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.

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Smythe is UPnGoing for Workplace Wellness

Did you know that only 20% of adults are getting the recommended amount of daily physical activity? In today’s workplace it’s a known fact that we are sitting more and moving less. We spend more time sitting at our desks than ever before, resulting in a less active, healthy and productive workforce. Stats have shown that employees are eight times more likely to be engaged in their work when their employers make wellness a priority; that wellness programs can lead to 30% increased productivity; and that physically active employees take 27% fewer sick days.

At Smythe, we wanted to do something about this, so we set about identifying a wellness program that would encourage our team to be more active during their workday. It wasn’t long before we had identified our partner of choice – ParticipACTION. Their expertise, supporting tools and tailor-made solutions to workplace wellness made them the obvious choice.

We introduced the UPnGO wellness program through ParticipACTION in October. UPnGO was designed to energize corporate culture and show people how fun and easy it can be to get active at work. The program is designed to help participants gain a better understanding of the benefits of being active, and rewards them for healthy behaviours. It work on a points-based system, where staff gain points for doing simple things such as opting to taking the stairs, walking faster or taking a stretch break, to name a few.

The team was super excited when we launched UPnGO this fall, and there continues to be a buzz around the office as we take on fun weekly challenges and hold friendly but competitive (typical professional services firm) contests across different departments. We saw over 75% of our team sign up, each of whom received a Garmin Vivofit to track their steps, and then sync the device to the UPnGO platform to earn points. The really neat thing about this program is that you can redeem prizes for your efforts (everything from hairdryers to pots and pans), so there’s every incentive for you to get moving.

While we realize this isn’t a long term fix, we hope the healthy habits and behaviours developed over the course of the program will continue, and we feel confident given the feedback we’ve heard to date, they will.

Check out the feedback from our team:

The whole experience was very positive. Now I go for walks around the block regularly, which gives me a chance to clear my head and recalibrate.  I also shed about 5 pounds over the past six weeks!     – Paul Woodhouse, Principal 

At first, I was kind of skeptical at how this experience would work for me personally and it took me awhile to get the hang of wearing the Garmin bracelet every day. But it didn’t take long to get used to wearing it every day and tracking all my daily steps. It soon became a regular routine for me to make sure I was getting the most out of my day with my step goal. And with the help from my motivated co-workers, it has become pretty easy to keep up with the daily steps and extra motivated planned activities. Some days have been harder than others to keep myself motivated and on track but my overall experience with the UPnGo program has certainly surpassed my expectations! I hope I will continue to stay on track with this pretty neat program well into the New Year! – Susan Harris, Office Manager

Being part of UPnGO program really changed my perspective of how I spend my break time in more efficient and effective way. It helped me to build a mental and physical foundation for my long term well-being at work. Some of the positive results I experienced is that I am taking more walking breaks instead of coffee and it in return helped me to improve my sleeping quality.  It was fun to be part of as there were many group activities that we created and participated. – Cara Han, Accountant 

I think UPnGO was real eye-opener for me, I knew that I sat a lot during the day but I can honestly say I didn’t realize how sedentary I was! I would get caught up in working and 2 hours would pass and I hadn’t moved. A goal of mine throughout the UPnGO challenge was to never have a red line, some days were better than others but overall I feel I did a pretty good job. I think I’ve taken away some really great healthy habits from the UPnGO program. – Marisa Herron, Insolvency Assistant

With UPnGO I really noticed how much I don’t move at work, and how easily this could change. I started getting up at least once every hour and walking around, and if this wasn’t possible I would at least try to stand and complete work that didn’t require me to sit in front of a screen. It was very convenient with the Garmin wristband, as it doubled as a watch so I never minded wearing it. The stats online was very encouraging as the competitive side of me would come out and want to do better. Overall I enjoyed my experience with UPnGO. – Pavan Samra, Accountant

Up’n’Go was a great program to jump start efforts towards fixing what has been a problem in the back of my mind for some time – being extremely inactive due to working many hours and not being able to go to the gym while waiting for my knee to heal. I found that being part of the group championing the efforts was rewarding and fun, and participating with coworkers in various fun walks and activities was highly motivational. – Jane Lumb, Accountant

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