What have you done in addition to your degree to enhance your employability and what do you feel you've gained from this?
In my first year at Queen’s, I applied for the City Scholarship Programme. After completing the written application and video interview, I was lucky enough to be offered a position with KPMG in New York City. My two week internship at KPMG was spent in the Tax division, under Mergers and Acquisitions. This type of work involves assisting clients in analyzing the implications of an acquisition or joint venture between two companies. The scholarship was fully funded by Queen’s Alumni, which reduced any financial worries one might have as a student.
I had originally planned to work in the legal field as a solicitor but the City Scholarship has changed my career path completely. Being accepted onto the City Scholarship was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever been a part of; it opened up so many doors and opportunities that I would not have been exposed to without. The experience increased my confidence and networking skills and has definitely broadened my horizons with regards to the opportunities present in the United States. I plan to apply for the KPMG New York secondment opportunity upon finishing my professional exams with KPMG Belfast.
I took advantage of connections I made whilst in New York to increase my professional experience back home in Belfast. The relationship I fostered with my City Scholarship mentor, Jason McCaughey, meant I was able to contact various companies to complete work experience back in Belfast. I subsequently gained experience in Worthington’s Solicitors, A&L Goodbody and KPMG Belfast upon returning from New York. I have no doubt these opportunities would not have been available to me had I not completed the scholarship programme.
Towards the end of my second year at Queen’s, I received a call from the Associate Director from KPMG Belfast, whom I had met during my period of work experience with them. She asked if I would be interested in their 2017 Summer Internship Programme. This seemed like a brilliant opportunity to build on what I had learnt in New York and after a written application and an interview with a Director in Tax, I was successful in gaining a place as an intern. In my interview, the Director told me my experience in New York really stood out when selecting applicants to interview. This was proof of how highly the experience is looked upon by employers. This three week programme was packed with training, research, networking and socials. There is no M&A department in the Belfast Office but we were exposed to Corporation Tax, Personal Tax and VAT, amongst many other areas. I felt I was at an advantage as I already had connections there, as well as being familiar with the office and the type of work encountered in the Tax Department. At the end of my internship, I was offered a training contract with KPMG Ireland, as well as a sponsored Post Graduate Diploma in Accounting.
I believe the City Scholarship was fundamental to the position I am currently in today, as each opportunity I received from then was dependent on the last. New York gave me a wonderful global experience and confidence, which I believe will be extremely beneficial for me in the future. Gaining a training contract in a ‘Big Four’ firm is becoming increasingly difficult. I believe the Scholarship was an incredibly valuable use of my time and I would strongly recommend it to any student hoping to gain a head start in an extremely competitive job market.
Making use of Careers, Employability and Skills at Queen's
In addition to the City Scholarship programme, I attended many employer presentations in my first year, including companies such as Herbert Smith Freehills, Linklaters and Allen & Ovary. I also attended a PwC Presentation Skills workshop in my second year, which gave me the opportunity to do a short presentation in front of a Recruitment Manager from PwC. She was able to give me valuable on-the-spot advice for improving my presentation skills, which I still use today.
Advice for current Queen's students
Do not be afraid to ask for things and never underestimate where an opportunity can lead you. Being pro-active about your future career is impressive to employers and will serve you well in the long run.