Ben H.

Trainee Chartered Accountant
Happy to mentor
Happy to be contacted

About me

Ben H.
Politics, Economics and Philosophy
Philosophy and Economics
United Kingdom

My employment

Trainee Chartered Accountant
United Kingdom

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A day in the life of a Trainee Chartered Accountant in the United Kingdom

How I found out about the job

Careers website (University of York)

The recruitment process

The process was thorough but really friendly; a fairly detailed application, some online skills tests (numbers and words), a telephone interview and a two day assessment centre. I think the main thing was just making sure you'd read up a bit about the company and the industry it works in, and that you'd got some really good practice in at your interview/assessment centre technique.

My career history

I've only just started on the scheme - but it's been great; everyone's really friendly and there's big opportunities for getting involved in different areas. You really get a feel for the sheer size of what you're dealing with (they're one of the biggest insurers in the UK at present) from the start, and a heap of responsibilities to go alongside...!

We get to do the valuable chartered accountancy qualification at the same time, with study leave for it. It's a really rigorous course but when you've got it it's a big addition to your CV.

Courses taken since graduation

ICAS - Chartered Accountancy

Where I hope to be in 5 years

Great (I hope..!). The company's a big one so you know there's going to be something to move onto after the graduate scheme is over, but with an ICAS qualification there's also loads of opportunities outside of the company - and not just in accountancy; I can definitely envisage taking the techniques I've learned here and take them on to pastures new.

My advice to students considering work

Take as much from your degree as you can; it's easy to make no demands on your department and just do the minimum but the effort required to get more out of your degree is easily worth it for the return in skills you're going to gain.

Skills wise, keep busy; free time is fine but if you're going from a working week of one task and 15 hours, to half a dozen and 40 it'll be a bit of a shock, and especially in the current job market employers are looking for people who have already demosntrated the skills of work.

Finally you need a bit of knowledge in a job sector you're applying to; read up on some industry magazines, make sure you know a bit about future employers and above all make sure you put a good bit of time into each application. Your potential employers will be able to easily identify rushed applications, and you can be sure they'll quickly hit the pile labelled "trash".

My advice about working in my industry

Finance is always going to be big in the UK; big and very varied. One theme that's been running through it for a couple of decades has been a bigger and bigger focus on being personally effective as well as technically competent; people skills are at least as important as your ability to count!

What I do

The jobs been pretty varied so far; the core work is about getting the numbers right, but there's been variety with the studying, developing the scheme for the next year, some charity work and fundraising.
Even getting the numbers right gives you some variety; the first thing that hit me was that these numbers were big, really, really big and right from the start I had responsibility for analysing them, and for the figures that came out at the end. That meant a lot of time on Excel, finding out the sheer amount that can be done with boxes and formulae, but also time spent working through concepts with other team members to identify the right way of working it all out and a good chunk of time then justifying the whole lot!

I guess in a nutshell the core of this job is about having the technical confidence to get an accurate result, but then being able to communicate that to everyone else. Like in a lot of roles, having the skills to get that message accross is at least as important as having the techniques to come up with the numbers in the first place.

Skills I use and how I developed them

My degree was an important "entrance" requirement; a 2.1 was needed to get on the course. I think the highly independent nature of studying economics at York has also prooved useful in getting to grips with new challenges and queries without spending the entire time asking questions (although everyone's friendly and willing to answer them!).

Degree skills:
Independence and confidence in my ability to suss out a problem individually have been useful.

Extracurricular skills:
Just general organisation; I think the communication side you learn in day-to-day life but getting involved in the SU, clubs and societies at various points gave me a good experience of high pressure points and dealing with multiple demands on my time - that's been invaluable in getting on in an environment where you might have half a dozen projects on the go at the same time!

What I like most

When everything adds up; it's that moment of relief when you know you're moving from the "how on earth do I do this?" bit and into the "So how will I get the message accross" bit. Especially if it's been a long process, or there have been a lot of snags, that moment when it's done and dusted is a great one!

What I like least

The converse of the above is that sometimes you do get stuck and it can feel like you are making no progress all day; it's one of those frustrations you just get over though, and it makes the "Eureka" moment when it starts making sense that bit more enjoyable!

What would I change? I've been in a really technical placement this time and I'm hoping to move onto something a bit softer (less Excel "snag" moments, more time spent getting a message accross) in my next one.

Next steps...

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