I am currently back in Calgary working at Deloitte, in the Assurance & Advisory Practice, for my third and final co-op. It’s been a long time coming and it’s pretty surreal to be here! Today’s post is about my road to Deloitte and everything that I’ve learned along the way.
Let’s start with some background information first! A distinct element of the BComm program at UVic is its mandatory co-op program. This means that in order to graduate, you are required to complete three 4 month co-ops that will end up extending your degree to four and a half years. For those who are unsure of what a co-op is, it is essentially a paid internship. Many students have mixed feelings about co-ops. Some think it is a hassle to have to go out and find your own job verses getting placed like nurses or teachers did for their practicums. Call me weird, but I personally enjoyed the process of going out and networking to get each one of my co-ops. To me, it was like a game and I enjoyed the challenge! Plus, as a business student, I think you should be capable of finding your own co-op as it is going to prepare you for the real world much better.
Many students spend countless of hours of their time applying for positions only to find out that they have not received an interview, let alone an offer. The process for me was much less stressful in that I was able to receive all three of my co-op offers, all from different employers, before starting my third year of business. Was it because I was smarter than the rest? Heck, no! In no way do I consider myself a networking guru, but I do think that there were certain efforts and understandings that contributed to making my co-op hunts less challenging. Even if you aren’t necessarily pursuing an accounting position, I firmly believe that these are some networking skills that are applicable to any industry. Networking and applying for positions does not have to be scary or stressful. The initial investment of time and effort may seem like a lot, but if you are strategic about it, you’ll find that it will pay dividends later! (Please note that this list is not exhaustive and it will vary person to person).
In no particular order…
1. Focus on an industry.
I was fortunate to know early on that accounting was an area of business that I wanted to pursue. This became extremely helpful in searching for a co-op because I was able to focus my time and energy on one industry. This in turn enabled me to go to several accounting networking events and learn about the recruiting process in great detail- which is very different than most industries. Once you find out what firms are specifically looking for, you can strategically frame your resume and cover letter when you apply. I do believe it is evident in any application whether you are serious about pursuing that specific position verses just wanting to find any co-op, regardless of the company or industry. If you are not positive on what area of business you would like to pursue, I am not suggesting that you should focus on one industry for all three co-ops, as it will be beneficial to diversify and determine what you do and do not enjoy. What I do recommend is focusing on one industry per co-op round. Time is your most precious commodity and when you are able to narrow your applications down to one industry, it can result in writing less applications but alloting more time into each one. As with most things, quality over quantity is key!
2. Ask for help.
One of the biggest realizations that I made in the process of applying for co-ops, is that people are truly willing to help- all you have to do is ASK! I found this to be particularly true as a student seeking co-op opportunities. Originally, I did not have any contacts in the accounting industry that could refer me internally for a position. However, I did know that my good friend’s dad happened to be a CA but was no longer working as a public accountant. Even though I wasn’t sure, I still sent Dave an email with my resume attached, asking him if he could pass it along to anyone he still knew in the industry. I was not expecting much, but turned out Dave knew a partner at Deloitte, who then passed it onto a senior manager who is involved in recruiting. After chatting with this senior manager a few times, I was able to gain some insider knowledge that would help strengthen my application and of course, feel confident enough to mention him in my cover letter. The business would is small: if you don’t know someone in a specific company or industry, chances are someone you know will. As with the case of my friend’s dad, I would have never of known if I didn’t ask!
3. It’s never too early to start networking.
Having talked to the senior manager in my second year, I discovered that accounting firms typically do not hire second year students. However, knowing I had two co-ops to complete in my third and fourth year, I still made a diligent effort in maintaining my relationship with Dave. This way, I was able to plan ahead and continue to develop key relationships within the company that I could leverage for the following recruiting seasons. (If you are going to drop names, at least get to know the person if you don’t already!) All of the Big 4 accounting firms receive thousands of applications, and just like most job openings, it’s all about who you know. The picture below is something that I instagrammed over a year and a half ago when I went to Deloitte for the first time to network. As embarrassing as it is to look back at it, it serves as a great reminder of the earlier days. Even though I had very little knowledge of what I was getting into at the time, this first meeting would be the beginning to a series of events that ultimately resulted in an offer from Deloitte.
I decided to split this post up into two parts as it was quickly becoming a novel! Stay tuned for the second part as I will complete my list. (: I hope these first few tips have encouraged you to get your hustle on!
Until next time, work hard and be nice to people!