I graduated from the BA Accounting and Finance degree in 2011. As expected, I have benefited from the high quality of teaching and the course structure. The common first year with other business students allowed the development of a broad range of business knowledge. The second and third year featured compulsory and optional modules which made it possible to match my interests with the my future career plans. In addition, various summative essays and a final dissertation equipped me with the necessary research and critical thinking skills to increase my chances of success after graduation.
Non-academically, Durham offers many opportunities to join clubs and societies, or participate in competitions outside university. I joined Stephenson College’s Badminton team and became the President of the Durham University Hong Kong Society. I was also encouraged to join the KPMG Business Case Competition with three other Durham students. We later became the UK National Champions with support and training from the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning and Durham Business School (DBS). Besides that, DBS also provided me a scholarship to join the RealAcad Business Venture Startup Camp in the US, where I learnt how to put theoretical knowledge into practice.
The combination of excellent teaching, training and hands-on experience put me in a great position to apply for graduate jobs. Two weeks into my third year, I applied to Deloitte (Hong Kong) and was later invited to take an online assessment on personality and teamwork. After passing the test, I was asked to attend a group assessment at the Deloitte Manchester office where I met all of the candidates applying for the Deloitte China, Hong Kong and Macau offices. The assessment consisted of two case studies where our group, consisting of 6 students from different Universities, was given time for silent preparation and later a group discussion and presentation to a Human Resources Manager from China and another from the UK. This was an easy task for us Durham students as we had regular team projects in which we analysed business problems and presented complex ideas, which was an excellent opportunity to develop our presentation and interpersonal skills. Shortly afterwards I was notified that I had passed, and was assigned to have a phone interview with a Hong Kong audit partner in a week’s time. At the start of the year I attended the two day Skills for Success bootcamp organised by the Careers Employability and Enterprise Centre, so was well prepared on the selection process. I passed the interview and was recruited by Deloitte’s auditing department in Real Estate, Energy Resources and Japanese Services.
I have now been at Deloitte for five months. The first few months passed quickly, as we were constantly attending internal courses or were training for the accounting exams in December. From January to March, which is our peak season, I was at the client’s office working in a team preparing for the final audit. As a junior, I have learnt how to complete simpler sections of an audit file and have also completed the audit files of less complex companies by communicating with the client for the necessary documents and obtaining explanations for material fluctuations. These tasks have helped me to develop a broad view of the management and accounting structure of the client which is good preparation to complete more difficult tasks in the future.
My advice to the current Durham students is to be proactive in finding solutions for academic challenges and in finding new opportunities. Networking is crucial so create a profile on LinkedIn before you graduate. Also, do have courage in taking chances to develop yourself- after all, what have you got to lose?