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What are the main areas that one should learn during CA articleship?

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This hunger for more knowledge is good for a CA Student. It is a very good idea to know what others have learnt and re-assess oneself on the basis of same, so that you become equally competent. This is a good way of improving oneself.


Part A – About the core Knowledge:

(a) What your firm operates in – you can’t do much beyond that.

Core Knowledge = Practical Knowledge about areas your firm is operating in.

See the firm you have chosen or you got into, basically will provide you with the knowledge of some of the fields in which Chartered Accountants works. You cannot gain knowledge about all fields in which Chartered Accountants work, since the scope is very wide and whether it is a Big Four or a sole proprietor Chartered Accountant, nobody can give you work experience in all fields. So basically these core areas where you get to work – you have to be satisfied with the same. All you can do is – learn from experiences of your friends who are in to different core areas. This is a rigid area, and not much can be done in this.

(b) Try to get an assignment in all kinds of activities that your firms do –

You can’t go out of the box in which your firm operates, but atleast you can learn everything that is in your box.

Many articles run away from certain things – saying it is a low category assignment or not so fascinating. It is because they all hear it from their friends about the big industry they worked in and blah blah things. But go and ask those friends, if they know, what is the procedure to obtain a PAN card and a duplicate PAN card? What is the procedure to obtain Shop Act? or atleast if they know what is Shop act?

My Insights –

In our office they didn’t used to allow articles to do that, the administrative people like Bcom people used to do that. But I insisted on the same, to allow me to do them once. The task was easy, but it was something very basic that I learnt. Later when you start your practice or job, these are somethings that give you edge over others. If you become an entrepreneur, you can handle those things yourself. So it is beneficial always.

(c) Try to get assignments in all kinds of industries that firm works in –

Basically most Chartered Accountants work in some fixed industries since when you do good to one client, similar clients get attracted, so automatically, you will see that most clients are of similar category. As an article you should try to do audit of all kinds of organizations –

  • Based on organization type like Sole proprietor, Private limited companies, Partnership firms, trusts, public limited companies etc.
  • Based on different business forms like Retailers, Wholesalers, Chain stores, Manufacturers, Service providers, Traders, Consultants, Support Services, Maintenance services, Export oriented, etc.
  • Based on different industries like IT, E-commerce, FMCG, Finance, Automobiles, Telecom, etc.
  • Based on Tax benefits or special act companies like religious trusts enjoying benefits u/s 11 or 12, regulated companies like insurance, banking, etc. or may be companies in Special Economic Zones, etc.

A Piece of Advice –

You won’t find all of the above in any one firm. Such firms giving such wide opportunities don’t exist. But thing is – you need to explore every corner of your own firm, whatever it is.

(d) Try to gain overall knowledge of all types of works –

Don’t think about specialization in Articleship, it is not that much useful, because if later in life that sector goes down, your career will get a full-stop. As a Chartered Accountant you must first learn all the basics of all types of work, when you become aware about basics, i.e. after articleship, then you should try to develop core competence when you find jobs or do practice.

My Insights –

If you don’t get an assignment of different type – go to your principal and say that “Sir, I want to learn about that kind of work, if next time there is any work related to that xyz client, please give me a chance.” I did it in my articleship, and I got those opportunities, Sir was happier indeed, that an article was ready to take up some sort of responsibility. I am pretty sure, 80% of Chartered Accountants would do the same. If you say politely, the teacher inside them will awake, and they will allow you to fly!


Part B – Other things that you should learn during articleship – More important than above said things!

(a) Office Ethics –

You should learn about the office culture, how people dress, talk, meet and greet colleagues, seniors and clients. It is very important to observe how people form groups, how they make their juniors to work and seniors to help/guide. It is very important to notice, how others are keeping good relations with administrative staff i.e. HR, Clerks, etc. – something that is very helpful at times of problems. There are many more things – basically you have to learn how people operate in office and especially how your boss stays in office – since someday you too will be a boss.

A Piece of advice –

Learn good things only. Although I assume most Chartered Accountants are well cultured and natured, but exceptions may exist. But remember, may be your boss was good or bad, you have to become a good boss in future.

At many times you feel that your boss did wrong, and he/she should have allowed you to do xyz thing. Remember such incidents or make a note of it. When you become a boss, you do them correctly. If you are able to do, you are a good boss, else you will realize had a wrong idea about your boss.

