Become A CPA

Become A CPA

Can You Get Past the First 9 Seconds?

by Monette Anderson, Academic Relations Coordinator | Aug 14, 2014

Goldfish swimming

“While the average attention span used to be 20 minutes, today, the average attention span is roughly 9 seconds. Nine seconds. That’s the same as a goldfish!” says Sally Hogshead, keynote author and speaker who focuses on helping clients market their brand in a message-saturated internet era. Many people would find that a frightening reality, especially now, when having a degree isn’t the job guarantee it used to be. As a job seeker, it’s important to find a way to stand out and be memorable, whether at a job fair, networking event, or interview. Nine seconds is how long it may take for an employer to decide if they are going to engage with you further, or move on to the next candidate. It’s important to remember that it’s not  the employer’s responsibility to find out what makes you different or how you can add value to their team; instead, you need to communicate it to them. So, what can you do to harness your introduction and make a lasting impression?

  1. Formulate your elevator speech. This is your summary of your strengths, where you’ve been and where you’d like to go; your value statement, if you will. When communicated with confidence, it can set the tone and guide the rest of the conversation. You should be able to sum up your past experience, list your strengths, and express what you are looking for, such as to join a company that values customer relations, or be part of a strong results-oriented team. It should be fairly short and succinct, listing 2-3 top strengths or assets. Be specific about how you can add value – are you a resourceful innovator who uses your keen eye to execute thoughtful solutions? Do you use your expressive communication style to quickly build client trust and rapport? Do you pass your energy on to the teams you work with for measurable results?
  2. Practice this value statement. You can have it memorized, or have an outline. The key is to make it sound conversational, and not too stiff or rehearsed. Most importantly, you should sound confident. Networking events are also a great opportunity to practice a softer version of your elevator speech and learn to feel more comfortable in this type of setting. You can view upcoming WSCPA networking events here. Also, visit your college career counseling office to find campus- or student-sponsored events. 
  3. Do your research on the companies you’d most like to speak to at the job fair or networking event you’re attending.  Knowing their profile can help keep conversation going and show how you’d fit in with their company culture. Love to volunteer? Mention that you saw their recent Facebook post about their all-staff volunteering event or their recent support of a charity you love.
  4. Finally, be sure to ask meaningful, thought-provoking questions.  Try to avoid trite conversation, such as the weather or traffic. Asking detailed questions (gleaned from the research you did beforehand) will help you both be effortlessly engaged in a subject. Examples of real questions you can ask a recruiter:
  • What types of skills are the team missing that you’re looking to fill with a new hire?
  • What’s the most successful new business practice your company has tried in the past year?
  • What’s your favorite part about working here?

Just remember to be prepared, be confident, and most importantly be yourself. We spend so much of our lives, especially as young adults, trying to fit in. Now is the time for you to showcase your differences. Ready to test out your new pitch? Sign up for one of the WSCPA-hosted Small Firm Career Fairs, happening in Puget Sound and Eastern Washington in September for student members.

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The Washington Society of Certified Public Accountants is the only organization in the state of Washington dedicated to serving the professional needs of CPAs, educating consumers about CPAs and the services they provide, and encouraging students to study accounting and enter the profession.

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