Some of my tips on fall recruiting

For my undergraduate degree, I went to a small liberal arts college in southeastern Ohio. Life was slow but enjoyable. Four white geese and a flock of mallards swam back and forth in a small lake on campus. In spring, the lake would be dominated by dozens of Canadian geese, which would make sidewalks by the lake “unwalkable” when students came back from spring break. Although I love my undergraduate college’s country appeals, I wish Big Four recruiters had found the same. 🙂

Sadly Big Four recruiters never came to my small liberal arts campus. I might have missed lots of free pizza at those Big Four events. However, I have surely caught up with all these in the first quarter of the Fisher MAcc program. Last fall recruiting season, the Big Four each held networking events in the “backyard” of Gerlach Hall (the quad space between Gerlach and Schoenbaum Halls) and invited job candidates to pre-night dinners. By the end of fall quarter, like many of my classmates, I was lucky to secure a full time job offer with one of the big four public accounting firms. I want to take this opportunity to share with you my experience going through the job search process.

First of all, admitted students will complete a career marketing plan in the summer before school starts. The career marketing plan helps students not only understand their top selling points and areas of weakness, but also help them clarify their target industries and companies. A deep understanding of one’s strengths and weaknesses will give one a head start in preparing for upcoming job interviews. Besides, the sooner one sets a clear job target, the sooner one can launch his or her job research.

After one has developed a career marketing plan, s/he will work on perfecting resumes and honing interview skills. During the whole job search process, students will have tons of resources at their disposal provided by the Fisher career management office. To name a few, professional resume templates for MAcc students, industry information, city overviews, interview dos and don’ts, and one-by-one appointments/mock interviews with Steve Singer in the career management office.

Finally, I want to briefly touch on job interviews with a special note to international students. During my job interviews, the advice I have found most useful are “Be Yourself” and “Be Positive”. For international students, I will add two more: Practice Your Conversation/Language Skills and always Be Confident. The rigorous one-year training in the MAcc program will prepare you well for your future accounting career even if you are not an undergraduate accounting major. Therefore, international students should be confident in their job searches.

In close, good luck to everyone in the upcoming recruiting season 🙂

My 2nd quarter in MAcc

This past fall quarter was definitely memorable. We, MAccers, began the quarter with a walk down to the OSU football stadium (aka “The Shoe”) and attended a reception with alumni, staff, faculty, and big name recruiters like the Big Four public accounting firms. We ended fall quarter high with an end-of-quarter reception at the OSU Faculty Club. We had loads of fun during the first quarter: bars, parties, social events, etc. And of course, we have received job offers, researched and interpreted FASB codifications, calculated a firm’s firm vitals, and used Black-Scholes option pricing model to perpetrate the myth that accountants are math geniuses!

Summer heat subsided. Snow now falls. We are in winter quarter now. Sad to admit that there seems to be less momentum for bars; however, for the uptick, classes are more fun this quarter. See what I am taking this quarter: financial derivatives (cheers!), financial statement analysis (yes!), advanced corporate finance (OMG, all cases), and foundations of accounting (you will never look at accounting the same again). Of the four classes, I find financial derivatives and financial statement analysis particularly interesting. For derivatives, it is a hot subject, which allows me to understand complex transactions and to determine proper accounting treatments. For financial statement analysis, it’s great to know how our beloved accounting numbers and four sets of financial statements are used by analysts in valuing a firm.

You might not find those classes interesting to you. BUT, you have the flexibility to take whatever classes you like. That’s what I really like about Fisher’s MAcc program. May it be tax, fraud examination, excel modeling, managerial negotiations, strategies, assurance, or organizational behavior, you can always find your favorite topic to delve into further here at Fisher. As a matter of fact, that’s what most of my fellow MAccers are doing. MAcc students are spreading around and taking classes with MBAs and MLHR students.

MAcc’s 2nd quarter: a quarter in snow, a quarter with no football, but – as always – a quarter with fun!

A few thoughts after going back home in China

For a while, I thought I would not go home this past winter break. Luckily, I was able to find a fairly priced flight, which gave me a decent 17 days stay at home two days before scheduled departure. All of a sudden I was packing my luggage and leaving for China. My break at home was relaxing and I did get to spend quality time with my family. However, I have mixed feelings about Chengdu, my hometown. In my memory, Chengdu was a metropolitan city with pastoral and relaxed characteristics. One and a half years later, I found Chengdu was starting to lose its traditional characteristics due to high inflation in China.

