Graduating into a pandemic

Graduating into a pandemic
13 October 2021
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Pre-Grad Scheme

Prior to joining Audit Wales, I was studying a master’s degree in Public Policy and working as a research assistant in the same field, not what you’d call a typical accounting background!

I’d worked in several different roles in higher education outreach including running international summer schools. I started at Audit Wales two weeks after submitting my master’s dissertation.

Choosing Audit Wales

I was attracted to Audit Wales due to my university studies. Through writing about Welsh politics and public policy I came to rely on reports written by Audit Wales and became increasingly interested in the organisation. While searching for gradate schemes I checked to see if Audit Wales had one and applied straight away.

In preparing for the assessment stages of the application process I became increasingly aware of the important and interesting work that the organisation does in support of the Welsh public sector. I was also impressed by the level of support and training on offer. I knew that moving into finance and accountancy would be a challenge and was worried that my academic background would count against me or make it harder to grasp the training, but it simply hasn’t been the case. No one in my cohort has an accounting or finance background and, in fact, I’ve met auditors in the organisation with backgrounds ranging from pharmacy to physics to French and German.

Joining during a pandemic

Starting a new job is tough.

When it’s in the middle of a global pandemic and the job is your first full-time professional one it’s tougher still. Nevertheless, the trainees of the 2020 cohort couldn’t have received a warmer welcome to Audit Wales!

Looking back on my first couple of months now I can see that it was somewhat intense, but it never felt overwhelming. I feel that the best way to get to know a job is to throw yourself in headfirst, and we definitely got that opportunity with the programme Audit Wales put on for us.

By the end of the first week, we had met the Auditor General and by the end of the first month we were conducting grant certification work under the watchful eyes of our Financial Audit Leads.

Day to day

Ten months in I feel like I’m settled and increasingly confident in my role. At the time of writing, I’ve worked on central government, health and local government clients - everything from school inspectors to the police.

One thing I’ve come to appreciate is Audit Wales’ smarter working policy which means that my day starts when I want it to. I generally start work between 8 and 8:30 am if I’m working from home, but if I’m in the office it’ll usually be 8am so I can avoid the traffic when I cycle in.

After starting, I’ll generally check what’s still outstanding on my to do list and get on with whatever is the highest priority – this might be sample selection, substantive testing or writing up. I’m largely left to my own devices, but will check in with my team leader from time to time if I need help or just to update them and we have team meetings three times a week for a bit of social interaction.

I’ll often need to speak to clients either by email, phone or video call to discuss queries during this period.

If I’m working from home, I’ll often do some sort of exercise at lunch time – circuits, yoga or a run – and have a shower before carrying on with my work in the afternoon.

If I’m in the office I might go for a walk around Bute Park with a colleague or to pick up some lunch in Pontcanna.

The afternoon follows the same pattern as the morning with me identifying important tasks and working through them. I find that I’m often juggling several tasks so it’s really important to be organised and approach tasks in a logical way.

If I’ve started at 8am my day ends at 4pm, unless it’s exam season when I might do 2.5 hours extra work in the evening. I find the work-life balance at Audit Wales is excellent and as someone with several interests and voluntary commitments it works well for me.

Top tips

When it comes to applying to the scheme my top tips would be:

  • Do your research!
    • Know what you’re applying for and try and learn as much about the organisation as possible.
  • Prepare!
    • Make sure you know what the tasks are at the assessment centre and prepare for them properly. If you’re expected to come with information prepared, make sure you do.
    • If you have an interview, think about what questions might come up and prepare your answers. It’s much easier to answer well if you have something in mind rather than having to think on the spot.
  • Stay calm!
    • Getting nervous is natural, but if you’re too nervous it can make you underperform. I decided to view my assessment centre and interview as a learning opportunity – if I wasn’t successful at least I’d be better prepared next time. By taking the pressure off you allow yourself to perform at your best.

About the author

Image of Matthew

Before starting at Audit Wales, Matthew studied a Master’s degree in Politics and Public Policy at Cardiff University and wrote his dissertation on Welsh transport policy. Prior to that, he spent three years at Cardiff studying Politics and Modern History.

Matthew is a Cardiff native and a fluent Welsh speaker. He’s previously worked in higher education outreach and as a research assistant on a project about the legacy of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Matthew is also very keen on all sorts of outdoor activities including hiking, cycling, and climbing.