

I contacted my DC-based recruiter to express my feelings and eventually requested a possible relocation. I am happy to say the firm was able to transfer my job offer to its office in Raleigh, NC. I share this experience not to encourage you to take the route I took, as not all firms can provide this flexibility, but to encourage you to take the time to identify what it is that you truly want and not what you think is expected of you by other people. In the end, it circles back to my initial piece of advice: Do what makes YOU happy.

To talk about the job search process or M.S. in Accounting Program with a current student, request to connect with a student ambassador.

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