Finding Calm in the Storm

“Resilience is the ability to withstand both everyday stressors and more serious incidents without damage to mental health.”

Everyone experiences stress. It is an inevitable part of life and work. But, stress makes us less productive and causes us to make more mistakes. Prolonged stress can even lead to conditions such as anxiety, depression, and burnout.

We don’t always have control over the things that happen to us, but we can have control over our response. It is a choice whether to let negativity, pressure, fear, or anxiety throw us off our game. If we train our brain to respond differently in stressful situations, we will be less affected and maintain the ability to focus on the tasks at hand.

As we head into our busiest time of year at Smythe, we’ve introduced a four-part series on Resilience Training. The key is building a mindfulness practice that will help us switch off our auto-pilot reactions and focus on the present moment with awareness and intention.

The foundation of this practice is learning to breathe. It sounds simple, but silencing our wandering minds and focusing on something we do automatically is actually a big challenge. In order to be successful, we have each formed accountability partnerships and set a daily intention to spend 8 minutes per day focusing on our breath practice. We are training our brains to stay present and aware through the storms that come our way.

Stay tuned and we will keep you posted on what we learn from our journey at the end of the four weeks!

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How to Build your Resume

Creating a killer resume starts long before your fingers hit the keyboard. In today’s competitive environment, it takes a lot more than good grades to land your dream job. The earlier you can start developing a repertoire of skills and experiences to draw from, the better chance you have at successfully landing your dream job.

The most important resume builder is work experience. Even as a student you should try to work part-time, whether the job is related to your future career aspirations or not. Employers like to see a consistent work history that demonstrates commitment, responsibility and professionalism. Working throughout your studies also proves that you can multi-task and prioritize, which are two key elements to successfully juggling full-time employment in an accounting firm while simultaneously pursuing your CPA designation. Furthermore, there are countless opportunities to develop transferable skills such as communication, adaptability, leadership, and interpersonal relations.

Another element that should not be undersold is the value of volunteer or unpaid experience. This type of work says a great deal about your character and the drivers that motivate you. Volunteering is a great way to make connections and gain experience in fields or industries that are difficult to break into professionally. It is also a great way to give back or pursue a unique interest or hobby. Join or start a student club. Become a member of a relevant organization. Donate your time to a charitable cause. These endeavors will help to expand your network, build your reputation, and contribute to your growing set of skills and experiences. Participating in the activities, events, and projects in your community is a fantastic way to stand out from the pack.

If you really want to differentiate yourself, highlight additional skills or recognition that you may have obtained such as the ability to speak a second language, award achievements, certifications, etc. Supplemental skills or unique experiences are memorable and can often turn into great talking points during an interview. These skills become especially useful if they specifically relate to a job posting. For example, if computer skills are a key part of a role, noting that you’ve taken a course in Excel will be far more convincing than stating that you are “proficient in Microsoft Office.” Similarly, if you know that you are a weak public speaker, consider taking an oral communications program like Toastmasters. Facts and figures add far more credibility than words alone. Not only will it make you a stronger candidate but it is something that you can speak to in the interview. Demonstrating self-awareness and a desire for continuous growth could give you the advantage you’re looking for.

Email Writing Tips for Professionals

In today’s business environment, it is important to consider your audience when typing correspondence to colleagues and clients, even when communicating through email.

With the advent of newer technology came a trend in short form typing – you don’t have much space to get your point across (for example, an iPhone user only has 160 characters available for a single message). Acronyms and poor grammar are the norm, and the tendency to use emoticons is a good way to ensure you convey your meaning without the risk of someone misreading the text message.

While it is perfectly acceptable to use acronyms and smiley faces in personal communication, it is not the ideal way to communicate in a business environment. Below are some tips to consider before you send an email to your coworkers or respond to a client’s request.

  • Keep emails as simple as possible and avoid long, complicated paragraphs. If your email is too long and complicated, your audience might not even read it.
  • Avoid using Caps Lock to make your point. Typing in capital letters can be received as “yelling”. For example, PLEASE DO NOT RESPOND uses unnecessary capitals. Instead, use bold, italics, or underline to make a sentence/word stand out.
  • Avoid using acronyms like LOL or any other slang. Acronyms should be clear to the user and, if used in a longer letter, defined after the first reference to the term (i.e., Toronto Stock Exchange (“TSX”)).
  • Unless you are engaging in casual email communication with a coworker, avoid the use of emoticons (smiley or sad faces). This can make your emails appear juvenile and unprofessional.
  • Read over your email before you send it to see if it makes sense.
  • Check the basics – their, there, they’re – are you using the right one? Unsure? Google!
  • Spell check before sending – this won’t catch everything, but could catch an embarrassing typo that you didn’t notice before.

