Vault Q&A: Senior Assistant, Grant Thornton
Title: Senior Assistant -- "This involves liaising with audits and conducting tax divisions, which means going out with a client and completing their tax compliance. You also get involved in other projects such as research and development."
Department/Division: Corporate Tax
Number of years at firm: Two
Number of years in current role: One month -- "I entered the company as a graduate at assistant level and I then progressed up the levels which are A1 and A2. My new position is as a senior assistant."
Degree (s): BSc Mathematics Imperial College 2.2
How did you first decide to enter your industry? What first attracted you?
I attended several graduate milkrounds, talked to representatives from professional services and also took part in a department-focussed graduate day for professional services firms. Having gone through all of this, I realised that accounting was the industry for me.
It was important for me to research the scope of job roles, income, promotion, qualifications and working patterns of a company. I wanted to get a broad, well-recognised qualification to keep my options open. So I chose the ACA but I also wanted to gain maximum responsibility and industry exposure.
The department of corporate tax offered the possibility of a real interaction with clients and businesses whilst remaining predominantly office-based with steady working hours. The scope for development was endless with the possibility of specialising in a number of different areas and working in a range of industries. This is where you could really put your qualifications to practise, as well as gain management skills with the steady inflow of junior staff.
What are the typical education requirements? What skills and/or experience are important for success?
The typical requirements are a 2.1 in any discipline from any university, with at least a C grade at GCSE Maths and English (or equivalent). It is important to demonstrate commercial awareness, or possibly be involved with in clubs or societies at university.
I think work experience, summer placements and voluntary work clearly demonstrate skills, which are much more highly valued other than academic achievements. You need to be computer literate, have good communication and organisational skills and be analytical by nature.
The ability to work as a team and to manage your time efficiently is absolutely imperative, as you will be reporting directly to partners and managers, as well as be responsible for the management and training of junior staff. You will also, in many cases, be the first contact for queries from company directors and so on. As you grow in your role networking with clients, different departments and industries will become an important part of gaining clients, work and key contacts.
What is the typical career path in your industry?
The options are numerous. Here are some commonly taken routes: developing within tax practice to manager level and above, specialising in a specific tax such as capital gains or industry such as property, working in industry as part of a company's in-house tax/financial teams, moving to a different field within professional services firms such as audit, corporate finance and going into the banking industry. These are just some of the options available to you and it is really up to you where you decide to go.
What is the best part of your job?
Learning about the technical aspects through in-house training and external qualifications and interacting with your clients. It's great to know that you are able to help and that your opinions are highly valued.
What is your least favourite part of your job?
Conducting simple recovery compliance work -- it is probably the least interesting part of my job, and yet it seems to take the most time.
How relevant is your education to what you are doing today?
My studies were not actually directly relevant, although a financial and business management course at university really helped me to understand terminology, business cycles and funding. I think the university process always proves useful in helping understand people, social skills, time and cost management as well as enhancing your networking skills.
Can you offer any advice to graduates seeking a career in your industry?
Research is key. You need to look at all the options available and you will quickly narrow down your choices. Then it is best to read into more specific areas. Once you have a clear preference, ensure you stay aware of current affairs relating to the industry and actively ask questions at careers fairs or liaise with friends and family in industry. Note any terms that you don't understand and use it as a discussion point. It shows a willingness to learn. You are not expected to have in-depth knowledge of the industry.
What is something unusual that they might not know?
A really useful method of preparing for interviews is not merely to read the graduate sections of company websites but to look at the customer section. This part details the services that you will offer your clients and helps you to understand what your role will be geared towards.
What is your best perk?
I would say meeting lots of new people and forming strong friendships with your study groups and work colleagues.