Building your network during your training contract
By James McElroy – Assurance Senior at EY & CASSU Committee Member
After taking a break from education for several years and having never studied accountancy before, I was equal parts excited and nervous to begin my professional studies with Chartered Accountants Ireland and with EY. I was excited by the prospect of obtaining my professional qualification and the opportunities that came with it, but also anxiety over how I would cope with the rigorous demands of balancing work and study and sitting an exam for the first time in forever!
During my first year I was introduced to Chartered Accountants Student Society in Ulster or CASSU, by my colleague in EY who had got involved a few years earlier. This is a committee of trainee students who organise fun events throughout the year and provide a voice for students to the lecturers and administrators of Chartered Accountants Ireland. Throughout the year there was a full calendar of events including a Ball, pub quizzes, monthly payday drinks and the weekend away. My peers in EY have always emphasised the importance of building your professional network so I made sure to attend as many events as possible to socialise with my colleagues in EY as well as network with other students, sharing advice on how to study and approach certain topics.
Mental Health Awareness
Towards the end of my first year, CASSU held an event on mental health awareness and study techniques that really struck a chord with me, especially given that EY actively encourage open communication around mental health too. Having listened to speakers talk about wellness and how to cope with the rigorous demands of study, alongside helpful, practical tips on studying and exam technique, I was equipped with the knowledge of how to tackle my upcoming exams. Through this event I also had a chance to speak with the CASSU committee about how to get involved in planning the events for the next academic year.
I then put myself forward for one of the committee positions and attended the AGM, successfully being elected as Treasurer! As well as the usual duties of treasurer (handling cash, banking, managing the accounts of the committee) I have been heavily involved in charity fund raising and organising social calendar events with a focus on maximising student involvement. Most recently I organised an event for exam results in Ten Square Hotel! I am very proud to say that there are three EY representatives on the committee, and our students have had a big presence at all CASSU events such as the Ball and the Ulster Rugby day earlier this year. EY also support the annual ball though sponsorship of the event and contribution of a prize.
What I have learned
I have been part of consultations regarding the evolving education programme in Chartered Accountant Ireland which has been really interesting to understand how being an accountant will change over the next few years.
Working with a diverse range of committee members from large and smaller firms in both private practice and in the public sector has been very rewarding and has developed my interpersonal skills which have benefited me in my day to day work. I have also had the opportunity to enhance my professional, and social, network which will help me with my career in the future, while being beneficial for support during my training contract.
After having been in this role for a year I can say that it has enhanced my learning experience and I am very proud of how the EY student population have supported the events hosted by CASSU. I look forward to continuing my work as a committee member over my remaining years as a student.