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Rising Stars: Finding Her Niche at a Big-4 Accounting Firm

By Kamilia Kaczor

A co-op program at her school gave Heather the industry exposure she needed to figure out what kind of job was right for her. But after graduation she made sure to take the time to fulfill one of her dreams (backpacking through Europe) before she started work as an Internal Audit Consultant.

Name: Heather West
School: Drexel
Major: Accounting
Years Out of College: 0-2
Title: Internal Audit Consultant?

From Then to Now

Heather got her first job through a co-op program. She says, "Drexel's co-op program gave me three different valuable full-time work experiences prior to graduation, "which allowed her the opportunity to explore different types of work in the accounting industry before even finishing school. In fact, Heather had some important realizations during her co-op. "The most valuable thing I took away from that work experience is that I would rather be constantly challenged at my job than be considered a 'shining star' simply by comparison with the unmotivated individuals around me."

Her second co-op experience was also illuminating. "My second co-op at a risk consulting firm really gave me a view of the career I could see for myself down the road." After spending most of nine months on the road, working with a client in Virginia along with two other consultants and learning to work in a team, Heather realized that she really enjoyed completely immersing herself in one project and one type of business. The co-ops really helped Heather to determine the type of work she wanted to do after graduation. "I was certain by the end of the co-op that I wanted to be a consultant when I graduated."

After graduation, Heather took the hard-earned money she saved during her senior year and spent a month backpacking through Europe. She advises, "I think it's really important to take that time in-between graduation and the start of your career to do whatever it is you've dreamt of doing." Once she had fulfilled one of her dreams, Heather was ready to start her first job out of college at the Big-4 firm where she currently works.

Challenges Faced

With only six months on the job, Heather admits that she still has a lot to learn. There are many different facets of the internal auditing work she does and right now, Heather finds herself gaining on-the-job experience, which can be a little tough. Looking to the future, Heather feels as if she may want to go back to school for her MBA. "I've always enjoyed school, and an MBA would be a great accomplishment for me," she says. The only problem is that having just finished school, Heather must consider her student debt before adding more educational costs. Ideally, she hopes to find an employer who would contribute to her education costs, but that's not a possibility with the position she currently holds.

My Experience

Heather knew she enjoyed working with numbers and in college she realized that she wanted to be involved with business. Although Heather majored in accounting and was hoping to start her career at a Big-4 firm, she wasn't sure about the exact nature of the work she wanted to do. Now, after six months on the job, Heather finds herself doing work that is completely different from the "numbers" job she had imagined for herself, but she is very happy where she ended up.

Next Steps

Heather is currently very happy at work and doesn't yet know what she would be looking for in her next job although she states: "If the time came where I was certain I wanted to get my MBA, I would consider moving to a different position or employer altogether." With only six months working in the industry after college, Heather probably hasn't found her dream job yet but has lots of time to make that discovery.

Advice for Others

"The main point I would make to students starting on a similar path as me is to try and get some relevant work experience while you are still in school. There are many types of employers that are different in size, culture, etc. who hire interns throughout the year. The experience will not only build your resume and communication skills, it will also give you an idea of what type of environment you would fit best in."

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