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My name is Fionnán Johnson and I'm about to enter the second year of my graduate training contract in Deloitte. Having completed a summer internship with the firm in 2013, I was lucky to be offered a position in the Small & Medium Enterprises (SME) Department, a sub-division of the audit service line in Deloitte. As my first step towards an ACA qualification I recently completed my CAP 1 exams, where I was awarded the Arthur H Muir prize as the top placed candidate in Ireland. Before joining Deloitte, I studied Business, Economics and Social Studies in Trinity College Dublin graduating with first class honours. I had the opportunity to complete my third year of the course, including a year studying abroad at the University of Toronto.

Why did you choose Deloitte?  

My experience as a summer intern confirmed what I'd previously heard about the supportive environment around the firm. Everyone I worked with was extremely approachable and open to questions, no matter how small or trivial. I was drawn to the diverse client base Deloitte works with and I felt there would be an opportunity to gain a great insight into the workings of these businesses which would prove invaluable should I wish to pursue a job in an industry other than professional services later on in my career. The SME department appealed to me due to the smaller nature of the engagement teams (normally about 2 or 3 people per client), meaning I get to work on a wider variety of tasks and am given increasing responsibilities in my career to date than some of my fellow graduates in other audit sections. I may also wish to live and work abroad in the near future, so I felt that joining a global firm such as Deloitte may well present such an opportunity.

Why did you choose a Professional qualifications?

My main motivation for pursuing the ACA exams was the scale of career flexibility such a qualification brings. As an internationally-recognised qualification, it presents great possibilities, across all industries both domestically and internationally.

You biggest Challenge and what did it teach you about yourself?

So far for me on the graduate program the biggest challenge is also the most exciting challenge as I am learning to handle the level of multitasking involved. In my college course it was pretty unusual to have 2 papers due in the same week, whereas now I'm sometimes working on three, four or even five different jobs a day. Time management and being realistic about how long a task will take to complete are proving beneficial and important skills for me. I’m also learning to prioritise as it’s not possible to respond to all the jobs assigned instantaneously. Splitting time appropriately between work and studying for exams was also a challenging balance to maintain, and I imagine this challenge will increase as I assume greater responsibility in work during my training contract.

How did you find your Deloitte interview, any tips?

I found my interview had a lot of open-ended questions, allowing me to put across my experience, suitability and enthusiasm for the graduate program. I was not asked many specific questions, rather just directed towards points on my CV and invited to expand on them. As for tips, I always make an effort to have a question to ask the interviewer about the job or the industry in general, such as the common challenges faced in the kind of roles. I also try and filter my CV for the relevant job application, so that almost everything on your CV could be a relevant talking point during an interview.

What advice would you have for other students and graduates seeking to pursue a similar career path?

While summer internships and previous work in the industry are obviously a big help during the application stage, I would encourage students not to feel restricted by their course choice or work experience when applying for a graduate program. I attended training with a group of around 60 graduates during my first weeks in Deloitte, many of whom were from non-accounting (such as myself) or even non-business studies backgrounds, and I felt we were all similarly prepared for our positions by the end of our first week. I feel it is the learning, social and problem-solving skills that you develop in college, rather than the course-specific knowledge, that are the key elements for successful adaption into the professional environment.