Friday 27 June 2014

Putting her degree to work

One semester of tax was enough to give Michelle Goodhew a taste of her career options after university, but it wasn't quite enough to teach her all she needed to know about the industry. Fortunately a vacationer role, and now a supportive environment as a graduate at Grant Thornton, has given her a great start in the tax sector.

What did you study?

I studied a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Accounting at the University of Wollongong.
When did you start thinking about a job in the tax sector?

I started to think about a career in tax while I was applying for vacationer positions in 2012. I was leaning towards the tax sector as I felt that it was something I could take everywhere. It seems that everyone has to deal with tax, even if they don’t want to.
What were your expectations of working in the tax sector?
As I commenced my career in tax, I really wanted to put into practice what I had learnt at university, broaden my skills and knowledge, and kick-start my career within an area that would provide a solid foundation for wherever my career takes me in the future.
How would you describe your current role?
My current role involves helping our clients meet their requirements in areas including tax compliance and consulting work. What I most enjoy about tax is that it’s a challenging job and you’re always faced with something new. There is a great culture at Grant Thornton, which has enabled me to broaden my networks on both a global and national scale because I work with colleagues across our network of firms in a collaborative environment to reach the best outcomes for our clients. It’s a great experience to be able to learn from colleagues outside my office and also share my experiences with them.
What are the main differences between what you learnt at university and what you do at work?
I think the biggest difference from university and work is that you’re actually dealing with real-life examples where there are no written-down solutions and are constantly gaining exposure to new tax issues. University offers a brief snippet on what the tax service line is about, but there is no way you can learn everything about tax in one semester at university.
Which skills or knowledge from university have been most helpful for work?
The skills that I have found the most helpful from university, which I now use in my day-to-day work, would have to be time management, working in a team environment and a base of tax knowledge. It is important to utilise all these skills on a daily basis as we are constantly working with different team members and required to manage our jobs independently.
What advice would you give to students looking at a career in tax?
Get as much work experience or as many vacationer roles as you can while studying at university. It’s the best opportunity for you to not only get your foot in the door, but also ensure you enjoy the service line that you choose.
I found my way into the Grant Thornton graduate program during my vacationer role there the year before. This meant there was no stress trying to find a graduate job while sitting my final exams. My advice is to get your applications in early!
What are you passionate about outside of work?
I own a horse that I train in the early mornings and compete with at various competitions on weekends.
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Friday 20 June 2014

Seven time-saving ways to search for a job

Looking for a job? You can get sucked into spending hours on job sites and networks if you're not careful. Here are seven ways to cut that process down to 15 minutes a day.
1. Have a plan
Simply outlining what you're looking for can make the job-seeking process more focused so that you spend less time sorting the potential from the rubbish. Do a little research upfront to find out what's realistic in terms of your role and salary expectations to set some parameters.
2. Identify and use keywords
Use the keywords that employers and recruiters use, for example 'graduate' is preferred over 'degree holder'. Don't forget to identify the different categories that they may use. Tax roles, for example, may be placed under 'accountancy' or 'finance', so be sure to check both. Also add these keywords to your job-seeking profile to increase the chance of someone finding you.
3. Save searches
Most job sites and job boards, including LinkedIn, allow you to sign up for a profile and save your search, including all the terms and parameters you set (keywords, salary, location). Automate this process instead of entering the same information every time you visit.
4. Create alerts
If you prefer push notifications, on most sites and networks you can create alerts that deliver jobs that match the terms and parameters you set and have them sent to you via text or email. You can also employ tools like Google Alerts to find relevant postings and have them notify you.
5. Sign up to newsletters
Sign up to the newsletter of each organisation you're interested in. Not only will the 'we're hiring' message be fresh when you get it, you'll also have recent news about the organisation on hand, which you can use in your interview.
6. Join relevant groups
Joining networking and industry groups is often a good way to find a job that may not be formally advertised. It's also an excellent way to get to know your potential employers. LinkedIn Groups, for example, let you get close to people you're not connected to, and you can respond to posts and keep an active profile to get noticed. Make sure your settings provide you with a daily digest of the group's posts so you don't have to spend all day on LinkedIn waiting for a job alert.
7. Recruit your network
Make sure the people around you know that you're looking for a job and, if you can, brief them on the type of role you're after. They may see something in a medium you don't check (e.g. newspaper) or hear something from people you don't know or can't contact. More seekers means more potential for opportunities.
Job seeking does take time, but with a little upfront investment you can reduce the effort you need to find and filter suitable roles. Set up your profile and alerts properly and it will pay dividends when trying to land the perfect job.
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Monday 16 June 2014

From study to practice

Many students start their career before they even look for a job by identifying the area they wish to enter. Joseph Sahyoun, a recent graduate from the University of Sydney, found a graduate tax position at Grant Thornton, applying both the knowledge he acquired during his degree and on-the-job skills.

