A year in the life of…an industrial placement student

Today’s guest blog comes from Ben, an industrial placement student from our Southampton office.

This time last year I had begun the daunting task of applying for industrial placements. As an Accounting and Finance student I was already aligned for the professional services firm, but why and how did I manage to secure a place at Grant Thornton?

Before I start, I think it would be kind of me to reassure you guys! You may have heard stories of students rattling off countless applications and stressing to keep up with university work but you’ll be pleased to hear that this is slightly fabricated. The best advice I can offer is apply for the firms you have a genuine interest in and do your research as this will ultimately shine through.

But anyway, back to my first question, why and how Grant Thornton?

Firstly, from my research I had found that regardless of service line, Grant Thornton would provide a wide variety of challenges and exposure to clients. For me, this was the key factor that made Grant Thornton stand out. I worried when thinking about other, larger firms that I may get pigeon-holed into performing the same, repetitive task day-in-day-out. Already in my short time at Grant Thornton I’ve found myself dotted around Southern England and studying at the firm’s internal training centre Bradenham Manor!

My time at Bradenham was a great opportunity to meet other Grant Thornton people from across the UK. It has (as well as the training rooms where we learn) a bar, gym and a games room (my personal favourite), so there was plenty to keep me occupied in the evenings. On a side note I also managed to finally conquer double-entry book keeping!

In the step up from university to applying for an industrial placement, the application process may seem intimidating. But I found that when you break it down it soon becomes quite manageable, and there is nothing really to fret about! My advice for the application stage would be to get as many people as you can to read your completed application before submitting it; even though your family and friends probably have better things to get on with! Offer them a cup of tea and biscuit and sit them down to get a fresh view on the process.

I found the hardest part of the whole selection process was the online tests. Some people can whizz through them, others just need some time to familiarise themselves with the time constraint and the wording of the questions! There are some really helpful practise website out there where you can perfect your skills, and which I made lots of use of.

By the time you reach the telephone interview and assessment centre stage you can dare to dream! For the telephone interview my tip would be to make sure you have all your notes at hand (for reassurance if your brain suddenly falls off the radar), but don’t just read off your notes, as that just sounds mundane. Imagine all the times the people conducting the interviews hear the same stuff all the time, being a bit original could really help you to stand out, be enthusiastic, confident and really think about what experiences you can provide that are relevant to the role, we all have loads of great examples! It’s just managing to fit them with the competencies and explain them on the day, but that’s all things that can be practised.

If you make it to the assessment centre you have already demonstrated the required skill sets and competencies. One area you haven’t yet proven, is whether you would be a good fit into the culture of the firm. You don’t have to support the same football team and or go to the same local pub, you just have to show some social qualities, be polite, enthused and engage in conversation. A top tip would be to have a couple of obscure industrial questions to show-off your commercial awareness to the managers!

Lastly, I chose the Southampton Office having never been there before. This isn’t to say I picked Southampton by randomly pointing at a map, I did do some research, but I would highly recommend using your placement as a way to test the water. It’s a great chance to put out your feelers and explore where you could embark on your career!




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