How to Apply for an Articling Position

As the application deadline for fall recruit approaches, we hope you have started to think about your application packages. If you are unsure of where to start, we have created the following guide to help you. We also encourage you to visit your careers center and schedule an appointment with a Careers Advisor.

The Chartered Professional Accountant (“CPA”) application package must include a CPA application form, cover letter, resume, and unofficial transcript. Please note that if you are sending your application to an email address (i.e., articling@smythecpa.com), your package should be submitted as one PDF.

CPA Application Form

The application form is mandatory and provides us with a summary of your qualifications and employment preferences.

At Smythe we are hiring articling students across three of our locations: Langley, Nanaimo and Vancouver. Please rank your preferences accordingly.

We also offer staggered start dates: January, March, May and September, so please indicate the earliest you are available to start. Please note that to be eligible to start work in January you must have a minimum of four months public practice experience.

You can find the CPA application forms at www.bccpa.ca or simply click here to download the application form.

Cover Letter

Your cover letter should be short and concise. Keep it to one page and approximately three paragraphs. The first paragraph should be about yourself and why you have chosen to pursue the CPA designation; the second should outline what you will bring to the firm, based largely around your work and volunteering experience; and the third paragraph should showcase why you want to work at Smythe. It’s perfectly fine to showcase some of your awesome personality.

Resume

Your resume should be no more than two pages long and highlight your contact details, education, work and experience, volunteering experience and any extracurricular activities you are participating in.

If you haven’t worked in accounting previously, don’t worry. Focus on the transferable skills and accomplishments you have acquired, such as customer service, working as a barista, or time management and project management skills having worked in construction.

Make it easy reading for the recruiter by using bullet points instead of paragraphs and a minimum font size 10. Your resume should be clean, simple and aesthetically pleasing.

A great tool to reference for your cover letter and resume can be found here – courtesy of the Harvard Business School.

Unofficial Transcript

Ensure you include unofficial transcripts from all post-secondary institutions that you have attended. This will allow the recruiter to gain a better understanding of the education you have received to date.

Lastly, remember to proofread. We highly recommend and encourage you to use your careers centre or a friend with high attention to detail to review your documents, so you do not miss anything.

As you will be applying to multiple firms, really take the time to read the job specifications, identify firm preferences when it comes to submitting your application, addressing the letter to the correct firm and ensuring you have tweaked your cover letter. The last thing you want is to be dismissed because you sent the incorrect application form to the wrong employer, which means waiting until the last minute to submit your resume is not a good idea.

We wish you all the best – the team at Smythe looks forward to reviewing student applicants on September 8.

Tips to Ensure Networking Success during Fall Recruit

Look the part: It’s important to dress to impress! For the men in the room, this would mean a suit and tie. For the ladies, a pants suit or skirt and blouse is appropriate. However, if you are attending a more casual event, such as a summer BBQ or sports day, it is perfectly fine to wear jeans – preferably ones that are not ripped in the name of fashion or short-shorts. Remember – it is still a networking event.

Tip: wear comfortable shoes! Three hours of standing is a long time.

Breathe: Large group networking events can be uncomfortable for the best networker out there. My advice is to take one deep breath if your nerves get the best of you, compose yourself, and then join the conversation. The sooner you see networking as a ‘get to know’ conversation between two people (or a group of people as it may be), the sooner you’ll realize it’s not so scary. The reps are there to get to know you and answer your questions. It’s a two-way chat.

Don’t travel in a pack: It’s great to be going through fall recruit with a group of your friends, but I caution people to become overly dependent on one another and travel together as you network. This becomes apparent quickly. You need to stand out as an individual and identify the firms or industry groups that are the best fit for you, not your friends. Break free; it will stand to help you in the long run.

Don’t dominate the conversation or cut-off your neighbours: It’s important to be courteous in a group setting, and of course participate, but if you’re the person doing the majority of the talking or cutting people off mid sentence, that’s not going to look good. Ask your questions, but when in a group, limit it to two at a time and let the other individuals have a chance to engage with the rep – chances are you’ll gain a lot from this.

Please don’t take this to mean you shouldn’t participate. Being silent in group conversation isn’t what you should be going for. If you get nervous talking in large groups, doing some prep work ahead of time will benefit you, i.e., have two or three questions ready – they can be generic to begin with, but over the course of recruit should become more specific.

Exit gracefully: It’s OK to leave a conversation; however, it’s important to do so politely. If you feel you’ve got all you need to know from your time with that rep, wait for a momentary lull, thank the rep for their time and tell them you look forward to seeing them at future events.

Eat and come back: A strong preference of mine, where food is served at an event (even if it’s a BBQ), is for the students and reps to go to where the food is being served, take a five minute break to eat and then come back to network. It’s messy and awkward to have a conversation with someone when you’re trying to eat a burger. Please eat – you’ll need the fuel, but take the time to enjoy it, wash your hands and then come back to chat.