What did you study?
I did a Bachelor of Business, majoring in accounting and finance at the University of Sydney. I knew early on that I was passionate about business because of the integral role it plays within our society, and I wanted to understand what makes these businesses survive and evolve in our rapidly-changing society.
During university, my goal was to one day work in the professional services industry, and Grant Thornton has provided me with this opportunity. I’m also currently completing the Chartered Accountants Program. With this qualification, I one day hope to use the skills I’ve learnt to work overseas

When did you start thinking about a job in the tax sector?
The first time I seriously considered a role in tax was after completing my first tax subject at university. I enjoyed how it was very practical in nature and it was quite easy to see how relevant tax is in a wider business context.

Tax is also an area that is constantly featured in the news and is often at the top of many political agendas. This made me realise just how important tax is, not only to different companies but also to the wellbeing and prosperity of Australia as a whole. I was drawn to be part of an environment that is constantly changing and requires continuous learning and development.
What were your expectations of working in the tax sector?
Before working in tax, I expected there to be ‘busy periods’ during different parts of the year, which has so far turned out to be true. I also expected a variety of work, which has ranged from consulting to compliance. This has provided me with exposure to many different areas of tax and broadened by skills and knowledge base.
How would you describe your current role?
Starting out as a tax consultant, my role is central in driving the right information needed for our projects and collating the research to provide a good base for other team members to undertake their responsibilities to complete a project. This has taught me to be accountable for my work and as a result is often rewarding.

Another highlight of my role is the opportunity to interact with colleagues from our international network within Grant Thornton. So far I’ve worked with colleagues from the London, New York and Shanghai offices. This has been a great experience as it has increased my knowledge about different international tax issues.
What are the main differences between what you learnt at university and what you do at work?
I found that uni was more theoretical and that it scratched the surface on a wide range of different topics. Working in tax is more practical due to the regular client interaction and in-depth research that is often required.

What skills and knowledge from university have helped most at work?
The main skills I learnt from uni that help me day to day are time management, working in groups, critical thinking and the ability to review my own work.

In terms of knowledge, I found that my basic accounting subjects helped me greatly as they laid the foundation for what I do in terms of understanding the nature and operations of the different clients I have.

What advice would you give to students looking at a career in this area?

I would advise students to apply for a vacationer role as it is a great way to compare what you have learnt in your first few years of uni and see how it is applied in the real world. It is also important to speak to as many people in the industry to gain knowledge and insight, especially your lecturers and tutors as many have worked in the private sector before.
What are you passionate about outside of work?
Aside from spending time with my family and friends, I am obsessed with sport, mainly soccer and rugby league. I play soccer for my local club every Saturday as a central defender.
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Friday 13 June 2014

How to select a tax specialisation

One of the benefits of having a career in the tax sector is being able to specialise in your area of interest. Here’s an overview of some things you need to know before choosing your focus.
A career in tax is versatile, but to optimise its versatility you first need to figure out what you want. Do you want to earn more or travel more? Are there particular lifestyle benefits you're keen on? What about political influence and meeting people? The industry you choose will determine the benefits and challenges you'll have.

Property and investment

Specialising in the ins and outs of property and investment tax issues will lead you to people who are interested in making money, including high-net-worth individuals and wealth-creation organisations.
Great for: Earning potential.
An ageing population, the increase in self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) and the complex tax issues around super all mean tax specialists in this area are in high demand. Expect to handle everything from super tax returns to SMSF structures and estate planning.
Great for: Job stability.

There is a wide range of roles in the corporate tax sector – from audit and compliance to consultancy and advisory – and most will involve meeting with clients and working in teams on specific jobs. This environment is very supportive of graduates and you'll find that plenty of opportunities will present themselves, especially as all corporate firms and many of their clients are multinational.
Great for: Travel and international exposure.

The beauty of understanding business tax is that your skills can be applied to almost any organisation, from not-for-profits to sole traders. Each industry has its own particular challenges, for example special exemptions and deductions for artists paired with the instability and breadth of their income streams. Many tax specialists find this work rewarding as it both helps businesses and provides interesting challenges.
Great for: Job satisfaction.
Policy and analysis

Interested in the mechanism of tax? Perhaps policy and analysis is the specialisation for you. A role as an economist or analyst drives everything from political platforms to tax-system reform. If you want to spearhead change as a thought leader on tax, this is your area.
Great for: Prestige and influence.
The tax industry provides steady work and a variety of roles, which is a big draw for students and graduates looking to test their skills in different areas of interest. Choosing a specialisation does require a little research so you can match its benefits and challenges to your skills, needs and interests for a satisfying career.
Read more about these areas of specialisation below:

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