Work experience at PwC

Lucy Mair finds out how you could take your first steps towards a graduate career with PwC

Whether you've just started university or you're close to graduating, professional services organisation PwC has a range of work experience opportunities to suit you. But the organisation is especially keen to get to know first year students who are already thinking about their career. We spoke to one of their student recruitment managers to find out why, and caught up with a graduate who started her journey with PwC as a fresher.

Imogen O'Mahony

Early Identification Programmes Manager

Why is work experience important?

Work experience is a two-way street which benefits both students and the employer.

Students can put the knowledge they're gaining at university into practice, develop their practical skills in the workplace, and get to know PwC and find out if we're right for them.

At PwC, work experience lets us engage with students, show them what we've got to offer, and identify those we hope will stay with us long term. Our work experience opportunities have been developed as a journey into our graduate positions and we offer full-time roles to around 90 per cent of students who do work experience with us.

When should students start applying for work experience?

The sooner the better. With so much competition for graduate jobs, students should start considering work experience early on  ideally in their first year of university. That said, we've also got routes for students and graduates who've gained work experience elsewhere or chosen their career path at a later stage of their academic studies.

What opportunities do you have for first year students?

We offer insight days to all students to help them find out more about PwC and what we do, but first year students who want to spend more time with us can apply for our Talent Academy. This is a three-day programme involving skills workshops and team activities to give students a taste of what working at PwC is like and to help them develop their employability skills. Students will also get to grips with PwC's different departments to find out which business area they're best suited to, and network with our partners and directors.

We also run some assessments at the Talent Academy and those who are successful will be invited to join us on a summer internship or a work placement for the following year.

Why is PwC keen to attract first year students?

We value the chance to engage with talented and proactive first years who've already started thinking about their career. We want to build a relationship with these students from early on and offer them opportunities throughout their studies, resulting in them joining us full-time when they finish university. By doing so, they'll get to know us and our culture while they're still students and benefit from training and real work experience so they can hit the ground running when they graduate and return to us permanently.

What advice would you give to students who are ready to apply for work experience?

First, make sure you put as much work and preparation into applying for work experience as you would do for a full-time role as the application process for all of our programmes is similar.

And second, don't panic if you don't manage to get onto a first year scheme or an internship. At PwC we value all work experience, including part-time jobs in shops and bars, or volunteering, as long as you show us what you've done in the role on your application. Graduates are very important to our business Â- we recruited over 20,500 across our global network last year Â- and there are plenty of graduate opportunities here even for those who haven't joined us for work experience.

Lisa Doole

Second year associate, Assurance

Why did you apply to the Talent Academy at PwC?

When I started university I didn't know anything about PwC or professional services. I went to a graduate fair with a friend, where I spoke to a student recruiter from PwC who told me about the Talent Academy for first years. The person I spoke to was really friendly, I was intrigued by PwC and the scheme sounded interesting, so I decided to apply.

What did you learn at the Talent Academy, and how did t prepare you for your placement?

At the Talent Academy, we worked on business case study activities in teams and then presented our findings to five partners at the end of the week. The experience helped me develop my teamwork, communication and presentation skills, and I've continued to develop these skills at PwC because we're constantly working in teams on projects and presenting to clients in meetings.

What's your current role, and what does it involve?

I'm now a second year associate in the Banking and Capital Markets team within Assurance. Our clients are investment banks, stock exchanges and other financial institutions and we're responsible for checking that their financial statements and annual reports are accurate.

My job involves working on client sites to analyse their numbers with a fine-toothed comb and make sure they're correct. As a trainee, I'm also studying for my ACA exams, so my time is divided between PwC and college.

Can you tell us about an interesting project you've worked on recently?

I've been working with a large US company, which is subject to extra regulation around high-risk areas of its financial statements. I've been checking that the fees it's recorded for a particular trading platform are correct, that they match the figures supplied by the general annual notice, and that once information has been entered it can't be manipulated by anyone.

What's been the biggest challenge you've faced since joining PwC?

The most nerve-wracking experience was my first meeting alone with a client, which was around two weeks after I started my placement. My team helped me prepare, but it still seemed daunting at the time! It was good to get over the hurdle early, though. Now I could have up to five client meetings in a day, and I don't worry about them at all.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Working within Assurance on audits is interesting because it teaches you how businesses work and you get an inside look at some of the world's biggest and most successful companies. My job also involves lots of client interaction, which I really enjoy.

The people I work with are fantastic, and to me they're the most important part of a job. At PwC everyone is friendly and supportive. The way the organisation's divided into departments and teams means you have a close group of friends and colleagues around you, but you also benefit from the high-profile clients and interesting work you get at a large professional services network.

Can you transfer any skills from your interests and hobbies to your job?

I ran a dance company with some friends after my local council withdrew funding, which involved organisation, teamwork and managing finances. I also networked with professional dance companies and held meetings to get their advice and support. Although dancing may not be relevant to my work, the skills I gained through this experience are applicable to my job every day!

How do you see your future at PwC?

All being well, I'll qualify as a chartered accountant in December 2014. I'd like to stay at PwC because I'm happy here, I like the people and there are lots of career development opportunities. PwC offers experience cycles where you can spend six months in other departments, which is something I'd like to do to gain experience beyond Assurance. I'd also love to move to New York one day, which is a possibility because PwC has offices worldwide and I know I'd be supported and encouraged to move around the global network.

Why should students consider work experience at PwC?

Work experience here can lead to fantastic opportunities. I applied for the Talent Academy just as an insight into PwC in my first year and it has led to a full-time position. It's difficult to gain roles after university so it's best to take the first steps towards a graduate position as soon as possible! Work experience at PwC is fast-paced and challenging, so you'll learn a lot from it and boost your CV, whatever you choose to do afterwards.

Work experience opportunities for you

All students and graduates: Insight Days

You'll spend a day at one of the PwC offices across the UK to find out more about the organisation, what it does and the career paths available to you.

First year students: Talent Academy

This three-day residential course is an opportunity to learn about PwC and its business areas. You'll get a taste of the work at PwC through simulation activities, develop your employability skills and network with employees from recent graduates up to partners and driectors. If successful, you could be offered a summer internship or work placement.

Penultimate year students: Summer Internship

The six-week summer internship begins with an induction and in-depth training. You'll then join your team and get involved in real, client-facing work in your chosen business area. If your internship goes well, you could be offered a full-time graduate position.

First and penultimate year students: Shadow a Female Leader

PwC is proud to have a number of women in leadership positions. This week-long programme aims to give female students an insight into opportunities at PwC by shadowing a woman in a leadership role. Those who impress could be offered a summer internship or a graduate role.

Sandwich course students: Work Placement

If your university programme includes a placement year, you could spend 11 months working at PwC. You'll join a team, work in a real role and, depending on what area you join, you could also study for a professional qualification. If successful, you can return to PwC after graduating.