Getting an internship at one of Australia big advisory firms can be difficult and with youth unemployment rocketing to 13.1%, the highest in 12 years, the competition for a place has never been tougher.
Business Insider spoke to PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte to find out what internships they offer, and what you need to do to get one.
PricewaterhouseCoopers’ biggest program, The Vacation Program, runs for three to six weeks throughout summer, and also winter on a reduced scale, in its Sydney and Melbourne offices.
Their smaller internships include Co-op and Industry-based Learning programs and can last for six months of the academic year.
While the Vacation Program is independently run through the firm, its smaller internships are available through some university courses.
The Vacation Program costs the company close to $1 million dollars a year, an investment which managing partner of human capital Debra Eckersley said was a benefit to both the firm and the individual.
“It is one way to better understand someone’s potential and help them find the right fit at PwC. It also helps individuals gain the experience they need to make important career decisions,” she said.
Eckersley said 80-90% of their interns turn into graduate employees. But said it would like that figure to be even higher.
“Key takeaways are real-life/on the job experience in the area they are recruited into,” which includes assurance, tax and legal, private clients, consulting or deals.
Interns are also with an extensive support network during their time at PwC.
“They are provided with a buddy, coach and partner; the buddy supports them day to day, their coach helps develop them through observation and feedback… and they have contact at partner level,” which the firm said is to ascertain whether the candidate will be a good fit.
When it come to getting an internship, Eckersley said recruiters looked beyond academic achievements.
“Grades are of course important, but we look for students who have developed experience in a team environment and can show leadership skills. This might be through being a committee member for a university society, or a part time job from office work to serving tables in a restaurant – its all valuable experience.”
And she said a range of degrees are considered: “We seek candidates from a diversity of backgrounds, for example from technology, engineering, sciences, psychology, accounting, and finance.”
She suggested students looking to get an internship should review the company’s website, Student Careers Facebook page and should follow PwC on LinkedIn.
“We frequently update with details of both on-campus and office events that provide an opportunity to meet the Campus team and representatives from the firm,” she said. “Going beyond an online search and getting out to meet our employees shows motivation and will give the candidate an insight into what it’s like to work at PwC.”
“Speak to people that work at the firm and in the industry as connecting and networking is key to how we work.
“And finally, the more research the better! Business newspapers, current affairs websites, online research and social media are all great ways to develop business acumen.”
Deloitte’s ‘Summer Vacationer’ program has run since the late 80s, directly through the firm.
It allows the interns to experience day-to-day work life, team building activities, learning and development courses as well as charity work.
While 450 interns are taken on by the firm each year, the number offered for graduate positions is unknown.
A spokesperson for the firm said “our top performing Summer Vacationers receive graduate job offers,” but declined to say how many.
“The percentage changes each year and depends on a number of factors [and] a figure… doesn’t tell the whole story.”
“Sometimes we keep some roles open for graduate season and other times we’re happy to fill early through Summer Vacation. Other factors include diversity [of] culture, gender and competency, [as well as] distribution.”
The spokesperson for Deloitte said the students recruited into internship programs at the firm primarily have a background in business, commerce, marketing and tech disciplines but admitted this is starting to slowly change with recruiters now starting to select students from a range of degrees.
She said because often students don’t yet have experience to distinguish them from others, this is when you need to display other valid indicators that would suggest you are a good fit for the firm.
“Co-curricular activities, volunteering, charity, sporting commitments, student groups”, she said, things that should that the person is “a well rounded individual with team pursuits as well as individual pursuits.”
She admitted that the large amount of information available for students looking “get ahead” can be overwhelming but also hinder their ability to be genuine.
While she said a student is expected to be well-informed and educated about the industry and the area they are interested in, she said you will stand out more to a recruiter if your application shows that you’re passionate.
She suggested “figure out what your interested and passionate about, and have a point of view. Hold true to who you are and what you’re passionate about,” rather than just telling us what you think we want to hear.
Now to a intern who has been through the process.
We spoke to an intern at Deloitte to find out what it has been like for someone trying to break into the industry.
Trent Willmot, 21, who started with the firm’s Summer Vacationer program, said while Deloitte was the first, and only, graduate position he has applied for, many of his peers have faced difficulties in being recruited into the industry.
“I look at the statistics around graduate employment in the country, I definitely feel grateful for the opportunity. However, nothing comes easy and you have to be prepared to work hard, especially if you continue to study at the same time,” he said.
“I entered Deloitte through its ‘Summer Vacationer’ program. This involved a staged assessment process, in which I went through an initial online application process, followed by a phone interview, assessment centre and further interviews with the business.”
Willmot said the experience with the firm so far has exceeded his expectations and has taught him a lot about the industry.
“I have been given the opportunity to work on large projects, take on significant responsibilities, interact with highly respected clients, and participate in innovative training sessions and even travel,” he said.
“[It] has provided me with a steep learning curve. Working for one of the most fast-paced, hardworking businesses has been highly valuable, and enjoyable.”
But the most valuable lesson Willmot says he has got out of his time with the firm was the importance of relationships.
“Relationships are crucial in every aspect of business; they form the basis of every facet, from both an internal perspective and a client perspective.
“Being able to build and manage relationships in both a formal and informal context is easily the biggest and most valuable lesson I have learnt.”