2020 IMA Student Manuscript Winner: Diversifying Career PreparationBy
IMA is pleased to showcase this winning article from the 2020 IMA Student Manuscript Competition, created to provide opportunities for students to share their membership experiences through publication with IMA.
As children, we’re told not to put all of our eggs in one basket. This advice is often translated into our investment classes when discussing diversification, but, unfortunately, it isn’t applied when considering career preparation. We choose one university, only one or two majors, and often only have time to join one or two organizations. All of these choices end up with one heavy egg basket, one that is against all prior advice. A lack of time and a limitation of energy stop students from adding more baskets as insurance in case these commitments fall through. Cognizant that the eggs in this basket are supposed to build students’ future careers, it must be handled with care.
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) has done significantly well in the IMA® Student Case Competition in recent years. Despite our resounding successes, our school didn’t have an IMA student chapter until recently. In the Fall 2019 semester, I joined the first executive board of the UNLV IMA student chapter. There were quite a few challenges in creating a new chapter, but the biggest challenge was differentiating ourselves from the other organizations on campus. Our community has a very strong presence of Beta Alpha Psi, an academic honor society for finance, accounting, and business analytics and data technology majors.
One overwhelming goal for the new IMA student chapter was to differentiate ourselves from Beta Alpha Psi in a way that would benefit members in their search for potential careers and development in preparation for these careers. We achieved this differentiation by collaborating with other professional organizations, like the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting, to expand members’ professional networks and continue providing members with the collaborative and communicative skills that joint-organization events can bring. Our chapter members also showed a lot of interest in the annual case competition, which gave the chapter a great opportunity to show members the competitive world of finance and accounting.
Despite diligent efforts not to be, the accounting department at UNLV is heavily focused on preparation for public accounting careers. This is likely due to the regimented recruitment process and the consistent and secure availability of public accounting jobs. The students that would rather work in industry or private accounting are left with few options and many questions. This created an amazing opportunity for our student chapter to open more doors for our members.
Through coordination with professionals and other organizations in our area, we were able to give members more insight into accounting outside of a public firm. As the assistant director of career development for the chapter, I reached out to businesses in our community and was able to facilitate an office visit and presentation with a notable athletic team’s financial office. Through similar methods, my team members and I have scheduled and prepared for more than 20 different engagements with our community.
In addition to diversifying our members’ knowledge of job opportunities, our student chapter has largely focused on the benefits of the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification. The ability to take both parts of the exam prior to graduation enables members to add to their list of hirable qualities. Our chapter has dutifully promoted the certification as a way for students to stand out and prove their worth. To aid this promotion, we have held CMA scholarship seminars and we had planned to hold study events later in the spring semester.As a new student chapter, we have already had one member pass both parts of the exam! It’s one of our goals to increase the presence of the CMA certification on UNLV résumés, and we’re well on our way to achieving that.
The UNLV IMA student chapter has enabled its members to put their eggs in multiple baskets. So long as the member is able to choose a career path after graduation, we can say that we have successfully improved the lives of our members. To ensure that our members are able to participate in our organization without jeopardizing other commitments, we don’t have a strict hourly participation requirement. By allowing members to pick and choose which events they attend, we’re able to cater to more members who are genuinely interested in these events.
Our members had collectively put in more than 9,000 hours of professional, social, and community service hours from September 2019 to February 2020 at their own will. These hours all contribute to valuable lessons that add to the worth of a university degree. In a society where a degree is becoming standard, our members are able to differentiate themselves through IMA.
Being active in IMA, competing in case competitions, attending professional events, and eventually earning the CMA certification allow our members to diversify their prospective career paths. The recently formed UNLV IMA student chapter is dedicated to this mission, and we look forward to further progress as our chapter develops.