From what I thought and who I met, to what I did and where I went, this blog gives a pretty comprehensive account of my first week as a public sector audit (PSA) intern at the London Euston office. Although your experience won’t be the same, I hope this gives those soon to join Grant Thornton a flavour of what is to come in your first week.
Holly, Public Sector Audit Intern
At Grant Thornton there are plenty of opportunities to excel yourself outside of your normal working environment and in my opinion there is no better opportunity to do so then while at the annual football tournament that takes place every summer.
Throughout my time at university, I found myself constantly looking forward to when I would have a career. The very nature of university is such that a student sacrifices several years of earning potential to better themselves academically in the long run. Whilst I had accepted this from the off, I couldn’t wait to get started on my career.
Over the last two years with Grant Thornton, I miss certain aspects of my student life, but the current focus, challenge and structure to my days are something I would struggle to live without now. Something I have learnt about myself recently is that this focus and structure may have had a detrimental effect on who I am.
Doing the job, the exams and the hours can make it easy to lose track of the big picture. With less time to think about where I’m going to be in a few years time I found that I had started to bury my head in the sand and just get on with the number crunching of being a tax adviser – I had lost my view of the future.
So a recent conference for me was well timed. Once trainees are nearing the end of their training contracts the firm welcomes them to a conference to see what is next in their careers. As a trainee who is some six months away from qualifying, I was invited to the conference – Unleashing Your Potential – which was held in a fancy hotel in Windsor.
The event itself was run by our national leadership board, who gave their insight into what they did and how they did it to get to where they are now. Some guest speakers and other rising stars gave us a few tricks of the trade on how to get on in the firm. Getting these kind of hints are invaluable and, if used wisely, I’m convinced can be the key to unlocking the potential we all have, but don’t necessarily always access.
Leading up to the event, my expectation was that I would be able to get all my questions on the future answered – three days later and I just have more questions and a lot of food for thought.
I took a number of key points away with me and have reaffirmed my eyes forward approach to my career. A significant lesson to learn was that at Grant Thornton we must all take responsibility for our own careers. Hearing the stories of the firm’s brightest and best showed clearly that nothing is given; it’s all earned through hard graft, desire and vision.
I guess this is an important lesson for anyone, whether they be in the firm, aspiring to join Grant Thornton or just aiming to get good grades in their A Levels or degree.
I often speak with people who are looking to join the firm and my best advice to them (that’s probably you) is to make the decision and throw everything and the kitchen sink at it. In the current economic climate, sitting on the fence just won’t do, and at every moment it’s imperative you can prove to the employer, examiner or interviewer that you want the next opportunity more than the next person.
For me, I still need to digest the information I have received and firm up my ideas for what I will do post-qualification. It’s easy to put it off until I have actually finished the exams, but anything that’s easy isn’t worth writing home about…
Watch this space!
Last Friday started well for me – an extra hour in bed followed by a bacon sandwich for breakfast – what’s not to like?
Once a year, teams in Grant Thornton have a day away from the office in the name of team building and getting to know their colleagues. Friday was that day for London’s Entrepreneurial and Private Client team. As we’re a generous bunch we also let the Financial Planning team come along too.
Following the excellent bacon sandwich we headed upstairs for a workshop on building our personal brand. I’ll admit I was pretty dubious about this, I’m not sure I like the idea of thinking of myself as having a brand but in the end it turned out to be a very interesting couple of hours. I now know how to shake hands and introduce myself effectively, what colours I definitely should not wear and how to modify my voice so that I don’t betray signs of nervousness when doing any public speaking.
After a coffee break we headed outside for the team-building activities. I’m not sure why but apparently team building is most effective when it involves being wet and muddy. There were a variety of challenges but at least one of them involved crawling along the ground and a couple resulted in us getting covered in water (see photos).
Team building (and getting wet!)
The day ended back inside for a much needed BBQ (inside unfortunately due to the weather) and a drink! Our away day helped us to get to know our colleagues a bit better and was a refreshing break from the office.
