Lidia - Modern European Languages
Lidia studied Modern European Languages (Scandinavian Studies and Spanish) at the University of Edinburgh before going on to do her Masters degree in International Human Resource Management at Queen Mary, University of London. She now works in Advisory (Consultancy) in our Manchester office.
When did you start thinking about which industry and employer to apply to, and what did you do to set the ball rolling?
“At one of the career fairs at the University of Edinburgh, all of us were given a copy of Times Top 100 Graduate Employers, so at first, when I was still unsure about what I wanted to do, I methodically went through that book, looked at each graduate scheme and tried to decide in my head whether I really wanted to work for that company or not. As well as that, as an International student requiring visa sponsorship to work in the UK, I had to make sure the employer would be willing to sponsor me, which narrowed the list down quite considerably.
What made you realise you could get a job at EY with your degree, and what drew you to EY in particular?
EY were listed in the Times Top 100 Graduate Employer book that I was given, I went on the website out of curiosity more than anything, because as somebody with (then) extremely low self-esteem and a Humanities degree I was convinced I didn’t stand a chance at a Big 4 company. I was then surprised to learn that for the graduate scheme that I was interested in, Internal Audit and Controls, EY accepted people from any degree discipline, as long as you met the then academic qualifications, a requirement which EY have now removed (find out more here). I decided that I wouldn’t have anything to lose by applying and it was worth a try – four months later I had a job offer!
What skills and experiences helped you through EY’s application and selection process?
I think as a Humanities student doing a degree that requires practicing both verbal and writing skills, I had a strong skillset to use when it came to the assessment centre. The group task was very much like the tasks I had taken in my oral classes at Edinburgh – except this time I didn’t even have to speak a foreign language! And the written task was simply a condensed version of writing an essay with all the required materials at your disposal. Doing a lot of literature courses at University really teaches you how to skim read and extract the most important bits from all the information you have available to you – hence whilst a lot of people around me were stressing about the written report, I finished before the time was up and still had about 15 minutes to double- and triple- check everything I wrote.
What skills from your degree have you been able to transfer to your role at EY?
As someone who had very little face-to-face lecture time at University, I had to learn how to effectively manage my time in order to finish work by the deadlines that were set to me, and that has definitely come in useful at EY. The general culture in the firm is that as long as you finish your work on time, where and how you do it is secondary.
Being exposed to different cultures and having experience of living and studying abroad as part of my degree definitely helps me day-to-day where I am dealing with clients from different backgrounds and mindsets. Being able to get along with people is very important and I believe that a Language degree teaches you exactly that, especially if it includes a year abroad,.
How has EY supported your transition from a humanities degree into business?
The amount of training and support that is available to you once you join is one of the best things about EY. No one gets thrown into the deep end – at least not in Internal Audit! I had around 1.5 months’ worth of training and college studies before I got to meet my first client and, while I was eager to get involved as fast as possible, I understand that this was the right thing to do. Studying and training built up my confidence to a level where I no longer felt nervous at the thought of going out on engagements and expressing my opinion, which, in turn, made me a better professional.
As well as that, each new joiner is allocated a counsellor – usually somebody senior from the firm – who they can contact for support, be it work or non-work related. My counsellor really helped to guide me through the first few months and was always there to remind me that I got selected for a reason, and even if I was apprehensive about certain things, reminding me that I’m definitely capable of doing them.
What’s your most important piece of advice for students studying the same degree as you did and how to go about getting a job with an organisation like EY?
The main thing I would say is – explore all the opportunities available to you. I started my career at EY largely by chance, and spent a long time applying to places I didn’t really want to work at because I thought that was the only career path I could take after graduating with an Arts/Humanities degree. However, in most cases the degree discipline isn’t really what matters – what matters is the strengths you developed whilst studying for that degree. Knowing a foreign language is always a plus in any major employer’s books, however, anyone who did a language degree knows that it’s much more than just learning how to speak and write in a different language – it’s a matter of showcasing it in the right way.