How to gain an in-depth understanding of institutional characteristics as a Ph.D. student without prior work experience

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  • Internships and part-time work
    • Do a Big 4 Internship while at BYU
      • Be honest with the firms you intern with and tell them you plan to continue school and get a PhD. You should try to do an internship to gain some exposure to the firms and what they are like.
    • Work in the accounting department of a local company while at BYU.
  • Read business-related publications
    • During the PhD program, buy a subscription to the WSJ and read it regularly. Of course you can't read all the articles every day, but try hard to read as many articles related to accounting as you can.
    • For no charge at all, you can go to CFO.com and sign up for email news alerts related to “accounting.” CFO.com’s articles are the best content available for keeping up on current accounting issues—and the best part is it’s free.
  • Stay connected with the profession
    • Make an effort during your time at a PhD program to stay connected with the firms. In preparation for my dissertation, I met with employees of a large national consulting firm and teleconferenced with a national partner in the Chicago office to discuss my dissertation idea and see what insights they had about my idea. The firm had done some of its own research in my dissertation area, so their thoughts were helpful. That meeting was possible because of a connection I made when I interned.
    • Seek contact with the top people in the profession
      • Universities often invite people at the top of the accounting field (e.g., chair of the PCAOB, etc.) to come speak to their students. When your schedule permits, volunteer to be part of the group that takes those kinds of speakers to dinner. Those are great opportunities to meet with people high up in the accounting world and hear their insights.
    • Network in your neighborhood
      • Your ward will likely have people who are working in financial reporting. Ask them for their insights about different reporting issues that you are interested in researching. That’s a simple thing to do, but most people love sharing their insights about how things work, and you'll always learn from what they share.
    • Talk to a professor who has taken a sabbatical.
      • My dissertation chair did a two-year sabbatical where he worked in research at an investment bank in New York. When he returned, he and I brainstormed about research ideas, and I participated in several conference calls with his contacts back in New York where we were able to ask for insights about how financial analysts do things “in the real world.” Those experiences were helpful because they provide insights you can’t get from staring at IBES data.
  • Look for opportunities
    • The bottom line is that you have to stay as connected as possible with the world of accounting. If you look for opportunities to connect, there will be plenty of them. Reading WSJ and CFO help a lot, but direct contact with the industry is also very helpful.

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