(b) Printing, Scanning, Documenting, Letter typing, Organizing Office, Using appropriate Stationery –

Your reaction – “Oh God! Really?”

Consider this situation – you are in a corporate office, a high ranked employee. You tell the clerk to scan a document, but your clerk is new. He is not acquainted with the printer. What would you do, if you yourself don’t know how to use a printer or scanner?

In early days of your job or in many companies, you don’t have clerks who do it for you, you have a printer next to you and you have to do it yourself. In case you don’t know these, what a shame! A Chartered Accountant, but does know how to use a printer or how to unpin a staple! God! Dummies on earth.

My Insights –

One of the expert HR was sharing his experiences with interviewing Chartered Accountant, at a conference that I was listening to. He said, we tried an experiment successfully. We told every candidate entering into the interview room to arrange certain documents and properly organize them into a file. Now on the basis of how file was organized, they discovered candidates who had done dummy articleship or articleship of low grade, because those candidates never knew how to arrange a file, since they never did it in their lifetime.

So basically the best thing about a good leader, boss, a senior or an entrepreneur is that he/she knows the work of all persons junior to him/her very well. That’s why they can handle them well.

So basically learn the following things and many more which I can’t list out –

  • How to properly document an Audit file?
  • How to properly keep a permanent client record – both electronic & physical
  • How printers, scanners, servers of your office, internet network, LAN systems, routers, biometrics, connections etc. work in your office.
  • How to use correct stationery correctly? Like properly unpinning documents, or may be how to create sets for clients, income tax officers, registrars etc.
  • How to draft covering letters, envelopes, request letters, etc.

(c) Drafting Email Communications & Email Ethics –

The most important part indeed of articleship. The fact is we never get opportunity to learn this anywhere else. This is a good ground to learn. Initially you can see how your boss writes email, how your senior does it. Then you can innovate it yourself.

The thing is in business world, everything today goes on Email. Emails don’t have a tone, they don’t have smileys (means they are not used). Writing a good email, is an art. It is very important to learn how to write such kinds of emails.

  • Emails asking client to provide information, with accurate requirement list.
  • Polite Emails for making client realize the wrong they have done.
  • Emails providing consultancy services. See email consultancy is a big time opportunity and costless service, in future a good means of earning.
  • Writing intra-office emails.
  • Whom to keep in CC, Never to use BCC, how should be the subject line, how should be the signature etc.
  • When email shouldn’t be used & telephonic conversations should be preferred, sending reminders, how to use meeting feature, etc.

(d) Oral Communications – F2F or telephonic or over internet

This is again a great area to learn. It very necessary to learn how to interact with clients. The interaction can be face to face, or telephonic or over internet services like skype, etc. It very important to learn to learn how to deal with such situations. A conversation over telephone, has to be polite and discussing documents over telephone is also an art. Similarly communication over Skype is also an interesting thing to learn, one should know how to have business conversations over Skype and how to share documents, discuss & present over it.

(e) Formatting documents – Something that stupids call stupidity!

I have seen documents and emails from fellow Chartered Accountants, so pathetically formatted, that I sometimes wish to hit them with a stone, maybe their sense would come back then.

But basically the idea is Chartered Accountants are professionals, and therefore, a professional behaviour is expected from them. The behaviour is expected highest in the documents and reports. Thus, it is very important to learn:

  • Appropriate font sizes, font styles
  • How to add tables in emails, how to structure an email, maximum size of emails, minimum size of emails
  • When to use and when not to use – bold, italics, underlines, shades, colours
  • How to structure paragraphs, appropriate line spacing
  • How to convert documents into different formats
  • How much margins to keep, how to make document print ready
  • How to make document secure
  • How to make documents self-explanatory by adding comments
  • How to use various functions like footnotes, document review, freeze panes, grouping – sub-grouping, page numbers, author details etc
  • Cover page for report, report size, number of maximum pages, drafting executive summary, adding disclaimers, etc.

Conclusion:

  • The Part A makes you an intelligent Chartered Accountant.
  • The Part B makes you an intelligent Human Being.
  • And let me tell you, Part B is more important, because even if you don’t become a CA, an intelligent human being can definitely live a good career!
  • Ignoring the part B is very common amongst CA, and that’s why MBAs getting an edge over CAs is also very common.
  • Many people say ‘Articleship is nothing but labour work’, well it is because you think it that way, and that’s why you are doing it that way. If you try, you will realize articleship period is life changing!

    Credits: Saurabh Toshniwal

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