Life as an Accounting Placement Student: Q&A with Leah

Jan 19, 2024 | Careers

At Harold Sharp, we believe in nurturing talent and providing real-world experiences to Accounting & Finance students during their placement year.

We sat down with our current placement student, Leah Pointon, to get an insider’s view of her journey at Harold Sharp so far. Leah is a 3rd year Manchester Metropolitan University student and is 6 months into her placement at Harold Sharp.

What have been your placement highlights so far?

Well, it’s been quite a journey! One highlight has definitely been getting exposure across different departments – accounts, outsourcing, payroll, audit, personal tax. I’ve also been invited to attend some really interesting industry events and have been given the opportunity to attend training webinars which have added a whole new dimension to my learning. But I’d say the biggest highlight has been the learning and personal growth. At the start, everything felt a bit daunting but I quickly settled and started building valuable relationships with colleagues.

Can you tell us more about your involvement in industry events and training webinars?

Certainly! One of Harold Sharp’s core values is curiosity which is reiterated by the practice’s commitment to continuous learning. As part of my development, I’ve been encouraged to make use of Harold Sharp’s training resources and had the opportunity to attend various events. These opportunities not only expand my knowledge but also allow me to network with seasoned professionals. One particular highlight has to be attending the Accountex Summit in Manchester – it was a great opportunity to hear from expert speakers in the industry and connect with software and app providers. It’s just another example of how the placement year provides the opportunity to see theory in practice.

So far, is the placement what you expected?

Honestly – yes and no. I assumed that I would be doing more limited tasks, with a focus on basic bookkeeping and admin. But I was wrong! I’m given quite a lot of responsibility. For example, in my second month I was assisting with the completion of a set of accounts. So that’s completely exceeded my expectations in terms of the variety of tasks and learning opportunities. The volume of practical experience has given me a much clearer sense of what I want to pursue in my career.

Have you been faced with any challenges along the way?

Probably one of the biggest challenges I faced at the beginning was viewing myself as an integral member of the team. As a student, it’s easy to view yourself as a bit of a nuisance – always asking questions and triple-checking things. But the team have been so supportive and they reminded me that I wasn’t expected to know everything on day one. 6 months in and I’m feeling much more confident.

Is there a particular job or element of the job that you’ve enjoyed so far?

I’m working closely with one of our accountants on an Estate Agent client. It’s a mega job due to the volume of branches involved but it’s been something I can really get my teeth stuck into. Seeing the output of my work come to life has been really rewarding.

Would you recommend the placement year to peers?

Absolutely. I’m only halfway through but I can already see the benefit. Learning on-the-job gives you a completely different perspective and I know that it will give me an edge when I graduate as I can confidently communicate my experience of delivering the day-to-day tasks of an accountant. Plus, I am now a certified user of Xero and Dext – two pieces of software that I’d never heard of before my placement but that are critical to underpinning the finance function of forward-thinking businesses.

You’ve alluded to it already – but is it fair to say that the placement is influencing your career aspirations?

Definitely. It’s been eye-opening to see how different working in the industry is compared to university-based learning. The experience has piqued my interest in the field even further and reaffirmed that I want to be a Chartered Accountant.

Leah’s experience as a placement student at Harold Sharp is a testament to the value of hands-on experience and exposure to diverse aspects of the accounting industry. Her highlights and the clarity she has gained about her career path demonstrate the potential that a placement year can offer. At Harold Sharp, we encourage open communication from day one to ensure our students experience aligns with their expectations. Ultimately, we are here to help our students grow and develop, and to help them to make informed decisions about their future career in accounting.