download (1)When it's your last year of college, "senioritis" becomes harder to deal with as the final exams and presentations slowly come to an end. But for us accountants, even after we turn those tassels, the hard work and learning doesn't only continue – but becomes more intense. Taking the right steps around the time of graduation is essential in growing your career. Here are 5 tips to help maximize the transition from student to working professional:

1. Plan ahead and be prepared

Have a plan. Of course, everything won't go according to plan, but it's always a good start. First off, you should reward yourself for all your hard work over the last four years. The time between graduation and working should be used as preparation for what's to come, which should include some well-deserved vacations. Just keep in mind that you may not get a break this long for a while. Taking this time while getting ready for your future career will be good practice for maintaining a healthy work/life balance when you start working.

2. Take the CPA exam

If one of your career goals is taking the CPA exam and you're eligible to sit for the exam, apply to your state board as soon as you can! If you're not eligible yet, then take the classes that will get you 150 semester (225 quarter) credits. There are many CPA exam review courses out there, so start researching which one you want to use. This is the perfect time to study since you're still in the "study mode". If you can, get as many exams as possible out of the way before starting your new job. You'll be glad you did – I know I was, especially as it becomes increasingly difficult to balance studying and working at the same time. And most importantly – create a study plan! Having a study plan in place is essential to your success, since the application process, scheduling the exams, and taking them are typically very time sensitive!

3. Communicate with future or potential employer

If you have a job lined up after graduation, stay in communication with your future employer. Take me for example – I accepted a job offer with Delap before graduating, therefore I had a very long break between graduation and starting at Delap to get ready for my career. During that time, I stayed in communication with our recruiter and even attended some of the firm events before officially starting. Being intentional is key to starting off on the right foot.

If you aren't already working by the time you graduate and are looking to start your career, leverage your connections. It's all about who you know – this phrase is a cliché for a reason! Talk to your professors or alumni association about how they can help. Go to networking events. Communicate with companies that you want to work for. And after any interviews, you should always follow-up and express gratitude by sending out personalized thank you cards. They want to know that you are genuinely excited about working with them. Show them your knowledge, passion and determination while maintaining professionalism.

4. Update your LinkedIn profile & resume

Upon graduation, you should update your LinkedIn profile as well as your resume, especially if you are looking for a place to grow your career. Keep your profile and resume concise and professional. Recruiters are looking at this, as well as any other social media you may use.

5. Be ready to learn and own your mistakes

We all have learned from college and internships – as a result we gain both valuable knowledge and experiences. But as you step in the workplace, you can expect a very steep learning curve. The actual job covers a wide range of skills, which include many technical skills and soft skills, such as developing the habit of managing up.

Benjamin Franklin said, "Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out." You should be willing to accept failure, which is inevitable. I came across a quote by Arianna Huffington: "Failure is not the opposite of success, it's a part of success." There will be many failures and mistakes for all of us. And for some, it may be not passing a CPA exam on the first try or being rejected for a job, but that's only a small part in getting to the next step in your career.

Whether you are an accounting student still in college or you just received your diploma, it's important to understand that starting early can make all the difference. The work you put in now will pay off. These five tips should be used as a guide to help navigate your accounting career in the right direction.

Delap LLP is one of Portland’s largest local tax, assurance, and consulting accounting firms, located in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

Bio. (2015). "Benjamin Franklin." 19 Jun. 2015. From: