Finding an internship can be difficult, especially in the competitive world of accounting and finance.
I chose to do an internship year because I wanted to take the opportunity to experience the working world and the career I was interested in before I had to properly commit to it. I also thought it would be a good idea to have a significant amount of experience under my belt before I started applying to graduate jobs, to give me a better chance of getting the job I wanted. Taking a year out of university to do this is so beneficial, because not only do you get the opportunity to ‘test out’ what it would be like to work in a certain type of job, but you also gain so much experience and knowledge that you would struggle to acquire through university alone.
In my second year of university, I began applying to lots of different types of accounting internships with lots of different types of companies, ranging from audit placements with the top 10 accounting firms to finance placements with manufacturing companies. The application process for these larger firms and companies was largely very similar, with a series of psychometric tests, video interviews, assessment centre days and face to face interviews. This process can be tiring and disheartening, especially as it involves a significant amount of time and often travelling, with no security that it will lead to a job. My advice would be to not view this process as a waste of time, but rather as an opportunity to learn more about the application process. A lot of graduate jobs use this application process, so educating yourself about it now will give you a better chance of getting a job in the future.
For the internship that I am currently completing, applying was slightly different. I met one of the partners of the firm at a networking event put on by my university, and after finding that I really liked the firm and the work that they did, I followed it up by asking if they had any internship jobs available. I was attracted to the smaller ‘family feel’ to the company, and also to the opportunity it presented me to be able to work in a variety of different departments within the firm over the course of my internship. After a short interview, I was offered a job with them.
A piece of advice I would give when applying is not to overlook the smaller or medium sized companies. They will offer a different placement experience and may possibly not have such a lengthy application process as some of the larger firms. Often, they will be able to offer a higher level of attention due to taking on fewer placement students, which can result in an opportunity for deeper learning and training.
As well as this, I would say that attending networking events as a student can be very helpful when it comes to finding a placement or internship. Not only would I possibly not have discovered the firm I am now working for if it weren’t for attending an event, but also, I would not have been able to get a first hand feel for the company, and wouldn’t have been able to show them my interest in their internship position. As well as this, they wouldn’t have been able to meet me and decide whether I was someone they would like to employ. Meeting potential employers face to face can very often work in your favour when looking to apply for placements and internships.
I have had a variety of duties on my placement so far, as I have rotated round a few different departments. I began by working in accounts preparation, where I was given the job of preparing accounts for small limited companies, as well as a variety of admin tasks to complete. I have also spent time working on several audits, where I worked on more simple sections of the audit such as cash and bank. My most recent departmental placement has been with Corporate Finance, where my main duties include carrying out research and due diligence on clients, as well as working on company valuations.
I have acquired and developed a lot of skills over the course of my internship. Firstly, my ability to understand and prepare accounts has improved a lot through working on preparing small company accounts for different clients. This skill is useful in all areas of my internship, from working on audits to helping with corporate finance projects. I have also been taking the opportunity to develop the skills of communication, teamwork and professional behaviour, all of which are vital in the workplace.
I think that the most important thing I have learned through my internship so far has been the understanding of what it would be like to pursue a career in accounting, and the opportunities and challenges that would come along with it. This has been incredibly valuable because it has helped me to get a realistic insight into the type of work that this would consist of, which has helped me feel to more prepared for the potential of entering into this career in the future.
In conclusion, doing a placement or internship is very beneficial in a lot of different ways. I have gained a large amount of knowledge from my 12 month internship and am looking forward to completing the final few months. I would strongly recommend trying to find a placement or internship as a student if possible. Despite often being difficult to find, they equip you with so many important skills which will prepare you for the world of work and help make you stand out in future job applications.