Leaving student life behind can be an unnerving experience at the best of times, but even more so when you have no clue what awaits you at your new workplace. You’re embarking on the beginning of an exciting yet mentally rigorous journey to become a Chartered Accountant, so it’s important to be aware of and take note of what your three, four or five-year training contract has in store for you.

The CA(SA) training programme is recognised as being particularly taxing (apologies for the pun) as a wide range of skills from accounting and external reporting through to business ethics, management and leadership, information technology, auditing and assurance, financial management, taxation and internal audit, risk management and governance are imparted. The type of training office you select will therefore be determined by your particular interests and career aspirations.

Believe it or not, the hard graft wasn’t at university but really only starts once you’ve signed the training contract. As well as trying to stay on top of your work responsibilities, you’ll also be studying for the Initial Test of Competence (ITC) and, later on in the training contract, the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) - as well as trying to navigate the strange new world of a professional workplace which comes with its own customs and idiosyncrasies.

Long hours are a given. Expect to work overtime - deadlines on projects dictate the number of hours that you need to work in order to achieve it. Achieving a work/life balance can be difficult, so you’ll need to actively make time for both.

The job title is flexible – in addition to completing your official work of bookkeeping, tax advisory and consulting and auditing, you are often tasked with jobs such as making coffee for partners and clients, photocopying documents, answering phones or organising a partner’s diary. This may seem irritating, but is an opportunity for growth and to learn the business from the ground-up. A willingness to learn will stand you in good stead.

Take responsibility for your own learning. Rather than just letting your training contract pass you by, take the initiative and network with the people that you work with at all levels and in all departments. You will learn skills that you may not necessarily have been exposed to otherwise. If you are ever in doubt as to what is expected of you, ask your senior to clarify your role.

You will make mistakes, but that can actually be a positive thing as it allows you to learn and grow professionally. It’s important to remember that your years as a trainee act as the foundation for your entire career, and that by putting in the effort now, you will be building the career you envisioned.

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