Jessica Zhou was in her final year of high school when her cousin told her about the benefits of undertaking a cadetship: "She told me the cadetship helped her career because she was able to learn about how a business works," she says.
Unsure of what she wanted to do after school, Jessica decided to explore business as a potential option.
The first step of the journey
She attended CA ANZ's Career Kickstarter event (formerly known as Cadetship Evening) for Year 12 and first year university students; where business leaders and alumni share their first-hand experiences of working in business and provide career advice.
"I remember, specifically, there was a representative from Louis Vuitton, who was saying that she did her CA in accounting, but she was also in fashion. I was like, 'Wow! Two things I can combine!'. That really set me on this journey," Jessica says.
At 17 years old, Jessica secured a cadetship offer with award-winning firm HLB Mann Judd. The opportunity allowed her to balance her studies at Macquarie University with practical experience.
Jessica found real-world accounting to be much more than just crunching numbers, and success relies upon having good interpersonal skills.
"I think the cadetship made me grow faster as a person. You're young and starting off in this professional environment, but people don't coddle you. From day one it was all about being thrown into the deep end. For me, I tackled that head on. I needed to see that from any mistake I make, I've just got to learn and grow from it," Jessica says.
While Jessica set her mind on accounting, she found many other students were still deciding whether to pursue it. In Jessica's experience, not only did the cadetship expand her knowledge in accounting but also helped provide a sense of clarity that it was the right career path for her.
Learning the tricks of the trade
Having now completed the CA Program with a cadetship under her belt, Jessica is thankful for undertaking it. With it, she was able to enter the workforce earlier, as well as gain both technical knowledge and hands-on experience.
"One of the benefits of doing the cadetship program is it lets you start your career early. When I finished my uni degree, I was already a senior accountant at HLB Mann Judd," Jessica says.
The cadetship helped her to develop desirable skills that benefit her both as an analyst and in everyday life; for example - staying organised to manage her professional and social life.
"I rely heavily on my calendar. I think the biggest hurdle is knowing you've got limited time and then learning how to use that time wisely. It doesn't matter what industry you're in, or where you are in life, you need to be a planner, to know your next step," Jessica says.
"I think the cadetship made me grow faster as a person. You're young and starting off in this professional environment, but people don't coddle you. From day one it was all about being thrown into the deep end. For me, I tackled that head on. I needed to see that from any mistake I make, I've just got to learn and grow from it."
The future, now in her hands
Jessica's journey highlights how cadetships can help you achieve long-term goals and "adult" successfully. She feels honoured to now share her experience with other students who are figuring out what career path to take and how they can go about securing work experience opportunities.
"I consider it one of my achievements to be able to speak at CA ANZ events, and talk to students, both in high school, and university, and inspire them to consider undertaking a cadetship or applying for the CA Program," Jessica said.
Looking back, Jessica has no regrets when it comes to her career journey.
"It's been a great experience, not only because of the people I've met but it's also taught me a lot of real-life responsibilities."
Note: This interview was conducted in 2017. Jessica Zhou CA is now a full member of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand and working as a Senior Tax Advisor at Gallagher
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