Christine - History
Christine graduated in 2008 with a history degree from the University of Sheffield. She went on to obtain a PhD in medieval history, then joined EY’s Manchester office as a graduate trainee in September 2013 to work in Transactions.
When did you start thinking about employers and your career, and what did you do to set the ball rolling?
“I started thinking about a career ‘in the real world’ while I was doing my PhD. I’d realised I didn’t want a life in academia.
“I enjoyed teaching the undergraduates, but I was starting to find the research quite lonesome.
“A number of my university friends who’d graduated in 2008 – the same year as me – had gone on to work in Big Four firms, and this got me thinking about a future in professional services.
“I was hearing a lot of interesting stories from these friends, and the work sounded interesting.”
What made you realise you could get a job at EY with a PhD in medievel history, and what drew you to EY in particular?
“I knew from my friends that I didn’t need an accounting qualification to join EY, so it was never flagged up as an issue.
“EY seemed genuinely interested in what I had to offer – the process didn’t feel like an ordeal.”
What skills and experiences helped you through EY’s application and selection process?
“It helped having that extra level of maturity and the added work experience, even if it was in academia.
“I was used to engaging with fellow academics in intellectual discussion, and this meant that I felt I could hold my own during the job interviews, even though the environment and subject matter were new to me.
“I’d also learned how to self-manage – manage my time, digest large amounts of new information quickly, hit deadlines, that kind of thing – and this helped in some of the tests and other parts of the application process.”
What skills from your degree and PhD have you been able to transfer to your role at EY?
“Understanding and distilling information is a major skill that I’ve transferred.
“When you study history, you gather information from various books, papers and academic treatises and you write essays or theses based on them.
“The process is one of analysis, distillation and coherent expression – you form an argument based on your grasp of complex information, and express it using an appropriate style of writing.
“Much of my work at EY involves a similar process, only the raw material is different.
“Instead of ancient documents on the structure of feudal agriculture, it’s the latest reports on the restructuring of modern businesses.
“Also, during my postgraduate studies I regularly conducted seminars on medieval history with groups of undergraduates.
“This gave me strong communication and team-working skills. I knew how to share and discuss ideas, give and take constructive criticism, form intelligent conclusions and so on.
“I’ve been able to put a business context around these softer skills – this is important because the answers that EY gives its clients take astute thinking to formulate.”
How has EY supported your transition from the humanities into business?
“EY recognises that everyone’s different and helps you work to your strengths.
“Because I’m an incisive thinker and a clear writer, I use these a lot in my role, supporting the wider team with report writing and so on. I’m making the transition this way.
“At the same time I’m being expertly supported on the numbers side as I work towards chartered status with ICAS, the Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland.
“This balance between words and numbers feels exactly right for this stage in my career.”
What advice would you now give to a history student – how should they go about getting a job with an organisation like EY?
“Get some ‘real world’ work experience and to do an internship as soon as you can.
“I didn't do this, but on reflection it seems to me the best way to get the experience and contacts you need.
“My friends went about choosing their career this way, but I didn’t, and I could see how much it benefited them.
“Going from the academic world to the business world is a massive change in direction in some ways, but not in others.
“In terms of skills transfer, it’s actually remarkably similar and my advice to you is not to over-think it.
“The fact that you don’t have a numerical background doesn’t matter – you’ll learn more technical stuff once you’ve landed the job.
“What matters is the way you think – not the actual degree subject you’ve been occupied with up until now.”