Every year, thousands of graduates migrate to London to start off their careers. They are also – as if sending out hundreds of job applications wasn’t stressful enough – moving house, getting to grips with a huge new city, and leaving friends and family. All of this can be a real strain.

A large proportion of twenty-something year olds migrate to London, but it is important to keep in mind that having a career in the Big Smoke does not necessarily equal a successful career. Those looking to go into accountancy are lucky that skilled graduates are needed across the country.

After graduating, I would always suggest people take some time to think about what is important to them in their personal lives, as well as their careers. They should really consider if they want or need to be in London.

Many graduates find they are much better suited to working elsewhere, thus enjoying successful careers and a better work-life balance. Remember, some of the biggest of accountancy firms, including PwC, have jobs available all over the world.

However, wherever graduates choose to settle post-university, securing their first accountancy role can be challenging.

Approaching the application and interview process

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so your CV/application form needs to sell you to the recruiter.

Work on your CV and make sure it is the best possible representation of who you are. It is important that graduates make sure to align experience, education, and training/competencies to the role that they are applying for. Recruiters get lots of CVs, so you need to grab their attention.

Sports and hobbies should not be overlooked, as they can be a great way to demonstrate your skills. Being a member of a club can encourage the development of many skills the employer looks for, including being a team player, a strong communicator, or simply being passionate about what you do.

It might take some time before someone notices you, but it will happen and, one day, you will receive an email delivering your most desired but scary words: “I’m delighted to say that we would like to bring you in for an interview.”

But now what? What do they want you to say? What are they REALLY looking for?

There is a focus on students with an excellent academic track record who are able to show how they have used their initiative and team-working skills during their years at school or university. Work placements and internships are always a plus, as they give students the opportunity to gain skills specific to their subject or industry of choice.

Furthermore, it is important that students demonstrate:

  • Flexibility – to handle changing priorities and workloads positively
  • Courage and integrity – being always up for a challenge and able do the right thing by clients and colleagues
  • Curiosity – to help you learn, share, and innovate
  • Team working skills – to take on your fair share and work with others to get results
  • Great communication skills – to listen, persuade, and put your point across
  • Commercial awareness – remaining up to date on the latest business thinking and trends

Commercial awareness can be a tricky concept for a student to pick up on immediately. It is best tothink about the type of business you are interviewing for, who its competitors are, and what makes it successful.

Taking the time to think about where you work and how you fit is one way to help you on your journey to becoming more commercially aware.

Establishing a work-life balance

Once the hard part is over and you have got the job, you can start to think about how your work life fits into your personal life.

The rhythm of some accountancy firms can be challenging at times, especially at the beginning of your career: you have to get used to the role, learn about your clients, and impress your colleagues. However, ‘unplugging’ and resting helps you to achieve your objectives, too. A happy worker is the best kind of worker.

Think about your commute, for instance. Cycling to work can be very beneficial, as can be changing your route from time to time. Can you run during your lunch hour? Maybe go for a swim after work? Sports can do miracles but if you are not the “training type”; maybe try new and exciting restaurants.

However, if at some point you feel that things are getting out of control, do speak up! Your well being is important, not only for you, but for your company as well, as it affects your productivity and the team dynamics.

Your manager will look to promote balance within the team, by taking into account client expectations. At PwC Isle of Man, for instance, we have guidance in place to enable people to achieve flexibility in their day, and communication is at the heart of this process.

In an ever-changing and agile world, we understand the need to empower employees to work in a way that works for them. It is about working differently, not working less. There is no ‘one size fits all’ concept, what works for some people, just does not work for others.

Do not forget that there are many opportunities for you out there, you just need to open your mind and go and grab them!

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