Things I wish I knew starting out: Advice from Ilitch School alum Patrick Bresnahan

I graduated from the Mike Ilitch School of Business with a B.S. in Accounting and Finance in May 2015. Since then, I have worked as an audit associate, a structured finance senior associate and am currently a headhunter. My experiences since graduation have taught me some important lessons. This is the advice I wish I knew when I was first starting out.   

  1. Public accounting is a good place to start. I started my career in public accounting, which is common. Like most jobs, the work has its mix of interesting and dull tasks. That said, having public accounting on your resume should make your life easier when it comes to getting interviews a few years down the road. Grind it out and reap the rewards later.
  2. Follow up and follow through. I always believed this concept was a given. If you say you’re going to do something, follow through and do it. When somebody else says they’ll do something, follow up and hold them to it. This shows initiative and will make you stand out. You’ll be surprised how much this habit will help you throughout your career.
  3. Get your CPA. Take it from someone who has worked in public accounting and helps accountants get new jobs every day. It’s always seen as a positive when candidates are CPA-certified, and it’ll pay dividends. You can earn over $1 million more in your career than those without the certification, according to a recent Robert Half study.
  4. Tend to your relationships. This goes for both professional and personal ones. Once you graduate, your life gets siloed into the industry you work in. This is a natural course of life as you start to spend large amounts of time working. Once you start working, it gets easy to put off touching base with a buddy, a professor or a colleague in a different industry. Don’t let those relationships get cold because you’re distracted by the present. People are always happy to hear from someone from their past. Sending an email or leaving a voicemail takes 45 seconds and keeping those relationships warm will always be beneficial. If not for future success, but then for present happiness. The same goes for friendships. It’s easy to get sidetracked by new friend groups you start to acquire once you enter the working world. Make sure to always take the time to keep those who mean the most to you close in young adulthood. You’ll thank yourself later.
  5. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. Email is often the default form of business communication in today’s world, and a simple phone call can be an afterthought. Be the person who isn’t afraid to pick up the phone and chat through an issue. You can cut down on time and confusion while showing initiative and being proactive. If an email thread isn’t going anywhere, pick up the phone.

Editor’s note: If you’re a Wayne State University graduate and would like to share your wisdom with current and future students, consider writing a few words for the Alumni Advice project.

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