When a large sum of money is chasing a few commodities, inflation results. That’s exactly what happened in big cities in China. With the world’s fastest growing economy, Chinese people have been accumulating their wealth for a decade. With a still partially controlled economy, there aren’t many investment vehicles to park people’s money. Where did the money go? Real estate – a decent size apartment can cost a quarter of a million US dollars on average; stock market – a market crash is always followed by another boom inflated by individual investors’ dreams to get rich overnight; cars – Chengdu is now has more than 2 million cars running around during rush hours (it’s a pain in the … trying to get around at those times); food in general – a pound of imported cherries from California for example is $18. Of course local produce is cheaper, but CPI is still growing at a 4+% rate.

Under inflationary pressures, people are tightening their discretionary spending. Restaurants are no longer full at dinner time. People work even harder to live life and pay down home mortgages. More importantly, it seems to me that the city is losing its slow-paced, relaxing lifestyle. Some of my classmates studying abroad have come back from US, UK, France, Italy, etc and were looking for jobs in other cities like Beijing, Shanghai. Classmates staying local have been busy working towards a secured future. A crisis mode has replaced the city’s pastoral mindset. That’s sad to me!

However, there is still an upbeat attitude in China overall. The 2nd largest economy has become the world’s largest IPO market. Local firms have been reaching out to the world and the world, especially, US firms are entering the Chinese market. Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan Chase just won government approval to form joint ventures to take a stake in China’s lucrative securities market. China is growing exponentially. I guess some culture loss might well be a result of that.

Thanksgiving break in Chicago

Over the Thanksgiving break, I went to Chicago with friends from college. Not surprisingly, Chicago welcomed me with cold and windy weather. Although I did bring a heavy coat with me, a walk down in the Chicago wind is still quite an “experience”. The wind is so freezing cold that, as a first-timer to Chicago, I didn’t feel like taking photos of the amazing city views along the Michigan Avenue but letting my hands be bitten by the wind. After a tough twenty minutes walk , I finally arrived at my destination of that day: Millennium Park.

The Cloud Gate quickly attracted my eyes. Typical of the contemporary art, this Chicago landmark has attracted visitors from around the world, including fellow Buckeyes. I was excited to encounter four MAcc classmates there: Xinhui, Jianing, Chuan, and Jiang. Guess what we did? An O-H-I-O picture in front of the Cloud Gate. Xinhui, Chuan, Jiang, and I were very proud to pose an O-H-I-O. I had the feeling that no matter where I go in the future, if I shout out O-H, there is a good chance that I will hear back I-O, because OSU alumni are literally everywhere around the world.

Besides awesome parks,  Chicago offers great food and a unique metropolitan appeal. A must-do on many visitors’ lists is eating the Chicago-style (deep dish) pizza. My friends and I went to Lou Malnati’s. Without exaggeration, the pizza at Lou Malnati’s was the most delicious pizza I have ever had: juicy, flavorful, and great texture. Yummy!!!

Another must-do in Chicago is going up to the top of Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower). The elevator only took a minute or two to take us to the top of the building. The views on the top floor were amazing. One can only have a comparable view over the city on a plane. However, there is something that a plane cannot offer: taking a photo on the Skydeck. Skydeck is a transparent deck that extends beyond the building. In other words, one literally stands outside of the building and views the streets some 1,400 feet below. I thought twice before I stepped onto the deck. Although I knew that standing on the Skydeck was no different from standing inside, my fear of height got me at that moment. It took me a while before I took the “risky” move. Oh my …, I could feel my feet shaking. Fortunately, I am still alive! Isn’t it 1 million times better to be sitting in my apartment and writing a blog than standing outside/on top of a 1451-foot building? Yes!!!

Transitioning from students to young professionals

On the Veteran’s Day last week, I went back to New Concord OH to visit friends and people I used to work with at Muskingum College (my undergraduate alma mater). I have spent my past four years in the States in that rural town in southeastern Ohio. Although I could still recall how much I hated New Concord the day I arrived in this little town in the middle of nowhere, as time passing by, I started to like the country life there and thought of New Concord as my second hometown. It’s been quite an experience for me to go back to visit and have a chance to talk to friends and to sit in one of  my favorite accounting professor’s classes again. At the same time, I realized how far I have progressed two months into the MAcc program. Here, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you, in my view, about two key differences between undergraduate and graduate life.

