The PSA Series: Applicant to intern to graduate

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I’m Helen and I joined the Public Sector Audit (PSA) Manchester team on the graduate programme in July 2015, having completed a three month internship the summer before. I guess if you’re on this blog you’re trying to find out more about public sector audit, and whether it’s for you? Hopefully this blog will give you a better idea of what life is like in PSA. Here’s a photo of me and my college mates enjoying an away dinner,

The application stage

The first thing – and probably the most nerve wracking – is applying! But as strange as it sounds, I really enjoyed my application process with Grant Thornton. On the day of my assessment centre I nervously arrived at the Liverpool office, expecting a grilling but I was instantly made to feel so welcome. The day kicked off with the group activity and then the individual interviews. We also had the opportunity to meet with current associates and ask questions about life a trainee. This was my first time speaking to an Associate and  it was interesting to get a first-hand perspective on what to expect. Once my nerves were put to one side I really enjoyed the day and found it quite interesting.

My biggest tip in preparing for a PSA assessment centre would be to think about why you want to work in the public sector specifically, and how if differs from commercial audit. For example, alongside our opinion on the financial statement we issue a Value for Money opinion. In the public sector there is a lot more focus on whether taxpayers’ funding is spent efficiently and effectively, on the one hand, and whether the services provided deliver the value they were intended to.

But going back to my journey…

When I was on the train home I found out I’d got the internship (hooray!) and received feedback on my performance. At this point I still wasn’t sure if a career in accountancy was for me but I was excited at the opportunity to learn more about it.

Summer arrived and before I knew it, it was day one of my internship. First we had orientation at the Manchester office where I met all of the other interns from ‘the North’. During orientation we learnt more about the firm, the things we’d be doing and how we’d work towards turning the internship into a graduate offer. Day two and we were already out working at clients – as an intern you’re really thrown in at the deep end! Don’t expect to be making drinks & photocopying! I started shadowing associates in meetings and helping them with work to slowly having my own meetings and being given my own pieces of work. Although I was nervous at the prospect of helping out with real work, at real clients, I was given so much support and felt comfortable about asking questions whenever I needed help.

Throughout the year in PSA you will work on a wide range of clients such as the NHS, Local Government and charities. Associates spend little time in the office and you’ll find yourself working out at town halls and hospitals. As a graduate you will also spend a proportion of the year working in commercial audit which is a great way of gaining an understanding of both sectors. As well as the work there is also a social aspect.  I went along to the summer BBQ, pizza nights and team meals, which meant I got to know a lot of the team and find out more about what I wanted to do.

Offer accepted. Life as a Graduate

Before I knew it, the internship was over and I was offered a job on the PSA graduate scheme, which I readily accepted. The internship taught me more about the sector and that this was a career path I’d like to take. I also really enjoyed the Grant Thornton culture and the people working here. In such a short space of time I felt like I had become a member of the team.

Now I’m back as a graduate. The work I do day to day is largely the same but the biggest difference is studying for exams, which largely involves taking several weeks at college. I’ve already done my first 3 exams for the ICAS and CIPFA qualification. Studying for the joint qualification means that I will qualify as a Chartered Accountant as well as a Chartered Public Finance Accountant which gives me the flexibility to work with a larger range of clients.

College is a mixture of hard work and great fun. We spend all day in the classroom with our tutors which feels quite different to uni lectures. Tutors are really helpful and we get the chance to work on our own as well. Part of trainee life is also doing some self-study the evenings or revising for progress tests. On the up side – we all go for dinner and drinks together. As we’re all in hotels it’s really nice to spend time getting to know associates from offices across the country.  Between college and exams we balance work with revision in the evenings and weekends. It’s hard work but we all know it will be worth it!

I hope my blog has given you a little bit more information on what life is like in PSA and hopefully I’ve answered a few of your questions! I’d also encourage you to have a look at some of the other blogs, both about PSA and exams to give you a full picture of what to expect!

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