As academic trainees you will be joining a peer group of trainees that have already connected and established relationships. There are a number of things you can do to ease your transition into the firm, Mandy Bellis, a senior manager at KPMG advised delegates at a SAICA Academic Trainee Workshop earlier this year, including:
· Asking your firm to include you in any functions they are hosting while you are in your academic training year;
· Network with people at the firm, including any varsity friends who have already started their contract period, before starting work;
· Request a ‘buddy’ – either a ‘normal’ trainee or somebody who also went through the academic trainee programme;
· Don’t listen to rumours, rather find out the facts;
· The first six months are critical so ask as many questions as you can if there is anything you’re unsure about;
· You need to capitalise on gaining relevant work experience in January while the new first years are writing their ITC exams; and
· If you’re having an issue, let your manager know as soon as possible.
What to expect of clients
Some clients, reveals Mandy, may not want highly technical analysis and your client portfolio may not be 100% full yet. You may also have a diversified client portfolio. She suggested that trainees plan travelling and APC study leave into their portfolio / work allocation as soon as possible.
“Research your client portfolio early remembering to have practical suggestions for each client as you engage with them. Each client is a learning opportunity so don’t be in too much of a hurry to specialise. You may also need to request more clients.”
Don’t stress if your portfolio is not jam-packed, she advised, as this down-time between clients is an opportunity to catch up on training.
What to expect of your firm?
Some firms may use a business language which is very different from your first language or your study language. Bear in mind that they may also have different operating and staff policies to your university.
Mandy’s advice to academic trainees was to read the financial press in the business language of your firm. “What is in today’s financial press is in tomorrow’s office,” she said.
She also suggested that it’s a good idea to have a working knowledge of the staff policies in place at your firm. “When you first get to a firm you don’t initially have a lot of authority to make decisions. If you want to change things, it’s important to get your manager’s buy-in first.”
What to expect from APC?
While there is an assumption that the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) is more difficult as it’s about putting learning into practice, Mandy believes that academic trainees have a headstart in this area.
“As academic trainees you have an advantage when it comes to the APC, so don’t stress,” she reassures. “You won’t have to re-learn the technical aspects and you have the added advantage of professional, pervasive communication skills that others may not have. These skills are the focus of the APC.”
She advised using group work to network with non-academic trainee staff and to ensure you are the firm’s communication lists for APT/UCT/APC.
Furthermore, she advised getting an understanding of your firm’s study leave policy and getting study leave approved early.
Although the transition from an academic traineeship to a firm is demanding, many people not only survive but thrive through the process, advised Mandy. “Key to success during this period is to be realistic – don’t put too much pressure on yourself and don’t burn out. Secondly, be positive as a positive attitude goes a long way towards ensuring your success.”
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