First, at undergraduate level I only had to worry about homework problems at the end of a chapter, but in the Fisher MAcc program I am constantly challenged to make real life decisions. For example, in my Accounting Professional Research class, my teammates and I research and interpret FASB Accounting Codifications to come up with appropriate accounting treatments for various mini cases. GAAP is no longer the bullet points or a set of rules in a textbook anymore. I am now taught to use my professional judgment to decide on the most appropriate accounting treatments for various challenging business transactions. The confidence I have developed in exercising professional judgment and the abilities I have acquired in the MAcc program prepare me well for the challenges in my future career.

Second, at undergraduate level one or two students might do most of a group project, whereas in the Fisher MAcc program I am surrounded by talented classmates from across the nation and around the world. I am very impressed by how many team projects I have done so far and how awesome my teammates are in the MAcc program. For example, on a corporate finance course IPO case study, one of my team members was back home and could not make to the meeting that day. However, he chose to contribute his ideas to the team via Skype. Therefore, we got to experience distance “teaming” that day. In addition to great teamwork, the high caliber cohort affords an excellent opportunity to build up professional networks. Out of 91 students in the MAcc program, many of them will launch their careers at one of the Big 4 public accounting firms after graduation. But at this moment, we are all sitting in one classroom, teaming, studying, and playing together. Is there any other place where you could meet this many young professionals from KPMG, Deloitte, E&Y, and PwC together? The networks we’ve built in the MAcc program are so valuable that each one of us will benefit from those networks throughout our professional careers.

Coming back from my alma mater, I am very pleased that I have chosen to come to the Fisher MAcc program. On one hand, I am ready for all the challenges in my future career; on the other hand, I get to join an elite group of young professionals. Go Bucks! Go MAcc Class of 2011!

Work hard, Play hard

If  you haven’t had a friend telling you what everyday is like at the Fisher College of Business, you might think that life at a top-ranking business school is boring. I have to admit that students do work hard on their coursework, but they also play hard. One might see them working diligently on a group project in the Gerlach Hall student lounge or cramming for a test in quiet study room. However, when it comes to Friday, Fisher students are different. They put on their jeans and shirts and enjoy their lives by hanging out at local taverns and restaurants. Last Friday, Fisher held a Halloween party at Callahan’s in the Arena District. All students in all of the graduate business programs were invited. Let me take you there, too.

At first, you should dress up. You might want to be a princess, a doctor or a policeman/woman. For me, I was a Big Four partner that night. Sounds creative? Actually not. I couldn’t find the “perfect” costume beforehand, so I put on my interview suit and pretended to be a partner from one of the Big Four accounting firms. When we got there, many people had already arrived. I was mesmerized to see how people dressed up in their costumes – doctors, maids, Super Mario, and princesses, just to name a few. I couldn’t believe that they were my fellow business school classmates. How “well-behaved” and hard-working they were at school, and all of a sudden, they were partying like excitable kids. I could not resist the atmosphere, and jumped right into the fun. I could not remember when I left the bar. I can only tell from the photos that I had loads of fun with friends.

Fun doesn’t just end with the Halloween party. MAcc students have a social outing every Friday night, normally a dinner together followed by a couple of drinks at a local establishment. What a wonderful mix of life at Fisher! Study hard from Mondays to Thursdays, play hard on Fridays, watching OSU football games on Saturdays, and having random fun and gearing up for the rest of the week on Sundays.

Birthday Party

The past weekend was great. A bunch of MAcc students got together to celebrate the end of the first round of on-campus interviews at a local bar on Friday. On Saturday, I went to Yuzhi (Emily) Li’s, a fellow MAcc student and blogger, birthday party. Many Chinese students in the MAcc program were there. I was finally able to tell my “cold” jokes now,because those jokes were often lost when I attempted to translate them in English.

Before arriving at Emily’s apartment, I was envisioning a busy kitchen where she and her roommate were running in and out cooking Chinese food. When I stepped into the apartment, I was a little shocked, because everyone there was sitting comfortably on the couch eating chips. When I started to wonder where my dinner was, I found pizza and KFC fried chickens on the dinner table. Wow, it’s an Americanized birthday party. Although I was hoping for some homemade Chinese food, I had to admit that it was smart to serve pizza at the party. Cooking Chinese food for a crowd of 10 people would’ve been a real mess.

