The moment I knew that I definitely wanted to work for KPMG was when I went to a careers event at Canary Wharf. I met KPMG colleagues and they were really genuine. They explained what they did within technology audit and reassured me that I didn't necessarily need a computer-related degree in order to apply. It also became clear that I shared the firm's values: for example, KPMG are keen to promote social mobility and that's high on my own agenda. At that point, it became my number one choice of employer.
How I made my career choice
During my first year at university, I figured out that I was not going to go into the biomedical industry. I therefore engaged in a number of workshops and activities unrelated to my degree to explore my options. My university had an internal careers portal that informed students of careers events, workshops and internship opportunities. My philosophy was that I wasn't sure what I wanted to do and so I would go to everything. My interest in technology was first piqued through a friend who was really into it.
When I attended careers events, I wanted to see how I felt within the corporate environments and whether the employee representatives there were authentic and happy in their jobs. Through talking to KPMG's graduate trainees, I became certain that KPMG was for me.
How I applied to KPMG
The application process involved a Launch Pad event, which is unique to KPMG. It is an interactive one-day assessment event at the final stage of the recruitment process and, if you are successful, you can get an offer within two working days. The event was different to anything I'd ever been to. Since the pandemic, this has changed to a Virtual Launch Pad, where the activities will now be conducted and assessed virtually. You will still have the opportunity to meet lots of our people during this process, including those within the area you have applied to, from partners to graduate trainees.
I think what made me successful was my honesty in sharing my skills, values and motivation. Throughout the recruitment process, I focused on how I shared the values of the firm, and that helped me to demonstrate how I was a fit. I'd suggest that applicants for any graduate role should find the common ground between them and the company and talk about it.
How I started at KPMG
After I accepted my offer, I received monthly newsletters about what to expect, attended events at the firm and joined a Facebook group especially set up for the trainee intake. I was also given a buddy prior to joining who emphasised that I could contact them with any questions. All of this made the transition into work much easier.
The initial training was intense. Trainees from all offices came together in London and we had a three-day residential course, with social events in the evening. I only realised how useful the initial training was later, because at the time the technical terms were all new to me. It felt a bit overwhelming, but it was great to meet up with other trainees and I soon felt at ease.
How I made my mark in Manchester
I'm based in our Manchester office and I work in a team that helps to mitigate any technology risks to the businesses we audit: for example, data breaches and backup failures. We review policies, observe procedures and see how systems function; we then analyse them to see whether they are at risk. My role involves activities such as attending meetings with the different organisations we audit and report writing. I'm currently managing a project with different companies and team members across various locations.
Three months into my job, during our busy season, I successfully handled a lot of timepressured work for two high-profile audit engagements, with support from my team. My team recognised my efforts; they didn't expect me to be able to take on so much. It helps to be proactive in this role.
One of the best things about working here is the team – they care about you. Your efforts do not go unnoticed. You receive constant feedback. Even when you are working on something small, a partner might come up and say 'I've heard you've been working on this and you've done a good job'. The culture is a lot less hierarchical than I expected: you can be sitting at a desk next to a partner and you wouldn't know by their demeanour that they were a partner.
Go for it
Before each interview, I used to find out the required skills and behaviours and brainstorm examples of when I had demonstrated them. It helped me phrase my interview answers, but more importantly it put me into a more confident mindset.
If you are not from an area where people work for professional firms, you could think that these employers are not for you. I'd initially thought that I might need to work in another industry because I didn't come from a 'polished' background, but now I've seen the benefits of just being myself. Think about what you want from an employer, find it and apply – you've got nothing to lose.
This content first appeared in the UK 300, a product developed and created by the editors at TARGETjobs.