I now have a slightly less refreshing break from the office as, like Nick, I’m now off to study for my CTA exams in November. Hopefully we’ll both be feeling positive when we return!
Whilst at University at Loughborough, I studied for the Accounting and Financial Management course. Having studied for one of those courses which was 12 hours a week, my chemistry and engineering housemates would often give me a hard time for doing a “easy subject”. Naturally, anyone doing 25-30 hours a week is going to get annoyed by someone like me getting by with 12 hours, but I always supported the idea that my course was difficult, just in a different way.
Whilst this may be hard for some to understand, but I found that the difficulty in a 12 hour a week degree course is keeping the pressure on and maintaining motivation. As a student, I found it all too easy to procrastinate and be lumped with a mammoth task towards the end of the semester. Something I’ve had to snap out of whilst working at Grant Thornton and studying for the CTA.
I started training for CTA only a few months ago but since then it’s been relentless and I can honestly say I’ve never worked so hard in my life. Like I do with all diary entries, I read the previous month’s blog again to refresh my memory, I recalled that August was a tough month – well September has been tougher.
Having had a tough month, I have naturally begun questioning my ability up against this prestigious and tough qualification. For the first time in my academic life, I have finally felt like I have met my match, something I have been searching for since I left school at 16. The challenge is great, and that feeling of failure is impossible to live with. As a result, I took a couple of weeks away from the books to allow the dust to settle and I now feel totally refreshed and 100% focused for my five week revision and exam session in October and November. The support network I have had from my line manager and fellow trainees has really helped to pull me through this and I’m grateful to have such a supportive culture surrounding me during this difficult time.
But enough about exams.
September was a good month for social occasions, with the office summer do being held at a fancy hotel in the New Forest on one Friday followed by the office away day the next. The away day was great, an afternoon of buggy racing, quad biking and other teambuilding events which set the tone of a night out on the town in Southampton with some fellow trainees.
Having joined the social committee within the office, it would be fair to say I’m looking forward to planning the next events, with go-karting, bowling and curry nights all in the pipeline – but first up on the schedule is the Christmas party which never fails to disappoint.
On that note, I’ll get back to the books and give one big heave-ho for the November exams. In readiness, I apologise if I don’t have much to say during October but that’ll largely be down to the fact that I’m either at home studying or at Bradenham revising.
Roll on 7 November.
As I headed up to Bradenham in July for the second phase of tutoring for November’s CTA exams, it came to my attention that this blog is not only read by potential applicants but also current Grant Thornton staff. With that in mind, for those of you who are reading this and know me, hello!
Bradenham is a great place to catch up with the like-minded people within the firm though, and as around 20 trainees descended on the outskirts of High Wycombe for some capital gains tax and VAT tutoring, this Bradenham visit was like every other; a tough day followed by a chilled out evening.
Whilst we were at Bradenham doing our CTA training, we were also joined at ‘the manor’ by this summer’s intake of interns. The interns were completing a two day course on presentation and communication skills before heading up to Birmingham for a corporate responsibility day at a local school. Whilst my first experience of Grant Thornton on the inside was after graduation, it’s clear to see that the few weeks these interns will be spending with the firm are a pretty cool experience and some brilliant CV building. I’d certainly encourage people to focus on this experience as they take a break from their second year studies.
But enough about what I should have done three years ago and more about what I’ve done this month.
July always sits well with me, usually because the weather is good and whilst it hasn’t exactly been a British summer the last few weeks, it’s still given me the chance to get sunburnt – seems I’ll never accept that the sun can burn my pasty skin. The sunshine does make people more sociable though, and for three Fridays on the trot I was heading into Southampton with other trainees to sample the nightlife.
Other than the above, I’ve been keeping to my rhetoric and getting head stuck into the CTA manuals, this stuff is pretty bulky and it’s amazing to think I’m already cramming with three months until my exams.