Although we had an Americanized dinner, we played pretty much the Chinese way. Adella Ma brought with her a widely popular board game in China. It was called Three Kingdoms Kill. Sounds cool, isn’t it? It’s a role playing board game, one person plays the King. Two people are loyal subordinates, who try to protect the King. Another two people play betrayers, whose goal is to kill the King. One person plays the opportunist, who will swing back and forth and try to take on everyone else. The game was really fun. It was intriguing to figure out who your partner was, who your opponents were, and who the opportunist was. More importantly, the game brought out a lot of jokes and fun talk among us. I enjoyed myself so much that I felt like I was hanging out with a bunch of friends back home in a local pub.

Of course, fun didn’t stop with the Three Kingdoms Kill game that night. We grabbed some drinks and talked about the fun experiences we had back home in China. We come from different regions of China, but, here at OSU, we are a big close-knit family.

A Tour of Fisher College of Business

Several friends of mine from my undergraduate college came to visit me over the past weekend. I couldn’t wait to showing them the best of Columbus. On top of my have-to-do list was to show them around the beautiful Fisher College of Business campus.

Fisher College of Business is home to our MAcc program. It consists of six major buildings: Gerlach Hall (home to graduate business programs), Schoenbaum Hall (undergraduate), Pfahl (executive education & conference), Mason Hall (computer labs & ample self-study space), Fisher Hall (faculty offices, “the building of teaching”), and the Blackwell Inn and Conference Center (hotel rooms and fancy restaurants). We also have a large courtyard backyard surrounded by Gerlach, Schoenbaum, and Mason Halls. The courtyard is a wonderful place for recruiters and student organizations to reach out to Fisher students.

Going into Gerlach Hall, my friends personally experienced the state-of-the-art facilities at Fisher. On the first floor are Career Management offices and Fisher Graduate Programs  offices. On the second floor are some classrooms, computer labs, student lockers, and a student lounge. The student lounge is a great place for students to work in groups and chat with your friends during the lunch hour. On the third floor are many classrooms. These amphitheater-like classrooms are designed to facilitate discussions in class. Every seat in the classroom has its own power and internet connections. Of course, wireless internet is everywhere in the building and throughout the Fisher complex.

Now that you have a good understanding of Fisher College of Business campus, in my future blogs, I will talk about another essential element of Fisher: its people.

Fisher’s “Big MAcc”

Imagine that you are walking down the streets of Manhattan on a freezing day, tired and hungry. You keep walking and walking, all those fancy and  unaffordable restaurants passed by. What do you hope to see the most at the corner of the street? For me, it was a Golden Arch sign, a place for a Big Mac meal. When I looked for graduate accounting programs across the nation, I was like that hungry traveler, voracious for more knowledge but uncertain of where my Golden Arch was.

Fortunately, I found the Fisher College of Business. Its “Big MAcc” is exactly what I looked for in a master of accounting program. The program offers students not only a solid foundation in accounting but also the flexibility to customize their curriculum. For instance, out of the 45 (quarter) credit hours required to graduate, 31 or more credits are elective courses. Therefore, students have the opportunities to capitalize on their strengths and explore further their areas of interests.

Like the Big Mac, the Fisher MAcc program also has three buns – three core accounting courses.They are worth 14 credits. The rest of Fisher’s MAcc burger is at your discretion. You can add whatever stuffing and sauces you want. To name a few, real estate development, securities market & investments, managerial negotiation, operations strategy, and of course,  accounting courses. You will be amazed at how many MBA courses you may have at your disposal in the MAcc program. For your reference, click here for a sample list of courses offered. And of course, you can always come to visit us in person. (Campus tour information can be found on the Fisher MAcc homepage.)

Now that you know how flexible and attractive Fisher’s MAcc program is, you might want to know how the program prepares you for the CPA tests. In short, you will be prepared, if not overqualified, for the CPA tests after the MAcc program. CPA tests should only be part of your goal in pursing the MAcc degree at Fisher. As a matter of fact, I’ve already passed four parts of the CPA tests before I come to study in the MAcc program. Why I still need a MAcc degree? It’s simple! It’s a Fisher’s “Big MAcc”. You can choose to take whatever courses you want.