There are plenty of options available for those wanting experience in the accountancy industry, ranging from a couple of weeks to something more long-term. This experience is a great way of helping you figure out which area of accountancy you want to work in, such as Audit or Consultancy, and which company is right for you.
There are also plenty of other ways you can gain valuable experience while you are still studying, all of which are great ways to strengthen your application if you do not manage to secure some formal work experience in time.
In this article, we look at the different opportunities available to you, from the structured opportunities to more informal work experience opportunities that you may want to consider.
In today’s job market, gaining a degree and qualifications is only part of being employable. Companies want to hire graduates who have developed skills demonstrating that they have the professional experience to become a valuable asset to the company. Skills such as teamwork, problem-solving skills, communication, negotiation and adaptability are all important when it comes to working in accountancy. Gaining experience such as the opportunities outlined below will improve valuable workplace skills and bolster your CV. You can find out what type of skills graduate accountancy recruiters look for here.
What are insight days?
There are a few accountancy recruiters, such as BDO, will offer insight programmes – either Insight Days or spring or summer weeks. These opportunities are typically short introductions to a company’s work, aimed at first year students.
These will give you the opportunity to speak with a variety of people from the firm including current and past trainees, as well as with members of the recruitment team. Your time there will typically include interactive sessions, presentations and skills training.
Insight Days are a great opportunity for you to learn more about how the company works and the work they do, and will also give you the opportunity to learn more about the industry.
Who are Insight Days for?
Insight Days are typically for first year undergraduates, though they may take applications from second year students.
How long do Insight Days last?
Insight Days last between one and five days, though it varies from employer to employer.
When are Insight Days held?
You will find that Insight Days are often held during the Spring term over the Easter Holidays.
What are Work Shadowing schemes?
One of the best ways to discover what a specific role is like is to observe a professional’s working life for a short period of time, ranging from a few days to one or two weeks.
Work shadowing is often arranged independently through speculative applications (you can read more about speculative applications here), but large recruiters such as RSM will offer these opportunities through more formal means, such as our website.
While you are on a work shadowing scheme, you will spend time across several departments within a business, finding out what sort of work they do and how they play a part in the company. This will give you the perfect opportunity to learn about the different areas of accountancy and help you decide which area is of the most interest to you. You will also have the opportunity to take part in CV writing and personal statements skills sessions as well as practice interviews. These will prove invaluable when it comes to applying for graduate jobs.
Who are Work Shadowing schemes for?
When are Work Shadowing programmes held?
Again, this varies. If you have secured your place through a speculative application and arranged it independently, then the programme will be held whenever is most convenient for both yourself and the recruiter.
However, if you have applied through a formal process, then these will often be held at fixed times throughout the summer months.
What are internships?
Internships are quite common with graduate recruiters, as they often recruit those who excel during their summer internships.
Internships with big recruiters are often paid and are during the summer between your penultimate and final year at university. Be warned though, internships with accountancy firms are extremely sought after and the application process intense, so you will have to be prepared to fight for your place, though this is good practice for graduate job applications.
A summer internship is often more formal than a work shadowing scheme or an insight day, and it will feel more like you are working, rather than simply learning, though there will still be a lot of learning. You are often assigned a mentor, and might work on a personal project during your time there. You may also take part in skills sessions as well as receiving interview and application advice.
To find out more about what might be in store for you if you secure a place on an accountancy internship, take a look at our intern profiles.
Who are internships for?
You will often find that internships are predominately advertised to penultimate year students, but some recruiters will allow students in their final year or who have just graduated to apply.
When are internships held?
Internships are commonly held during the summer months, as they range from four to ten weeks long. However, more informal internships may be held during the Easter break.
What are Industrial Placements?
Also known as a ‘sandwich year’ or ‘year in industry’ and are usually part of a four-year degree programme. Taken between your second and final year, your ‘sandwich year’ is a year working in your chosen sector and is usually arranged through or in agreement with your university.
This kind of placement is a significant commitment, so it is vital that you arrange your placement at the right company. The opportunity should be treated more like a job than work experience and you will be paid a wage and if you excel, you could significantly increase your chances of getting a graduate job with the company.
An industrial placement is the perfect opportunity for you to network, learn more about the company culture and gain a thorough knowledge of the company’s business across all departments. You will also gain invaluable skills that can act as a launchpad for your graduate accountancy career.
Who are industrial placements for?
These types of placement are for those seeking a placement year as part of their undergraduate degree. These are held inbetween your penultimate and final year as part of your four year course.
How long are industrial placements?
It varies from employer to employer, though placements tend to be between 9 and 12 months long.
Outside of formal placements or structured internships, many think that other types of work experience are not important if they do not directly relate to the industry you want to work in. However, this is not the case at all. Your part-time job, volunteering work and extracurricular responsibilities are all hugely valuable and are definitely worth highlighting to the employer.
Employers want to see evidence of your development, and this can come from varied types of experiences that show your personal achievements and promising professionalism.
Volunteering is a great way to develop transferrable skills while helping to make a positive difference. Volunteer experience looks great on any CV and there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in while you are still at school or university.
You can read more information about where to volunteer here.
Already volunteer? Find out the best way to present this on your CV here.
Getting involved in college or university clubs, sports teams and societies will substantially strengthen your CV from an early stage, hopefully while you enjoy yourself too!
Some schools and universities offer employability awards that further endorse this kind of experience. Becoming treasurer of a club or society is a brilliant accolade for a finance-orientated CV.
Part-time jobs or holiday work can help you develop valid skills like teamwork, communication and customer service skills, as well as giving you valuable business insight and experience. If you are able to find work that’s linked to your career choice then that’s even better! Balancing a degree or school and a job shows future employers that you have strong time-management skills and can multitask.
Hopefully this has given you an idea of the different types of opportunities that are available to you, from the more formal internships and placements, to volunteering.