How I got in: Mollie’s business apprenticeship at EY
Starting a career in finance with one of the Big Four accounting firms
Mollie is completing a business apprenticeship in assurance at EY, where she is also studying for the ACA Chartered Accountant qualification. She knew quite early on that she wanted a career in finance but wasn’t sure about going to the traditional university pathway. Here’s how Mollie realised an apprenticeship would be the best next step for her.
What was your journey like to EY?
When I was 15, I did work experience in a finance department, where I discovered I really liked working with numbers. While most of my peers were thinking about university, I knew what my interests were and wanted to explore alternative pathways into finance. So for A level, I studied economics, maths, and chemistry. I really enjoyed maths and learning about the economic impact of finance, so I knew I wanted a career in finance. This led me to explore apprenticeships, as I wanted to study further and gain industry experience.
When I came across EY, I was interested in learning more about the company, what I would get out of their business apprenticeships, and the types of things that accountants do. One year later, I’m now 20 and working at a Big Four accounting firm. I’ve gained valuable industry experience and met people that I never thought I would. In just one year I have experienced the audit process from start to finish, and had the opportunity to sit in and contribute to meetings with clients and partners at EY – just being in these conversations with such knowledgeable people in the field of accounting has taught me so much, from technical knowledge to professional manners, that I’ll be able to carry forward through my own career.
I’m also studying for my ACA, which is a highly valuable qualification if you want to become an accountant. This will help me build my career at EY and achieve long-term career goals too.
Did you face any challenges when applying?
The biggest challenge was the length of the application process, as there was a lot of waiting between different stages. That anticipation was hard, especially while receiving rejections from other companies at the same time. In the end, both the anticipation and rejections were worth it because it gave me time to reflect on feedback and improve for next time.
Another challenge was applying for jobs as a 17-year-old as most people at that age are applying for university, but aspiring apprentices are breaking into the world of work. That can be really daunting. What really helped me was doing my research on the interview process to understand how best to approach it. I also did mock interviews with my teachers at sixth form, which meant I was well-prepared for interviews when they came.
What helped with planning your next steps?
Firstly, I started looking online to see what was on offer so I could understand how to get an apprenticeship, decide which level of apprenticeship was best for me, and discover companies that would suit me.
Secondly, as soon as I was interested in a company, I’d try and find a mailing list to sign up to (so I could receive email notifications as soon as the applications opened) and follow the company's social media. Additionally, using platforms like TikTok, I was able to find and hear people’s personal stories. This meant I could see people who already worked there and gain insights into their experiences. I watched videos posted by current apprentices about a day in the life of an EY apprentice, which gave me an insight into corporate life and the benefits earned through the apprenticeship scheme – like becoming a Chartered Accountant (ACA) at such a young age. Doing all of this was really valuable, particularly for interviews where the interviewer asked why I want to join this company.
Finally, we used Unifrog in my sixth form and I mainly used it for apprenticeships. I used the personality test to develop self-awareness and find outwhere my strengths lie. This was helpful when making applications, because I had a better understanding of what I could bring to a company beyond my skills. It also helped me identify when a company’s values aligned with mine, such as inclusivity. Joining a big firm as a woman in finance was daunting at first. However, one of the principal values at EY is building teams and relationships, so I quickly felt comfortable in my role at the company and have been having an enjoyable experience since joining.
Do you have any advice for students thinking of applying?
My biggest advice is to do your research. Find out about the company on Google, use their website, and explore their social media. You need to really understand what they stand for, what their values are, and what they actually do. Then use what you’ve learned to personalise your application to the company. For example, I learnt about EY’s corporate responsibility movement through their Instagram, which helped to solidify my reasons for wanting to join the firm, which I mentioned in my interview. It also helps to understand what the role is because employers are likely to ask you about this in your interview, to see how much you actually know about what you are applying for.
Another big thing is not to be disheartened by any rejections. You'll be applying for so many different apprenticeships so you’re likely to get rejections, which can be tough and make it quite easy to give up. However, the best thing to do is take rejection as a learning opportunity. Take time to ask for and understand your feedback, find out what you could have done better, and then apply that to the next opportunity. From there, your application and interview skills will keep getting stronger and eventually, you’ll land a role that’s perfect for you.
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