I’ll wrap this blog up with two rare pieces of Nick-advice. Firstly, apply to do an internship, it looks like a great experience and also quite a bit of fun. Secondly, always wear sun cream, no matter how stubborn you are!
Around a month ago a number of Grant Thornton employees were feeling rather nervous. ATT (Association of Taxation Technicians) and CTA (Chartered Tax Advisor) exam results from the November sitting are released in mid-January each year. These results had been a long time coming. Personally my first course for ATT had been in February last year with exams in November. Even worse, on results day they make you wait until 9pm to find out if you’ve passed!
For the Spilling the Beans team (and, in fact, the majority of Grant Thornton employees) the news was good. Nick and I successfully passed ATT with Chris completing his CTA (no mean feat, the CTA is renowned for being one of the most challenging professional qualifications!)
Only a month earlier we’d had more success in the team with Astrid and Rachel passing their final ACA exams making them fully chartered accountants.
Which brings me to last night where a couple of tax partners took me and a number of other successful ATT/CTA students out for dinner to celebrate our hard work. Chinese was on the menu and plenty of duck pancakes were consumed – probably too many in my case, I was still full at breakfast this morning!
It’s really nice to get some recognition for the hours of study you put in for these professional exams. On that note, I’d like to say congratulations to Nick, Chris, Rachel and Astrid!
Chris, Astrid and Rachel are now fully qualified but the rest of the team will be putting in a few more hours with the books this year – Nick and I are going on to take our CTA and Will and Victor will be taking more exams for their CIPFA and ACA qualifications.
If you’d like to know more about the exams we take at Grant Thornton, feel free to ask us a question on the forum.
Up and down the country, Grant Thornton offices have been celebrating the coming Christmas break with office parties. Bristol have ours tomorrow at Raymond Blanc’s restaurant. However, special mention must go to the London offices’ Christmas Party. With white chocolate fountains, 5 differently themed bars, professional dancers and a menu that would amaze even the most discerning palate.
Check it out:
One of the things I like most about Grant Thornton is the way in which employees of all levels are encouraged to get involved with additional corporate activities. So when I was offered the chance to attend a marketing event, I leapt at the opportunity! The event was a wine tasting evening with Barclays, Credit Suisse, Clarke Wilmott and TLT. As we were hosting the wine tasting, we decided to go a little earlier than the start time to ensure that everything had been set up correctly at the venue. WOW!! I knew that my manager, Rich, had spent a long time in choosing a good location, but I didn’t know that he’d found probably the best place in the UK for wine tasting. It was in a massive underground wine cellar that was built in the Middle Ages and next to the oldest pub in Bristol – this area had clearly witnessed a lot of drinking in the past and we intended to continue that tradition tonight! The owners of the wine cellar had set up four candlelit tables in the middle of the cellar and it was rather worrying to see that each place setting had a large number of wine glasses next to it – exactly how many wines were we going to be tasting?! I went back outside ready to greet our guests, secretly wishing that I had eaten more at lunch, especially since the friendly waiters and waitresses were making it impossible to move more than three feet without being offered champagne.
The Clarke Wilmott Business Challenge is a 10K race that is held annually for the businesses around Bristol. Grant Thornton is one of the biggest participators in the event, raising hundreds of pounds for our chosen local charity: St Peter’s Hospice. This year we had a particularly strong turn out; 24 people from the Bristol office woke up early on Sunday, donned their trainers and made their way to the race start. The race was along a nice, flat stretch of road that meandered alongside the River Severn, under the Clifton Suspension bridge and then turned back to Bristol, finishing in Millennium Square. The race went very well and all the Grant Thornton teams finished in good positions. Special mention must go to Matt Varley in our Marketing department who finished the race in a blistering 37 minutes that’s an office record that will take some beating! We got special thanks from Maria at St Peter’s Hospice, who told us that our money would be going towards providing much needed palliative care for terminally ill cancer patients – a very good cause indeed. We’re already looking forward to the 2011 Bristol 10K and placing bets on who, if anyone, will be able to beat Matt’s record!