I study accounting and finance (industry) which allows me to do a 12 month placement in my third year, if I fit the criteria at the end of my first year. Yes first year does really count for an Industry degree!
Why did you choose to do an internship?
When I was in my final year of sixth form and applying for universities, my main basis for degree selection was one that included the opportunity to complete a placement year. This desire for the vital experience stemmed from my older brother. He was on his placement at the time and had been offered the graduate role. Encouragement from him and the rest of my family led me to apply for this degree type and is how I resulted in being at Mazars for the year.
How did it tie in with your overall career plans?
Before my placement year I had no clue whether I wanted to work from an auditing angle, management accounts, or a financial role!
This placement role was sold to me when I thought ‘if you don’t like what you’re doing then you’ve only had to do it for a year not a life-time’.
Luckily, the audit side of accounting is the side I feel most at home with and this has been reflected when discussing with other placement students on their varying experiences. This year has solidified my future plans to become ACA qualified, something that I doubt could have happened if I hadn’t have done a placement degree.
What was the application process like – any advice?
The application process for Mazars was much more human than the other applications I was doing. They interacted with me at every stage and the whole process was over in 2 months.
It is a slightly shorter process than you may expect with the final interview and assessment centre being made into one. This was a bonus as the assessment centre day is quite tiring so it was a relief to know there is nothing more to the process.
I’d say my top tips are to wear a watch to keep track of time, know what the firm’s values are and be friendly! Audit is a client facing job therefore being approachable is definitely a top priority.
What attracted you to the role?
The role allowed me to gain experience in the workplace and with the ACA exams. Knowing that I would have the opportunity to sit my first year ACA exams while on a placement was so appealing! This means that when I graduate I will have 9 exams rather than 15! It also means that my time for this year can count toward being time-qualified. The role was in their London office, and although I haven’t fallen in love with the big city, I have fallen in love with the role, office, colleagues and clients.
What was the most important things you learnt from the internship?
Cherish free time. An internship is tiring work, and free time became something I treasured. While I intend to take full advantage of my last year at university and it’s long breaks, the routine of a 9-to-5 job has readied me for adult life when I graduate. Although this is a scary thought, being able to have experienced it is extremely beneficial.
Additionally I have learned how to communicate with clients, both face to face and in a written format. I have developed my Excel skills – sounds silly but this is such a huge skill in itself. As I study accounting and finance it was great to utilise some of the knowledge I have learnt at university and see how it is applied in the auditing profession.
My time management has also improved, having tight deadlines and working in a team means that you have to be able to work well under pressure and learn how to prioritise certain projects.
What were your main duties?
To begin with I was at college studying for the first exams, I was then eased into the wonderful world of audit. Initially you work on parts of a section, but by the end you are doing full sections by yourself and given great responsibility.
My main sections include:
- Invoice testing for purchases and revenue
- Statutory Records
- Completion accounts
- Stock takes
However the best thing about the job is that each client was different, so you could be experiencing all of these things but in different sectors and on different scales!
Do you have any advice for someone seeking a placement?
I’d recommend not just looking at the biggest companies, although these are often considered ‘the best’, sometimes a smaller firm will suit you better. Mazars have an agile working policy in place and they also stress a good work-life balance, something which is important when looking for placements.
I’d also advise not listening to the classic ‘the first year of university doesn’t count’. Although this may be true for your overall grade, some universities will not let you apply for a placement positon unless you are on a 2:1 at the end of your first year. This can be quite a shock for some students!
I would also say that before applying make sure you have practiced the online tests as these can be a struggle if you are not used to doing this process