Prue May completed a Bachelor of Accounting in 2012 at La Trobe University and she now works as Field Finance Manager at World Vision Australia.
MyLaTrobe: Why did you chose the Bachelor of Accounting and how the course and your time at La Trobe prepared you for the workplace?
The biggest thing that the course made me realise is how broad accounting can be, and it’s not all debits and credits.
Prue: Initially I chose the course because I always liked numbers. My mum used to joke that as a kid I charged her interest when my pocket money was late. My high school never offered accounting as a subject so I was interested to learn how I could apply my love of numbers into business applications. The biggest thing that the course made me realise is how broad accounting can be, and it’s not all debits and credits.
MyLaTrobe: Are there any aspects of your degree that have proved particularly important in the workplace?
Prue: Obviously the technical aspects of the degree have been particularly important, understanding the basics of financial accounting standards. But even further than that, understanding the calculations and how to do them myself has proved invaluable. Whilst we have technology that does a lot of that know, having knowledge of how it works means that I can decipher the numbers and interrogate the data when something is not working. The human aspect applied to the numbers can never be underestimated.
MyLaTrobe: After studying Accounting and Finance, you ultimately landed a role with World Vision, can you tell me about the steps that you took to land this role in the years following your graduation?
I landed a vacation role with EY in the assurance practice, through this program I was able to secure a graduate position once I finished my degree.
Prue: Whilst still studying at La Trobe I landed a vacation role with EY in the assurance practice, through this program I was able to secure a graduate position once I finished my degree. Whilst at EY, I was able to explore numerous industries and discover what companies interested me and the types of roles that I could see myself doing. Whilst at EY, I also completed my CA, did a 7 month industry secondment that saw me assisting in a carve out of an ASX listed company and worked on local and international IPO’s. These experiences made me realise that my true passion was working in the not-for-profit sector and this lead me to apply for my current role in World Vision.
MyLaTrobe: When it comes to graduate roles in Accounting and Finance – what key skills are employers now looking for?
Being able to adapt to situations and think outside the box will position you well for any job.
Prue: Adaptability and interpersonal skills are the largest. Very few roles at the moment have you sitting behind a computer doing exactly the same thing day in day out. Being able to adapt to situations and think outside the box will position you well for any job. And being able to build relationships, most of what I do each day is getting things done through people and being able to build relationships is crucial to that.
MyLaTrobe: What additional steps, outside of the classroom, can our current undergraduates take to enhance their employability?
Do something that gets you out of your comfort zone, and don’t be afraid to fail. You can always learn something from failing.
Prue: Make sure you do things outside the classroom. Having extra-curricular activities shows commitment, whether that be a part time job, a sport, community group or hobby. It can show various skills you have like time management, interpersonal skills, problem solving and also shows a little of your personality. Even being a checkout clerk at a supermarket can demonstrate transferable skills, you spend your day talking to people from all walks of life, this can translate into developing good communication skills. Do something that gets you out of your comfort zone, and don’t be afraid to fail. You can always learn something from failing.
MyLaTrobe: Based on your experience, what practical employment advice do you have for current students in Accounting and Finance? E.g having a strong resume, landing that job interview, and how to perform in interviews.
Go to networking events, get your name and face out there. Having a strong resume is one thing, but 90% of candidates have good resumes on paper.
Prue: Go to networking events, get your name and face out there. Having a strong resume is one thing, but 90% of candidates have good resumes on paper. Secondly, if you land an interview, be yourself. An interview is a chance to see if you like the company and the people you’re going to be working with and vice versa, so don’t pretend to be who you think they want, be yourself, because if you pretend to be someone else that’s who you’re going to have to be once you start the job. And everyone has areas for development and improvement, don’t be afraid to talk about them, it’s a bigger red flag if you don’t think you have any weaknesses than someone who is honest about where they may need help, no one if perfect.
MyLaTrobe: As the world of work is changing rapidly with tech advances, do you have any specific advice for students on how they can be prepared for these changes in relation to Accounting and Finance?
Prue: Being prepared for technology changes is a hard one. But having skills like problem solving and adaptability are critical. You don’t need to know all platforms, but having a willingness to learn is the best thing in my book. Showing initiative, for example, if you know a company has just starting using PowerBI, watch a few YouTube videos or use sources like LinkedIn Learning to start building you knowledge.