As part of a new series I’d like to look at careers from the perspective of someone who has just started out on theirs.
So today I’d like to give a brief summary of a conversation I had with Imogen Massey, who is currently a trainee accountant in London, discussing how she made her early career choices. Imogen grew up in the UK and Switzerland, before returning to the UK to study for a degree in Psychology at Warwick University.
Q: What did you want from your university experience?
Imogen: Well, first and foremost I wanted a university with a strong academic reputation – one that would also leave me with a strong academic reputation upon my graduation. But more than that, I also wanted a university that offered excellent social opportunites. Not just going out and drinking and clubbing, but also the opportunity for independence.
Q: So how did you end up choosing your course and university?
Imogen: When I chose to study Psychology at Warwick University I had several things in mind. I wanted something that I hadn’t studied at school, but that used the skills that I knew I had. For me, this had to be a scientific course, as that’s where my interest had always been. I also wanted a course that offered a variety of teaching methods and assessment types: statistics, lab work, essay writing, lectures, seminars, and project work, etc. And Psychology fit all of my criteria.
Q: As you were coming to the end of your university degree, how did you decide on your career?
Imogen: To a certain degree, I looked around and saw that many of my contemporaries at university were looking to go into finance, and luckily that appealed to me. I’ve always enjoyed the more analytical aspects of my work, and also wanted a career that was more client facing, where I could establish relationships with others. But I also wanted to have a training contract that ended with me achieving a qualification. That’s why I chose to apply for accounting and auditing jobs that included training towards an ACA Professional qualification.
Q: What can your accounting position lead to in the future?
Imogen: The good thing about this position is that it can lead to several types of jobs. Of course, I can continue to specialise in auditing and accounting if that is something that I feel I would enjoy after qualifying; or alternatively, it would allow me to work on project management or finance within any industry. For me, this flexibility was key.
Q: How did you go about getting your current job?
Imogen: Well, of course I did a lot of applications in my last year, which was stressful – especially whenever I received news of any unsuccessful applications. I usually applied to companies directly, but also applied through several agencies (my favourite of which was the HAT Group). Eventually these applications led to a lot of interviews and assessment centres.
Q: What advice would you have for graduates looking for work?
Imogen: The key is the volume of applications that you do. But also don’t waste your time: focus on only one or two areas that interest you – for me that was accounting. To save time, I would save your applications so that you can reuse bits and pieces when you come across any similar questions. If you get through to an assessment centre, there are lots of useful websites that help prepare you. And when you get into an assessment centre, be confident and assertive in group situations, but also allow others to speak; be inclusive.
Q: What are your highlights of your work so far?
Imogen: One aspect that I really enjoy, that I hadn’t thought much of before applying, is the travel that I get to do as part of my job – both internationally and domestically. Another highlight is having my skills recognised by clients, and being allowed to take more control of projects with those clients.
Q: What would you change?
Imogen: I wouldn’t change much, but one thing I would recommend is doing a gap year before uni when you are still without most of life’s pressures. I would also make slightly more use of clubs and societies at university, and network more. Finally, I would try and get more work experience in university – not necessarily to make myself more employable (though that helps) but to try different areas of work.
Q: What did success look like before you left university?
Imogen: Before I left uni success was very simple: a job that paid well; that looked good on paper, and that gave me status. Of course that’s all changed now.
Q: So what does success look like now that you’ve left university?
Imogen: Now, success isn’t all about the money you make or what your job looks like to other people. It’s about how your job makes you feel, and the ability to do something that you genuinely enjoy.
Thanks to Imogen for being our first millennial guest. If you enjoyed listening to Imogen, she will be back from time to time.
If you would like to connect with Imogen, you can do that through LinkedIn here.
If you would like to hear more, please follow me on SoundCloud or iTunes so that you have an automatic update. If you would like to discuss your recruitment, training, employer branding or career in more detail, please contact me on Twitter @the_career_ace.
Music by Kevin MacLeod, thanks Kevin.