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Emily’s summer placement

Having always envisaged a career in accountancy, I was fortunate enough to secure a six-week summer placement at PKF Francis Clark in the Exeter office. Although having minimal knowledge in the accountancy profession, this placement gave me the opportunity to experience each department rather than just one specific area, making it highly appealing.

During the six weeks, I spent my first week in Business Services, learning how to submit journals and complete accounts preparation. Personal Tax and VAT were next on the agenda, where I gained knowledge on how to complete Tax and VAT returns. The middle two weeks of my placement involved being off-site, working in a team of six, auditing a large client. The teamwork and relationship building that took place between our team and the client was second to none and I will take inspiration from this for the future. During my penultimate week, I undertook the work of a Corporate Finance Associate and I was even given the opportunity to participate in client meetings and conference calls, which was a highly valuable experience. I was placed in Corporate Tax on my final week, gaining a detailed understanding of corporation tax computations. Throughout my placement I was also given a project to research on how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is likely to affect the professional services industry in the future. I concluded my research with a presentation of my findings at the end of the project. The subject of the presentation was such a fascinating, relevant and appropriate topic to understand how AI could affect the profession I want to pursue.

My six-week placement at PKF Francis Clark went so quickly; the variety of work that I was empowered to undertake was so varied, making every week as interesting and exciting as the first. The friendliness and community-feel of PKF Francis Clark is outstanding: there were pay-day breakfasts, charity bake sales and team-bonding lunches, just to name a few. The placement was such an amazing experience, confirming accountancy is definitely the correct career path for me. I have also been lucky enough to secure myself on the graduate scheme after university, so now I can start my third year of studying Mathematics at Durham, with the satisfaction of knowing that I have an exciting career lined up for when I finish.

Hannah’s summer placement

I started my placement on June 10th 2019 and was given an ‘office tour’ to meet the various staff I would be working with and the partners of the firm. Everyone was welcoming, friendly and very approachable which helped calm my first day nerves. I was taken to the Audit department and given a set of accounts to do with the help of various people. It didn’t surprise me that I would be given work to do, I was just a little shocked that I was given the responsibility of going through all of the cash books and credit card statements to fill out a company’s accounts – not because I wouldn’t be able to do it, just the sheer responsibility of it all. Here I was, a university student, doing the same work as an Audit Senior. It was quite daunting but at the same time, I was quite excited to see for myself how much I could do on my own.

After a week of looking at various companies and completing accounts, I was asked if I wanted to go out to a company and be a part of the Audit team. Obviously I was a little nervous, I wasn’t sure how they would feel having me there but again, I was welcomed warmly and they didn’t seem to mind all the questions I was asking! None of the staff at the office or in the Audit team seemed to mind me asking questions, even if I found them a little silly. I was told that nothing I asked would be stupid and that they were glad I was asking questions because it meant that I was engaged in what I was doing.

Three weeks in, I was moved downstairs to the Tax department. I was really excited to move on to Tax as it was a subject I very much enjoyed learning about at university. It was a little different in the Tax department as everyone would be in the office every day compared to Audit where different people would be in at different times so it seemed that I met someone new every day. As soon as I was placed in the Tax department, I was given Tax Returns to do – something that I hadn’t learned about at university as I was used to Corporation Tax. It was difficult to get my head round in the first week but after a while it clicked and I began to enjoy it.

I’m now on my ninth week of my six week placement – I was asked to stay on for longer to work in the Tax department and I can honestly say that I jumped at the opportunity. I knew that I wanted to be an Accountant when I first started studying the subject at university and any experience I could get now would greatly help me in the future. I have also been offered the graduate scheme that they do here at PKF Francis Clark, subject to me achieving a 2:1 at university, something that I hoped would happen but I did not think that it could.

All this has started from applying for a summer placement and I honestly urge anyone who is considering one to do one! PKF Francis Clark has helped me so much, I now know what I want to do and I enjoy doing it! I cannot thank all the staff enough for everything that they have done for me and I am looking forward to my future with the firm.

How to interview well

When you interview with us, we’re not trying to catch you out. We have invited you in to meet us because we think that you can do the job that you have applied for. We want you to be successful.

Here are some things to consider before your interview:

Research

Browse our corporate and careers websites to find out more about us, our services and sectors, any recent news, and our mission and brand values. It’s also a good idea to research the interviewers, most of our employees are on LinkedIn, or they will have a profile on our website. You may find out you have something in common with your interviewers which could help to break the ice.

Know your CV

It’s common to be asked to take the interviewers through your CV. You have a great opportunity here to rehearse this before the interview and be prepared to run through your CV and take questions on it.

