This is a guest post by Sophia Montgomery.
From a young age, I could only ever picture myself working in the corporate environment of the city. So I selected A Level courses that would be broadly useful for any business-related career – Business & Economics, Mathematics, Information Technology and Psychology.
I enjoyed Economics but wasn’t confident that my math’s skills would suffice for an Economics degree, so I focused on Business and looked for a degree that would suit me. I chose Exeter’s Business School because I wanted a course that included a year in industry – my tutors at Brockenhurst College had alerted me to the many employability benefits that come with doing a placement.
At the start of my second year of University, the Business School Careers Team sent out an email about a placement scheme at Accenture in central London. This was the first time I had considered working in consulting and the prospect quickly became more attractive as my research into the industry progressed. A few weeks after receiving the email, I went to an open day at Accenture and then applied to the Industrial Placement scheme through their company website.
I knew that placement schemes were extremely competitive, so I spent a long time writing a quality application. When writing this application, I was very company specific. When asked why I want to work for them, I made sure that all the reasons were particular to that firm. For example, instead of saying ‘I’d like to work for a company that operates all over the world’ I said something along the lines of: ‘I’d like to work for a company that carried out [name of project]in [name of country]with [this strategy]. This caught my attention because I’m really interested in this kind of project, so I think this strategy [worked well because…], but if I was involved, I would have…etc.”
Essentially, employers want to hear why they are unique and appealing to you on a personal level. You should be complimentary and passionate but also analytical when discussing the company. Surprise them with your insight, but don’t waffle. Use every word wisely to get your point across.
Fortunately, I found Accenture’s recruitment process to be quick – the placement was organised within a month, which was great as it meant I didn’t have to worry about applications for the rest of the academic year.
One of the reasons I really loved working at Accenture was the wealth of opportunities I was given to work with high profile clients. It was great to know that Accenture’s projects have such a tangible effect on our everyday lives. I worked in their communication, media and technology area, spending six months working with clients in the electronic high tech industry, and the following six working with an international broadcasting company in the media and entertainment field.
I love consulting because each day is different, and it’s very sociable. In the year I was there, I worked in a variety of teams and offices. I went from implementing and testing internal communications on a multinational project, to working for a large IT company onboarding offshore staff.
Because the tasks I was involved in on my placement were so varied, I learnt both hard and soft skills – technical abilities in IT as well as confidence in communication. The organisational and time management skills I gained have definitely helped with my studies. Having worked full time for a year, I now find it easier to structure my days at university, and feel a lot more in control of my time. Staying in bed till 8am feels like a lie in these days!
The best thing about my placement year was gaining a graduate job at the end of it. I became a lot more confident over the course of the year, which should stand me in good stead when networking in the future – and I now know which areas of consulting I enjoy most, so I can put myself forward for those projects when they come up.
During my final year of University, I worked part time in Exeter’s Business School Careers Team, advising other students to take advantage of their services when securing a placement. I benefited myself with CV and application checks, mock interviews, and I used the mock assessment centre.
The feedback from the mock assessment centre was particularly useful as it was so detailed and personalised, highlighting my flaws and strengths, as well as giving me practical tips that gave me a real advantage when it came to the real thing.
In July, I am due to graduate with a first class honours and a Dean’s Commendation for excellent academic achievement! In August I will start working full time at Accenture as part of their Management Consulting team.
I’m really excited to kick start my career and feel very at ease with returning to Accenture and London. I have realistic expectations this time around and feel that I can approach work with a new drive and passion.