Student view: ICAEW Women in Accountancy 2011

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AAT student  Ceris Williams attended the ICAEW Women in Accountancy event at Chartered Accountants Hall in London on 21 November. Here she gives a glimpse of what she learned on the day.

ICAEW’s Women in Accountancy 2011 event brought together 75 aspiring female members of the Association of Chartered Accountancy (ACA) from across the UK to explore routes into Chartered Accountancy.

As an AAT student I went along to find out how to make the transition from AAT to ACA, and gain some valuable guidance when applying for a training contract – from the HR managers who review the applications, and from successful ACA members in practice.

Employability skills

So, what exactly are the key skills that employers look for when assessing a candidate’s suitability for a role? They include the following:

  • Communication
  • Commercial awareness
  • Planning and organising
  • Problem solving
  • Teamworking
  • Resilience
  • Client service
  • Integrity
  • Coaching and development
  • Career focus

Faced with what initially seemed to be a fairly daunting list of core requirements, the employability skills session used the ‘Discover, Develop, Apply’ methodology to help me identify the skills I have, and match these to the skills employers want.

I’m going to concentrate here on how we went about assessing our abilities when it came to the communication aspect.


The first step in the exercise was to discover the skills I already have. I was encouraged to think about the all different ways and situations in which I use the skill of communication. I realised that as an active member of the online AAT student community I engage with fellow students, tutors, MAATs, MIPs, Chartered and Certified Accountants as well as potential employers on a regular basis.  This demonstrates that I am comfortable discussing accounting topics and that I am confident in putting my opinion across in the written word.


Having identified the way in which I currently use communication skills, I was encouraged to keep looking for new ways in which to develop my abilities in this area – a fellow delegate suggested a course in presentation skills, while another suggested report writing, or even blogging. You might say that writing this article shows how I’ve taken that suggestion on board!

We were challenged to think of ways each of these core competencies could be demonstrated in different areas of our lives – be that through undertaking charity and voluntary work, as a member of a sports team or social committee or through other life experiences such as travel or work experience gained in other sectors.

Having taken an inventory of my skills and explored some ways in which to develop them, the next step was to apply this knowledge at all stages of a job application, from the initial application process through to assessment centre and interview.


When it comes to applying you skills, you need to remember that throughout the application process employers are looking to answer the following questions.

  • Can you do the job?

While this will largely be informed by the qualifications you hold, it is likely that if you’ve reached the assessment centre stage then many of the other candidates will also meet this criteria. To stand out from the crowd it’s important to demonstrate your ability to apply your learning to practical situations.

Use the insights you gained about your skills in the “discovery” part of the exercise to give clear examples of how and when you have applied your skills and experience, and the results you achieved.

  • Will you do the job?

Employers look for candidates who not only have the technical skills required to do the job, but also exhibit the ambition and drive to excel within their role.

Demonstrate your motivation by setting challenging but achievable career and learning goals.  At interview, be prepared to outline the steps you have already taken towards reaching your career goals (being an AAT student is a great start) and the steps you plan to take in order to fulfil these objectives.

A clear plan of how you will develop your skills shows commitment and an active desire to progress your career.

  • Will you fit in here?

Just as we all have different personalities, companies have different corporate cultures. It is important to be self-aware, but it’s also equally important to undertake thorough research of the company you’re applying to and to be clear about how you think you’ll fit into the organisation.

The application process is an opportunity for the employer and candidate to discover the ways in which they can work together to develop mutually profitable ongoing relationships.

Does AAT equip you for ACA?

As the morning session on Employability Skills drew to a close I had the opportunity to speak with current ACA trainees over lunch. Naturally I was keen to gain insight from AAT students who had progressed to the ACA qualification.  Emma, a trainee in her final year of the ACA qualification at a top 50 accounts firm told me:

“The practical skills that I gained studying AAT mean that I am in demand with clients… I’m booked out on assignments for the foreseeable future!“

Ceris Williams is a regular contributor to AAT’s Facebook page and the AAT Discussion Forums

Stuart Waterman is AAT's former Community Manager.

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