My Internship: Vikram Sidhu

Vikram Sidhu has been interning as a finance assistant for the last 3 months
Vikram Sidhu has been interning as a finance assistant for the last 3 months

What was your job role?

I was a finance assistant.

What made you take the job?

It sounded interesting and I thought it would be a good introduction into the world of accounts. It was the area I was considering a career in and obviously it was a better way of getting experience rather than just reading about it.  I also thought that three months experience would give me a good idea about whether or not I wanted to pursue a future in that career.

And do you want to pursue a future in that career now?

Yes, I’m definitely interested in that line of work, it’s different, it’s interesting, it’s unique, you’re on the phone quite a lot, and you’re dealing with a lot of people. It’s nice to be part of a team, as well as getting the chance to work by yourself.

Had you applied for jobs before you took the internship route – or did you apply for an internship straight away?
I did apply for a few – I used reed.co.uk and received their daily email alerts for account assistants and loads of different general sorts of finance roles. But they all wanted x amount of months of experience with whatever packaging, and at that time I didn’t understand what half the words or programmes were.

And do you understand them now?
Mostly, yes. Obviously I am not so familiar with the packages that we don’t use ourselves, but I do now know what they are.

So would you say that this internship has given you a lot of confidence in finance?
Definitely.

What degree did you do?
Maths and finance

Did that not prepare you for a career in finance?
No, because what I did in the degree was more the practical side of mathematics, with a bit of finance. There wasn’t any accounting involved, it was just more about theory and numbers, analysis and that sort of thing. It was quite varied and pretty fun – the financial side anyway! But obviously there wasn’t anything that was going to prepare me for accounts payable – it just wasn’t part of my degree. Maybe if I had done an accounting degree it could have, but we will never know – unless I go and do another degree in accounting. Which would suck!

Did you think you would have to take an extra course in accountancy when you graduated – or did you think that an internship would be a better route?

I preferred to do an internship. I could have just done a course after graduation, but I think that has the same problem as a degree course, a lack of practical experience.

So now having almost completed your internship, do you think you have enough experience to get a full-time paid position?

I hope so. I definitely feel like I have a lot more experience now than before.  When I used to ring up agencies saying I was a graduate they would instantly ask have I got x amount of experience, to which I’d always have to reply no. Now, I get a much different response, which is great. Instead of straight out rejection, I now often get told that there are a few relevant jobs I can go for. I’ve had a few interviews already; in fact, I just came back from one today. So it’s definitely a lot more positive response than before.

So how did you feel the interview went today?

I’ll let you know if I get the job or not!

Did you feel you had more confidence talking about complex finance scenarios now that you’ve had experience dealing with them?

Yes, definitely. It makes a big difference. Beforehand, during previous interviews I had for some graduate finance schemes, they’d ask me to give an example of when I’d had to use / cope with a particular financial situation, and I had to relate it back to when I worked in a shop a few years back. Whereas today, I could say, ‘just this morning I was dealing with invoices chasing x amount of money’ and explain how exactly I dealt with that, how I ensured a good customer relationship was maintained etc. It just comes across as so much more relevant and is obviously a much better answer.

Have you ever regretted deciding to take an internship?

No, definitely not. I guess the only thing that was hard was the money – I had saved up beforehand which made it ok and was able to stay with my parents which certainly made it easier, though I can understand why people find it tough. I do think there needs to be some kind of governmental loan scheme to help those struggling.

Did you get all your expenses refunded ok?

Oh yes, I always got my travel refunded without any problems, and lunch was provided by the company, so I wasn’t spending anything as such as far as the internship went. It just meant I had to budget myself for everything else. I’d saved up about £400 beforehand, and I am just about coming to the end of that now. Though that’s not too bad considering it’s been three months!

So for anyone thinking of undertaking an internship – what advice would you give them?

I would definitely encourage anyone considering an internship to save some money first! I would also recommend from my own experience to go through a reputable company to ensure everything is above board. You hear a lot of negativity about internships in the papers nowadays, and about how they can exploit, so it is really important to make sure that your internship is valuable and genuine, and a good recruitment company can help with that. I know people who have gone on self-organised internships and then left after three days because they weren’t learning anything new and were instead left to teach other staff! The fact is it should be the other way round, the company should be teaching you and appreciate that in return, you are giving your time and hard-work to support and help build-up their company. I got my internship through Inspiring Interns and they were great, especially in maintaining constant contact and support throughout to make sure everything was going well. That’s the main thing with internships. As long as you are learning something relevant that you can put on your CV then you should stick with it. If not, then you should leave, just walk out. Internships shouldn’t be contracted and they should be on your terms. You should be able to leave if you are not getting what you want out of it, and reap the benefits if you are.

What kind of person would you recommend an internship to?

A graduate who has just come out of university, or even one who has been out a while but is still struggling to find employment.  I would also really recommend them to students still at university. One of my biggest regrets is not doing more work experience during my time at university – an internship over the summer holidays would have been perfect if I’d known about them before.  It’s easy to see how a Catch-22 scenario can occur. For example, I graduated last year, and applied for loads of grad schemes. But they all wanted graduates with experience, but you can’t get a job without experience…hence Catch-22!  It’s definitely best to make that preparation as early as possible to help make it easier later on to get a job.

So you would recommend internships to other people?

Definitely. As long as they are regulated and you go with a reputable company, I think internships are a great chance to work in an office environment and make that transition from a university environment into a proper, full-time job.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about your internship experience?

It’s so nice to have something useful and relevant on my CV that makes me stand out from all the other graduates – well worth the extra time I invested. I am now regularly getting responses to my job applications, and am able to talk confidently about my area of expertise. I am really pleased I decided to do an internship and certainly have no regrets, and let’s face it – doing an internship is so much better than just sitting at home waiting for something to come along!

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