First steps: the value of an internship

A look at EY's summer internship programme

*Claudine Fox **Assistant Tax Advisor // Corporate Tax *

*I went to university in Glasgow, which is where I'm from. I studied law and thought I would practice as a solicitor. The internship at Ernst & Young changed my whole plan. After spending six weeks there, I knew it was what I wanted to do. Having received a job offer, I returned to university for my final year. After graduating, I started working in the tax department in Glasgow. *

*What made you apply for the internship? *

There's a really good careers service at Glasgow University. I was looking for work during the summer and they told me they had links with Ernst & Young and recommended the programme. I enjoyed studying tax law at university and I was aware that a lot of the work in this area was done by professional services firms. I also did an internship with a law firm that summer and I'm glad I did both. Before I started the programme I didn't expect I'd end up working for the firm.

Why did it have such an impact on you?

A lot of it was for personal reasons. My induction was in Leeds. I spent a week with people from all over the country. I made really good friends, people I'm still in touch with now. Many of them are working for the company. Having stayed at home for university, it was a great experience to go away and meet so many different people. I got a sense of how broad a company Ernst and Young is - people from all sorts of varied backgrounds work here.

Was there a social side to the internship?

Definitely. Our induction week was great fun. You got a chance to bond with everyone in the group. We spent a day helping out in a national park and we went down to London for a black-tie dinner in Tower Bridge, which was brilliant. When we all started our internships in different parts of the country there were quite a few ways to keep in touch - Ernst & Young has its own, simple internal messaging system. The people in the Glasgow office were very welcoming. Everyone knew I was coming in. They were constantly trying to get me involved and give me exposure to different people and departments, from senior managers to recent joiners. Everyone wanted me to get as much as possible out of the internship. At the end, all the interns were brought back together for a formal ball. The whole six weeks was just a great experience.

*What sort of work did you do on the internship? *

Even though I was only an intern I was given the chance to make a contribution to client work. For example, I was involved in quite a big project with one of the senior managers. It was to do with organising an external webcast. As far as I'm aware, it was the first time Ernst & Young had done something on that scale. I was the key contact for external financial directors who were trying to dial in or who were having technical issues. On another occasion I expressed an interest in meeting clients. The manager said: "I'm going out next week, do you want to come along?" and so I got to visit the client site for a few days.

Did you learn anything about yourself?

I learnt to be more confident in my own abilities. It was quite daunting when I first started the internship. You are in a large team of people who work together everyday. Obviously, you're hoping for a graduate job offer and you want to do your best. But Ernst & Young made sure we were well supported. We each had a counsellor who kept an eye on how the interns were getting along and provided coaching and support I also had a buddy, a graduate trainee at the firm, to speak to if I had any day-to-day issues.

Did it prepare you for doing your current job?

I think it did. Obviously, in six weeks you cannot get an overview of everything but it gave me an idea of the type of work I would be doing. I saw enough to know I'd find it interesting. I could see how I might apply what I'd learnt at university. But most importantly, I knew I'd fit in here.

Jamie Priestley* Studying modern languages at Edinburgh University*

*I'm in my fourth year at Edinburgh University studying French and Italian. I heard about the internship through word of mouth. My brother works in professional services and he recommended it to me. He told me that joining the graduate scheme is the best route into the industry. I was also attracted to the idea of spending six weeks working in London, earning good money. *

*What sort of work did you do on the internship? *

It was very varied. I spent time in four different departments within corporate finance. In each one, we worked in small teams on a particular project. I worked closely with senior figures, which was very helpful because I could ask questions whenever I needed to.

We were given real client work to do. In the first week I was asked, along with another intern, to produce PowerPoint slides for a partner who was going to do a presentation the next day. Later he came to us and said: "that was really good guys. Thank you very much." That was awesome. On another occasion I was able to shadow a partner for a day, which involved going to two client meetings. I learnt a lot from just observing his typical day, how he dealt with the client and so on. It gave me something to aspire to.

*What did you learn from the internship as a whole? *

It sounds obvious, but I learnt what a career in professional services is actually like. You can't gain that level of insight from going to presentations or researching on the internet - you have to experience it for yourself. I saw how hard people at Ernst & Young work and how much of that work is team-based. But I could also see that it's a lot of fun. It's a very nice place to work. The offices are large and open plan, looking out over the Thames. There are break out areas where you can sit and enjoy a relaxed conversation.

*What about outside the office? *

There were a couple of social events organised during the first week induction. On the first night there was a big dinner, a chance to meet everyone, and on the last day there was a huge barbecue for all the interns. I'm still in touch with most of the other interns and many of the people I worked with. I'm looking forward to catching up with them when I start my job in the corporate finance department in September.

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