Q:What did you study? A:
I studied Maths, Biology and Physcial Education at the Rochester Grammar School for my A levels. Only one of those subjects really relates to what I’m doing now and it wasn’t until the end of my first year I really started questioning what I wanted to do.
Q:When did you starting thinking about the alternatives to university?
I started thinking about my options in about year 12. I started thinking university might not be for me just because everyone else is going and started considering what I could do instead. I was quite keen to get into work as soon as I could so I began to look on the internet for work experience.
I happened to come across a networking event which a few employers in the finance sector would be attending, and I had always thought I could work in finance. It was here that I first came across EY and began researching their school leaver programme in accountancy.
Q:What was it about the programme in particular that made you want to apply instead of going to university? A:
I signed up to an EY mailing list at a careers event and was invited to another careers evening held at the EY head office. At this one I spoke to a guy who was currently working at EY as a school leaver and he explained his department and day to day role which really interested me, and I liked the way EY focus on ensuring their employees are getting the best experiences to progress their career.
I felt like I could go to university but why would I when I could be working and earning money as well as a qualification. There’s so much debt involved with getting a degree these days and I just didn’t understand the point in going in to debt when I could be actually earning money.
Q:What was the application process like? A:
The first stage of the application process is an online strengths assessment and psychometric tests. I really recommend finding practice tests which are the same type as the EY ones, before taking the actual test. It wasn’t too scary, I did a lot of preparation and felt like there wasn’t anything too unexpected!
I did a lot of research beforehand too so I felt like I knew what I was talking about in terms of the company. Once I knew that I was going to be applying I knew what I needed to do to get ready.
Q:What have you been able to apply in your current role that you learnt through your A-level subjects? A:
The transition from classroom to office is a bit of a shock, but once I was there I settled in quite quickly and started applying what I knew. Thing like my analytical skills and general time management really helped at the beginning but other than that I was just picking things up as I went along.
You’d be surprised how quickly you start learning once you start full time – that gave me a lot of confidence too. It sort of proved that I knew what I was doing and I was meant to be there.
Q:Do you feel like you've missed out on the social side of university by choosing an alternative? A:
I was quite worried about that when I left college, I didn’t want to miss out on the amazing social life everyone is always talking about but it wasn’t a big deal in the end. New joiners are all given a buddy and a counsellor to help with the transition from school to work. Your buddy is someone closer to your age who is there to help with settling in and your counsellor is there to help with discussing opportunities around your career progression over the long term.
Having someone about my age to talk to really made me feel at home so I didn’t feel like a child working with loads of grown ups! I think it’s important to have someone you can talk to so you don’t ever feel on your own when settling in to a new job. I think that helped stop me from feeling left out when all my friends went to uni.
Q:What advice do you have for school leavers considering the same path as you? A:
It’s easy to feel like a degree is necessary in order to succeed in the workplace but it just isn’t the case. I’ve seen loads of managers who don’t have a degree, which shows how wrong that stigma is. I think that the school leaver programme is perfect for anyone who ultimately would like to become an accountant but isn’t sure about uni.
It’s really practical experience and if the only think that’s stopping you is missing out on a social life, don’t worry about it! Things like the UNFM society is great to meet new people and I think school leavers will really benefit from it like I have.
The transition from classroom to office is a bit of a shock, but once I was there I settled in quite quickly and started applying what I knew.