First impression

They count for a lot. Dress smartly, be confident and enthusiastic. Smile and offer a handshake to those who you meet. This doesn’t only include your interviewers, but also the front of house staff and anyone else you’re introduced to.

Body Language

A lot of communication is non-verbal. Think about your body language and how good eye contact and posture can show enthusiasm for the role and firm.

Provide evidence

When answering interview questions, give evidence of how actions you performed made a difference to the outcome. A good way of doing this is to use the STAR technique. See below for a quick overview of how to structure an answer, but we’d recommend exploring this further and practicing some answers. A good friend or significant other can help here.

Situation: Set the scene and give the necessary details of your example.

Task: Describe what your responsibility was in that situation.

Action: Explain exactly what steps you took to address it.

Result: Share what outcomes your actions achieved.

Slow down

Interviews can be stressful and you may feel nervous. Slow down and consider your answer before starting to speak. If you don’t understand the question asked, ask for clarification.

Prepare to interview us!

The interview is a great time to get to know the firm more. Come prepared with some questions to ask at the end. Make sure these questions are not ones that can be answered by looking on our website, but ones specific to the role that you are interviewing for.

We understand that interviewing for a new role can be a stressful experience. You will interview in a room or quiet place in one of our offices or offsite, and we will provide you with water.

How to be a good job seeker

So you’ve decided that your current role isn’t for you. Perhaps you don’t think that you’ll be able to realise certain ambitions at your current firm, or you’ve been made redundant, or you’re just bored.

Whatever your reason, I thought it would be useful to share what has worked for me, and for those I have supported in their search.

Here are some of my top tips:

Take time out to consider what you really want

You may have been in your current role for some time, and it’s easy to stick to what you know or are good at. Consider how long you have left to work, will you be happy doing what you’re doing now, or your boss’s job, or their boss’s job?

Research target companies

Rather than browsing Indeed, research interesting companies that you may want to work with. You may find some interesting places that you haven’t considered yet. It’s best to keep an open mind.

Google yourself

Sign out of all of your social media accounts, go ‘incognito’ and search for yourself on Google. What do you find? This will show you what recruiters, HR, or hiring managers will be able to see if they did the same.

Find a company’s internal recruitment contact or a potential hiring manager, and reach out

We live in a connected environment, where it is becoming easier and easier to contact individuals. Don’t wait for a job to be advertised, chase your dream!

Set yourself realistic goals

You may not ‘need’ to find a new job straight away. Set a goal, perhaps to send five messages a month to a potential company, or research 10 companies a month.

Be social (media)

Share relevant industry news, and comment on prospect’s posts on LinkedIn, or professional Facebook groups, or Twitter, or wherever your kind of people hang out (ps. you won’t find me posting much on Github!)

Be patient

Actively looking for a new role can be a full time job in itself. Be kind to yourself, take breaks, and don’t give up.

CV top tips and things to look out for

With PKF Francis Clark in its 100th year and having just opened its eighth office, in Bristol, opportunities to join the firm are abundant. How does an ambitious job seeker secure a position in this fast growing regional firm?

First impressions often start with a CV, so you want your CV to be an example of your best self. We’ve put together some things to consider when creating or updating your CV to help you to do just that.

Here are our top tips and things to look out for:

Check, check, and check again

This is a given, but can also be overlooked if you’re pulling together a CV for the first time in a while, or are in a rush. It’s often possible to miss your own mistakes so, if possible, get a friend or family member to check your CV for spelling and grammar mistakes. They can also check whether it’s easy to read and understand.

Why are you applying?

Whatever the reason, we’re interested in the why. Be honest. Some questions that we may have are: Why are you moving mid qualification? Why are you applying for a Tax role when you’re currently working in Audit? Why are you applying for a role in Torquay when you live in Manchester?

Use confident language and be proud of your achievement

Your CV is your sales pitch in writing. Be proud of what you have achieved and communicate it clearly. For example, instead of ‘worked to sales targets’, you could instead use ‘exceeded my sales target by 130%’. Use tangible examples that will resonate to your target audience.

Are you still studying?

Our recruiters and hiring managers will be interested in where you are in your study. It’s much easier to visualise and understand if it’s written down rather than having to scribble it down during your phone screen. These are sometimes done during your lunch break, for example, and we’d much rather be discussing the opportunity and your experience than exams (and I think you will too!)

Keep it professional

Little details count, use an email address that is as professional as the rest of your CV. Try Darren@gmail.com and keep DancingwithDarren@gmail.com for Friday night. Keep the font standard as well. Best to avoid Comic Sans and stick with a font like Arial.

