Attending one of AAT’s free branch events is often a daunting prospect, especially for students. Emilie Charpentier was no different. But drawn by an event on cloud accounting, she took the plunge and went along. Buoyed by her experience, she offers her top five reasons why other AAT students should follow suit
Last year, when I attended an AAT event in London, Henry Cooper FMAAT, a former AAT President, recommended that we attend at least one local AAT branch event by the end of 2014.
It was not the first time I had heard about them, but like other fellow students I’m sure, attending these meetings looked rather daunting and I imagined they were reserved for full members or would be too technical for someone like me. I was wrong.
I decided to give it a go and logged in to the AAT website to see which branch was closest to me and when the next meeting was. A fortnight later, I was attending my first one on a topical subject: cloud accounting. At the end of that first evening, I failed to understand why every student doesn’t go along.
In my opinion, the benefits for AAT students are numerous. Here are my top five:
1. A better sense of connection with AAT
As students, especially distant learners, we do not have a lot of opportunities to meet other AAT members. During study, contact with AAT is often virtual, whether it is logging into the website or visiting its online community, forum, LinkedIn or Facebook pages.
By attending a local branch meeting, you have the opportunity to spend an evening each month with full members and other students. Having such a diverse mix allows you to share experiences, learn from each other and network. In short, the sense of being part of an organisation like AAT becomes a reality at a branch event.
2. A great way to network
A lot of us are asking how and where to network. Local branch meetings are an excellent start. You will be surrounded by fellow AAT members from all sectors and industries.
There are various opportunities to network at the start or end of each event; the atmosphere is really friendly and convivial. Meeting after meeting, you will build your network. Don’t be shy the first time: just go and observe how it works. When you feel confident enough, engage in some talk with other members and you won’t look back.
3. A great way to widen our learning
Every meeting is focused on a specific subject. Subjects can be technical (such as a payroll or a tax update) or about soft skills (such as networking or applying for a job). Just have a look at the AAT website to see the variety on offer.
Presentations are done by professional experts, such as AAT members and HMRC representatives.
4. Great preparation for full membership
For those considering progressing to full membership, you will be expected to do continuing professional development (CPD). Attending branch meetings is one of the tools that can be used to do this, as well as ensuring you are kept up-to-date with any changes affecting your work.
5. A great way to access and share experience
Whether you are working in an accounting position or not, meetings are a great place to share experiences. The question and answer session where members share their experience of a subject are a great source of information and is not something you will find in a book.
Attending a branch event has completely changed my relationship with AAT – from something that felt distant to something close and real. For these reasons, I thoroughly recommend these events to any student.
You can find out more and search for branch events – which are free to all AAT members – on the AAT website (MyAAT login required).
Emilie Charpentier is an accounting technician.