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Are you learning valuable lessons and skills at university and want to put your knowledge to the test in the real world? An internship could give you the opportunity to learn from experts in the field you aspire to work within, and teach you what to expect once you've joined the workforce.
In his first year of university, Anas Sanad decided to look into internship opportunities to help him gain practical work experience before he completed his studies. Through the Achiever Program, Anas became part of the finance team at Chartered Accountants ANZ and was supported by manager, Shelley Houghton.
We speak to Anas and Shelley about how Anas' time at Chartered Accountants ANZ has made an impact and the importance of practical work experience in helping prepare students for a career in finance and accounting.
Gain valuable work experience while studying
Undertaking an internship gives students an insight into how an organisation functions, an idea of what it's like to be part of the workforce after university, and a taste for different jobs and areas of specialisation.
While studying a Bachelor of Commerce at the Victoria University of Wellington, and with previous work experience in administration and content creation, Anas applied for the Achiever Program to see what it's like to work in accounting.
"As I am completing my degree, I was looking for an opportunity to gain valuable work experience, and apply my skills and knowledge to the accounting industry. I applied and got accepted for the Achiever Program and commenced my placement at Chartered Accountants ANZ while I was still continuing with my degree during the summer break. I learnt how to work across different areas of accounting and enjoyed seeing how everything worked," Anas says.
According to Shelley Houghton, Manager of Accounts Payable at Chartered Accountants ANZ who also was Anas' supervisor, it's important to provide students with real-world experience to help them understand which roles and organisation types they may fit best.
"It's important to expose interns to all areas of the business as this gives them the opportunity to see where their strengths lie, and allows them to add value to the team in a short period of time," Shelley explains.
"It's been great to find someone that has integrated so well into our team environment and at Chartered Accountants ANZ as a whole. As an employer, I was able to watch Anas grow his skills, and build strong connections."
Those three months of interning at Chartered Accountants have taught me what I think would have otherwise taken me a year to learn through simply studying a textbook."
Put your learning into practice
One of his day-to-day tasks as part of the accounts payable team was processing payments to suppliers. As he became more confident in his role, he also got the chance to test out his understanding of balance sheets, working alongside the accounting team.
"One of my internship tasks was reconciling the bank statements each morning. Although I had studied how to do this at university, it made a lot more sense to see and practice the process rather than to just read about it in a textbook," Anas says.
Anas credits the Achiever Program with helping him to gain a clear understanding of how his skills and studies can be applied in the finance and accounting industry.
"I've been able to connect the dots and see how every finance and accounting framework I've studied applies in a real work environment. Learning about these things at university is great but being in a situation where you can exercise your knowledge is really valuable," he says.
"Those three months of interning at Chartered Accountants ANZ have taught me what I think would have otherwise taken me a year to learn through simply studying a textbook. It's definitely a good experience in so many ways as I was able to apply my skills and learning to the actual workforce."
Shelley encourages employers hosting interns to give them the opportunity to learn by 'doing', and jump right into things.
"When Anas first started his internship, he showed a willingness to embrace everything that was offered to him. He tackled every task from undertaking credit control and processing supplier payments, to creating balance sheets for our organisation. It was important that we gave him exposure to different areas of the finance team."
Improve your employability
An internship can help you stand out to future employers, as it suggests you may be able to demonstrate sought after skills like initiative, commitment and teamwork.
Anas says his internship experience helped him develop and grow his accounting and finance skills, as well as understand the importance of building relationships and embracing every opportunity that arises.
"The Achiever Program has helped me prepare for my future career in accounting as I have been able to develop my technical accounting skills, as well as my communication and teamwork skills," Anas says.
"And by taking those opportunities, I have been able to secure a part-time role at Chartered Accountants ANZ that I will balance alongside my studies," Anas says.
According to Shelley, demonstrating a willingness to give everything a go is the key to turning an internship into a long-term opportunity.
"It's all about being able to show initiative and think outside the box. I love bringing a new person on board because they often look at things through a different lens. In Anas' case, he came in and hit the ground running and because of how well he did, he is set to become part of our member support team," Shelley says.
"Show your employer what you can bring to the table as part of their team. Everybody, students and employers, should definitely consider internship opportunities. Take advantage of the opportunities available to you because you never know what door they can open!"
Achiever ProgramFor more information
Note: This interview was conducted in 2019, and the roles reflected here were correct at time of publishing.