It’s all about You

Be proud of what you have achieved and the experience you have gained. Use ‘I’ to showcase your contribution. Using the first person rather than the collective ‘we’ will help you stand out for your achievements.

Start with your current role

List your work and academic history starting with your most recent job and study. It reads better that way.

Tailor your CV to the job you are applying for

It’s good practice to consider who will be reading your CV. For example, if you’re looking to move from Audit to Tax, it would be best to say why, and note whether you have worked on much tax work so far in your career. This could be in your CV or cover letter.

Leave out unnecessary information

There are some things that don’t belong in your CV. For example, we would recommend leaving out your date of birth, a photo, marital status, number of children, or anything else that doesn’t affect your ability to do your job. There isn’t a set rule of how long your CV should be. It should be long enough to include all of the relevant information, and not too long that people will be put off reading it.

Truro office Snowdon trip – April 2019

A delightful sense of achievement was felt by the team as we stood 1,085 meters above sea level at the peak of Mount Snowdon. Following on from a course which Tom Roach had attended, he decided to offer his staff a road trip to North Wales to climb Mount Snowdon. Fortunately, this was something on my bucket list, so I did not hesitate to sign up.

The trip was well-organised by Courtenay, informing us of the correct kit to prepare and arranging logistics for the weekend. We prepared for the worst, packing our waterproofs and thermals but ended up getting sunburnt (albeit still very cold)!

Due to annual leave budgeting, our car had decided to get into the office at 7am and set off on our travels around 11am to aim to get to our accommodation for dinner time, which we managed to achieve despite some city traffic around the Cardiff area. When we eventually arrived at our accommodation, which felt like an eternity driving through the windy roads up to Snowdonia, we were greeted with a fridge full of drinks and the delicious smell of dinner cooking. Courtenay and Jenna very kindly cooked a delicious spaghetti bolognese for everyone including a veggie option, which was followed by some of Alec’s famous (around Lowin House) rocky road. We spent the remainder of the evening playing games (and I insisted on watching the Liverpool game on Ben’s tablet) and got a decent night’s sleep before the climb in the morning.

The morning came and we all had breakfast together and prepared for the hike ahead of us. The weather was as good as we could’ve asked for and the drive from our accommodation through the mountains was very pleasant. We decided to take the Llanberis path as it was said to be the “most popular” from reviews online and most appropriate for a group of novices like us! Some of the team had planned to get the train up the mountain but were faced with a dilemma when we arrived. The trains were not running far up the mountain due to heavy snow earlier on in the week which resulted in the whole team deciding to climb up and down the mountain all together.

We began hiking around 9.45am and stopped for refreshments at the halfway house, but soon realised that it gets very cold quickly when you stop moving! From here our scenery took a 180, and our rolling green hills quickly turned to snow. We had heard from passers-by that the snow was knee-deep in some areas and Ben decided to find out for himself, losing his legs in the snow and taking a tumble, which I found incredibly amusing. At this point we could see why the trains were not running all the way up the mountain. The further up we got, the snowier and more slippery it was – I ended up slipping over, hoping nobody had noticed (but everyone did!). This wasn’t the first of my falls, so embraced my newfound imbalance from thereon. Having said that, I’ve never been any good at ice skating.

We finally made it to the peak at around 1.30pm where we took in the thrilling views, took plenty of photographs, sat down for our lunch and enjoyed the atmosphere. It was much busier than I expected, with long queues forming to get up to the very peak.

On the way down, we all saw a young boy slide down an icy slope on his backside. Tom thought it would be fun to do exactly that and also slid down the slope. This spurred almost everyone else to join in. Sam picked up great speed and looked as if he was never going to stop! For all those who want proof, don’t worry – we caught it on video!

We made it back down to the bottom at around 5.30pm and, naturally, searched for a pub to enjoy a finest local ‘Snowdon Craft’ lager or a glass of gin before heading back to freshen up for our evening meal. We spent the evening at the Oakeley Arms, just a short drive away from our accommodation. We had a lovely evening with lots of food and many newly-found “61 Deep” ales, gins and other alcoholic beverages. The food was great for most (although Tom was evidently dissatisfied with his half chicken, which he ordered to crack the classic “I’ll have the other half” joke) which concluded a fantastic trip. Many of us were saying how we’d like to do something like this again, which then lead onto Tom’s suggestion of attempting the three-peak challenge, so watch this space for our next adventure! Big thanks to Tom for paying for our accommodation and meal at the Oakeley Arms. Anyone thinking of doing this I would recommend; the hike was thoroughly enjoyable, and it was a great way of getting to know my peers better.