Bring business cards: Always have your business cards with you at a networking event.

Send a follow up: It’s really important to follow up with the reps after the event to thank them for their time. It demonstrates that you are interested in their firm and thoughtful enough to write a note (no need for an essay – a couple of sentences is perfectly fine). This will help you to stand out when it comes to firms/industry groups determining who is genuinely interested and may mean the difference between being called or not called for interview.

Happy networking!

 

Caoimhe Bourke

HR Manager

Tips for Making a Professional LinkedIn Profile

We live in a time where your online presence can make a huge impact on your professional success. Just as inappropriate social media usage can negatively affect your employment opportunities, similarly a well constructed personal brand can take you to the next level. By now it’s no secret that LinkedIn is the recruitment tool of choice; and just like a traditional resume, you need to put effort into constructing a professional online profile.

Professional Photo

It is important that you have a publicly visible and professional photo. Don’t worry if you can’t afford a professional headshot, but this is not the place to showcase your recent family vacation or your favourite selfie. You should aim to be well dressed with a neutral background and your face should be the focal point.

Headline

This is your chance to grab a recruiter’s attention and make your pitch for why they should give your profile a closer look. Your headline should consider the target audience and be direct. Get inside the mind of a recruiter – what should they know about you?

Write a Standout Summary

Many people leave the summary field empty, which is a missed opportunity to reveal your biggest achievements. Use this area to list important accomplishments, articulate your values and passions, and describe the things you do better than anyone else. If you are able to use facts, figures or statistics to quantify your statements, that is even better! This is where you can differentiate yourself from the pack and create a call to action that will have recruiters reaching out to learn more.

Ask for Recommendations

Just as you would ask a friend if a movie is worth seeing, so do recruiters value recommendations from past employers. It’s not enough to see that you were employed at ABC Company, we want to see that you were a great member of the team. Even though hiring managers will ask for references after the interview stage, having LinkedIn recommendations available will definitely help your cause. If you still have yet to receive a recommendation, take the time to politely ask previous employers/clients. One great way to get a recommendation is by recommending others first. Often people feel compelled to reciprocate.

The time spent developing a polished and professional LinkedIn profile will certainly benefit you in your employment search and in growing your network. The candidates that put in the added effort are usually the ones that get the offers.

Recruit 2016 – What you need to know …

For those of you who are getting ready to participate in Recruit 2016 in Vancouver, BC – welcome! This is going to be an exciting summer, during which time you’re going to learn so much about yourself. If I’m begin completely honest, it’s also going to a challenging summer – you’re going to want to bring your A-game and I’m going to explain why.

Throughout the course of May to September, CPABC and the local colleges and universities will host a series of networking events that students will be invited to attend with firms and industry groups. At these events, you will have the opportunity to get to know the people at these organizations, learn about the articling opportunities available and determine whether they would be a good fit for you as an individual. The pace is fast and personal energy expenditure is high, but this is the perfect opportunity for you to learn about the life of a CPA!

Here’s the thing: to increase your chances of being successful, you really need to be proactive and, if possible, be in Vancouver to actively network. Face time is a key component in securing an interview with your firm or industry group of choice! If you’re an out of province student, I would encourage you to leverage any connections you have in Vancouver and reach out to HR departments for information interviews. It’s important to make an effort and show interest.

Aside from face time and being in the city, what else do you need to know? …

  1. Recruit is a 5 to 6 month process; be proactive and be yourself. It’s an exhausting feat to try to be someone you’re not (5 months is too long to keep up the charade). Be your professional, genuine self.

 

  1. Stick close to your accounting clubs/careers centres so you know when networking events are taking place. In some cases events can fill up in less than 5 minutes.

 

  1. Be prepared for networking events – look the part, show up on time, don’t travel with your friends and do some research on the firms in attendance ahead of time. Ladies, I encourage you to wear flats.

 

  1. Be polite to your neighbours when you find yourself in group conversations with firm reps. Don’t dominate the conversation, but don’t fall silent and say nothing. It’s important to strike a balance. While this might seem challenging initially, I promise it will get easier over time.

 

  1. Meet with multiple firms/industry groups – don’t be narrow minded in your search. Limiting your focus to 1 or 2 firms is a naive move.

 

  1. Smile, and keep up that pace/energy up – with all the events, office tours, coffee meet ups that ensue, recruit can sometimes feel like a full time job. Remember, the firms are putting their best foot forward, providing you with the opportunity to connect and learn. Don’t waste time or let yourself down by complaining. It doesn’t look good.

With that said, enjoy the process! You’re going to meet a lot of great people and maybe even make some new friends.

I wish you every success and look forward to connecting with you!

Caoimhe Bourke,

HR Manager