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In the competitive world of consultancy, internships offer a strong route to full-time employment

A successful internship in the consultancy sector provides graduates with an inside track to a career in a tough but rewarding industry.

Accenture, one of the world’s largest consultancy firms, brought 95% of its internees into its graduate programme in 2014. Internship Programme Lead at the firm, John O’Rourke, can’t speak highly enough of the calibre of interns and the internship programme, which is getting bigger and bigger year-on-year.

“The feedback we get from managers is that some of the interns are as strong as many of those on the graduate programme”, says John. “They really hit the ground running when they get into the graduate programmes. The managers go first to the former interns because they’ve already picked up so many of the necessary skills required at Accenture”.

Accenture brought in 35 interns in 2014 on programmes ranging from three month summer internships up to 12 month placements. All placements are paid, with competitive salaries.

Competitive

Due to the opportunities that an internship gives you in consultancy, places on Accenture’s programme are over-subscribed and incredibly competitive. “For our summer internships we received over 800 applications and a further 500 for placements directly with universities”, says O’Rourke.

With such a competitive environment, applicants have to know how to stand out and give themselves an edge. Perhaps surprisingly, Accenture hire a range of degree students and not just those with technical degrees.

“For example, we hired five law graduates, who are working in the technical side of the business,” said John. “We have interns here with all types of degrees across a wide range of subjects”.

A strong academic record and an application which reflects a well-rounded candidate is key because most of the work is project-based with clients, so dealing with people and motivating yourself are essential skills.

Drive

“We are looking for people to show drive, resilience, really push and challenge themselves, because this is a very rewarding environment”, says the Accenture internship programme lead. “You also have to show an interest in the tech side of the business and have strong communication skills because stakeholder management and teamwork are core elements here”.

Definite no-no’s when looking at applications are seeing copy-and-paste CV templates and also spelling mistakes. “Attention to detail is paramount in this business”, adds John.

In training, Accenture ensures the interns hone their writing and tech skills, while they bring in an actor from the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin to help the students improve communication.

With this strong emphasis on communication, there are plenty of networking opportunities for interns. They are invited to all company events, guest-speaking series are organised and numerous societies are run inside the company, all of which interns can be a part of.

All of this gives internees a chance to make an impression. “You’ve got to get yourself noticed, put your best foot forward, volunteer yourself for projects, take part in extracurricular activities and this really makes you stand out”, says John. “That’s what is looked upon very highly by management here at Accenture”.

Ronan McDevitt and Andrew Kelly, former interns at Accenture, discuss the benefits of their internships.

Both Ronan McDevitt and Andrew Kelly say the same thing when asked about their expectations of doing an internship at consultancy firm, Accenture. “Well, to be honest, I didn’t really understand the scale of what they did at Accenture before I applied for the position”, says Andrew Kelly, who is currently doing a Masters in Mechanical Engineering and Business in UCD.

When joining for his six month internship, Andrew was put into an analytics role, an area in which he didn’t really know if he belonged because of his engineering background. But he was given the support he needed to train himself up and do various trainings with the company.

“I’m really surprised they [Accenture] don’t say, ‘oh he’s just an intern’, if he comes back we’ll invest in him. They want you to do a job, they utilise you and you gain experience from it”, says the UCD student who recently completed the internship and was offered a place on the graduate programme.

Consultancy firms like Accenture value internships because it gives potential future employees a chance to prove they can take on responsibility. Ronan McDevitt, who is on a one-year long placement, works on a project for one of Accenture’s biggest clients in Dublin and after just a few months is now leading a team in a performance test role.

Extra-curricular

The Computer Science student from Queens University points out that his strong extra-curricular work in Queen’s University made him stand out against the other candidates when applying for the company’s competitive internship programme.

From first year in university he was a member, and later President, of the AIESEC society which works to develop students into leaders and give them the skills employers want them to have. “It gave me a lot of business exposure, especially to develop the soft skills I wouldn’t otherwise have gained”, he says.

Both interns have been impressed by how Accenture treats its interns and the opportunities to network within the company. “I never once felt like an intern when here, just another analyst.”, says Andrew.

Global

The interns were also impressed by how global the consultancy firm is. “I could be on a call with a manager in India and it’s the same as if he was two desks down,” says Andrew.

Like many large big graduate recruiters, Accenture runs many societies, similar to those in colleges and this is important to do some all-important networking. “Opportunities present themselves through networking”, says Ronan. Through taking part in clubs and societies within the company, as well as the numerous events, interns get access to managers and team leads and can get involved in other projects.

Of course the added incentive for Andrew of having a guaranteed job after college, having been interviewed and accepted for a a place on the graduate programme, lifts the pressure for the final year. “Final year is stressful and I know so many people who are not filling out application forms correctly because they are so stressed with final year. Therefore, it’s such a boost to have a graduate programme place, because it means you can concentrate on getting the best out of your degree with the knowledge that you’ve gained from the internship”, say Andrew.