I started college as a chem major and then started over in accounting

If you would have asked me what the Big 4 was in 2012, I probably would have told you a candy bar. During my senior year of high school, I feigned an interest in the medical field certain that I could become a radiologist after getting an undergraduate degree in chemistry, going to medical school, and then specializing in radiology. Thank goodness this didn’t last! My instilled passion for business broke through during freshman summer orientation and I changed my major to accounting. Once again, I began pursuing an interest that I knew almost nothing about.

A CPA will help me become a CEO

First I was out to prove to my parents that accounting and business had a future just as promising as STEM majors. I primarily decided on accounting after doing some Google searches on the career paths of accounting majors.  Obtaining my C.P.A license after completing my undergraduate studies would be a great achievement and allow me to further expand opportunities in the business/accounting industry. I could move up further in a firm and potentially own my own public accounting firm. Furthermore, I saw that many current and successful CEOs had their C.P.A, and being a CEO is my long term career goal.  I had to align myself well to make sure I reach this goal. My desire to succeed was strong and I knew I was at a disadvantage compared to those who already took accounting classes in high school.

I learned to network with NABA

In order to familiarize myself with the accounting and business world, I knew I needed help beyond Google. I needed guidance, a mentor, someone to teach me. The National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) is where I found all this and more.

NABA is a nationally recognized club representing minority students in accounting and other business majors. Their goal is to bring internships, jobs, professional development, scholarships, and networking opportunities to deserving, passionate students. I attended their weekly events eager to learn.

I started out extremely shy.  I remember in one of my first meetings, Ernst & Young presented on interviewing. An older NABA member pushed me to talk to the recruiter after the meeting. I didn’t know what to say at all. I felt like I had nothing to offer. I had no accounting or business exposure in high school and I knew nothing about their service lines. Honestly, I had not even taken an accounting class at this point.   My friend urged me to simply introduce myself, state my major, and ask a question about the firm- so I did.

I went up to the recruiter, beyond nervous on the inside, but smiling wide on the outside to hide it. “Hi, I really wanted to tell you that I truly enjoyed your presentation and learned a lot from it that I think I will definitely use in the future”. Instantly, her eyes lit up.  She was so pleased and thrilled. The conversation continued as I introduced myself, my major, and my interests.  I ended that meeting getting the recruiter’s business card. To this day, we have kept in touch via email and I have landed a full-time job offer with EY in the Advisory line of service.

NABA was invaluable to my professional development

My first NABA meeting was the first step in my undergraduate career to help me reach my goal. I aligned myself with mentors and people who helped me develop professionally in the accounting field. I was able to ask for advice regarding resumes, cover letters, and how to brand myself as an undergrad. Every opportunity there was to practice these skills, I took the opportunity. It was extremely important to me that I immerse myself in this environment.

After attending my first accounting conference through NABA in Fall 2012, I learned all that accounting had to offer.  Tax, audit, and advisory were all a few of the concentrations I could explore. I left this conference so confident because I had networked and met so many different people from the Eastern Region. Once again, those people I met are still great friends to this day.

Now, today if you were to ask me about the Big 4, I could tell you so much. All that I have learned and gained from being surrounded by so many opportunities to develop myself allowed me to understand the industry. I took chances, I made myself uncomfortable, and I reached out to others for guidance all in an effort to make sure I secured myself a job and way to achieve getting my CPA.

A Big 4 job is within your grasp

The job search process is all about going for what you want and taking the necessary steps to get there. If you do not know something, LEARN. Invest your time into someone or something that can support your needs and interests. I truly believe it was more about the professional development I had rather than the material I learned in my Principles of Accounting class that got me where I am today.

Big 4 firms are looking for competent, hardworking, driven, and yearning students who can see their objective and execute, and if not execute directly, showing initiative that you want to better yourself. Whenever someone brings me a problem or wants advice, I always end the conversation with, “so what are you going to do next?” You can want for anything and plan and discuss and dream, but your execution is key.

Editor’s note: Nkem has a great story, and beyond what she has written here has even more tips & advice that she’d like to share with you. Nkem is still very much “in the trenches,” and can provide perspective as a current undergrad student.