The Big Four – the obvious choice?

When I first decided that I wanted to work within professional services, I trawled the internet for all the national firms which offered the opportunity to start on a pre-determined graduate support role with a training contract. Having worked in a small firm of accountants in my hometown during my placement year from University, it had become clear to me that I wanted to work for a large, national firm, with international scope. The next step was deciding which one I wanted to work for.

When I started applying for graduate roles in 2009, the future of professional services was bleak at best, some firms were losing staff rather than growing in size and for graduates and school-leavers alike, it was a competitive time to be looking for your first step on the career ladder.

This heightened competition meant one thing to me ? get a training contract. I saw it that my university degree alone would not be enough to put me in good stead in the future in order for me to reach my goals and ambitions. Getting a good training contact, meant aiming for the best. With that in mind, I applied to the six biggest professional service firms around.

Grant Thornton was the third firm I applied to, and the first to come back to me. It was one-nil Grant Thornton.

Having gone to Loughborough University, I was exposed to career days and open evenings with Big Four firms from day one, and I attended them all. Whilst I was impressed by the scale of some of these firms, and the investment they put into these events, I have never lost sight of the personal touch that I received when dealing with Grant Thornton staff and can now see that this was a perfect representation of this firm’s offering.

I applied early, and it paid off, with Grant Thornton offering me the job in November, some six weeks after I submitted my application form. For the two firms I applied to before Grant Thornton, I never heard back about the confirmed first interview. This set a benchmark and I accepted immediately, knowing I would not regret my decision.

On arrival, I had the chance to sit down with the Southampton Office Managing Partner, Stephen Mills, to talk about the firm as a whole. Stephen started working for Grant Thornton as a graduate and in less than 15 years he was a partner of the firm. He is living proof that it is possible to make that rise without external experience and this only serves as an inspiration to other trainees.

One key thing that I recall from our talk was how Stephen focused on the culture of the professional services firms; he said “make sure you’re in the right culture”. At Grant Thornton, I have always been appreciative of the support and assistance I have received from managers and fellow trainees and believe this culture has allowed me to thrive and develop.

The end point is that we are not a ‘lonely number five’ in a big-boys game, we are uniquely positioned and are able to offer a clear and defined service to our clients. In addition, in a continuingly difficult economic climate, this firm is looking to grow and expand. It is an exciting time to be aboard the Grant Thornton ship. As trainee, this allows me to not be a cog-in-the-works and really stretch the boundaries of my capability. The responsibility obtained from day one, is astonishing.

As I gear up to my second year at the firm, I dedicate my time for the Spilling the Beans site so that I can share my experiences with potential applicants. My end message here being, we’re unique, and that’s what makes us special.

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