If you haven’t lined up any formal accountancy work experience, try not to panic. An employer is not actually going to learn all they need to know about a student during an internship, and this can play into your hands. Think about everything else you have done and match this to the key attributes a firm will be looking for. Bear the following in mind:
Accountants work in teams to understand information and apply logic and experience to this to reach a conclusion. There will be questions in any application process that seek to examine your approach to this – and you don’t have to refer to an internship in your answer. Think about your academic and work experience to date and how you can demonstrate these types of skills; I would be very surprised if you can’t come up with at least a couple of examples.
Communication and interpersonal skills
Accountants deal with a variety of other people, both those we know already and, at times in challenging situations, people we are meeting for the first time. Think about situations where you have to interact with other adults and how you can illustrate your skills – retail customer service or working with other adults in a voluntary setting can be good examples of this.
As an accountancy student you will be expected to work a full day and then study in the evening – this is one area which isn’t tested during an internship. Can you demonstrate that your excellent academic record to date has been achieved whilst holding down a regular paid or voluntary role? The key is showing you can do two things at once and cope with the pressure.
Explain why a skill or role developed in a non-accountancy context is relevant. Saying you worked in a shop shows you can work in a team and have the ability to work and study, but if you were a team leader, for example, or in charge of cashing up etc., this shows you can take on responsibility as well. If you refer to sporting or voluntary roles you need to bear in mind that, as with your work experience, you may need to explain a little about the role as not everyone will be fully aware of the responsibilities of a particular voluntary role.
Alternatives to internships
In addition to boosting your CV, of course, internships perform an important function: they can help you decide if a career and/or employer is right for you. But there are other ways to find out what it would be like to work at a particular firm. It might be possible to get in touch with alumni from your university currently working at your firm of choice who would be happy to talk to you. Also, the largest firms can usually offer a range of hands-on alternatives to internships, such as the following:
- Insight days at Deloitte. These are one-day events consisting of business games, team exercises and various information and skills sessions about the Deloitte culture.
- EY Leadership Academy: a three-day residential course running three times a year, each allowing for 25 students. These are typically held in April, July and September.
- PwC's Shadow a female leader programme: a chance to spend a week work shadowing a successful female leader.
- KPMG’s first year insight programme: new for 2015, a two-day insight programme, allowing you to network and fast track through the recruitment process.