Having now completed my masters course in Accounting, Finance and Strategic Investment and experiencing the long suspenseful wait for results it seems like the perfect time to really think, ‘What have I gained from the past year?’, other than a much deeper understanding of finance.
What I enjoyed
- Group projects
Initially, group projects on my Masters course were challenging, as they presented a different style of working to what I had previously experienced in my Undergraduate degree; working virtually with students I had never met across the world. However, this is where I feel I have gained the most from studying a Masters. This presented the opportunity for myself to display my problem solving skills and improve my communication skills. This has been a brilliant aspect of my Masters year to reflect upon in job interviews.
Whilst the first group I was in had limited interaction, I was able to help improve this by taking a leadership role, discovering language barriers and taking steps to overcome them. This included using the chat box in zoom meetings to transcribe discussions and proof-reading each other’s work. From this I was able to approach subsequent group projects with a new attitude, being mindful of the diverse range of experience and cultures of my peers.
- Diverse group of students
Initially I found it daunting starting my course and was worried other students would have more experience of accountancy than myself, coming from a marketing background. These fears diminished very quickly. Alongside learning from each individuals’ cultures I was able to learn from their different styles of working and their experience, dependent on their Undergraduate degree.
During the first semester of the course on our first group project, I was still becoming accustomed to all the formulas and calculations, but by working alongside peers who had more experience of these I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the content. This then benefited me in subsequent individual assignments with similar calculations. Therefore, a key lesson I learned was to be open in learning from and providing help to others, as everyone has different strengths on a Masters course.
- Self-directed Learning
Finally, Masters courses also present an increased amount of independent learning to what I had previously experienced. This is partially due to the ‘virtual working’ imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, but also due to an increased amount of self-directed learning required. This demanded I organised myself very quickly to keep on top of the workload from the get-go. I found it most beneficial each week to make myself a timetable with time allocated to: completing seminar work; going over lectures; making notes; doing additional reading; and carrying out assignments. This also allowed me to make time for extra-curricular activities, which were a great de-stressor during my busy Masters year.
I found I enjoyed this style of learning and by creating my own routine early on, I was able to reduce my stress in exam periods.
What would I do differently?
When it came to the final semester, the sole focus was on completing the dissertation or in my case, consultancy project. In hindsight this is a piece of work I wish I had approached differently. As this too was a self-directed piece of work with three check-ins with my supervisor throughout the semester, organisation and planning was essential. Looking back, I wish I had made a more structured and detailed plan prior to starting.
Having had my first meeting with my dissertation supervisor I set about straight away to start writing, however, this meant that essentially I wrote section one of my project twice, as I hadn’t really put the proper preparation in beforehand. Therefore, I dived into the project in the middle rather than the start, which was deciding my structure and carrying out thorough research of my chosen organisation, market and industry. Upon reflection, doing this first would have saved myself time in the long run.
In addition, I wish I had dedicated more time to the project earlier in the final semester to avoid the stress and panic that I felt in the final few weeks approaching submission. Whilst I initially had the attitude of ‘I have all summer to produce this piece of work’, I soon realised that the summer goes by very quickly, particularly when you may have summer holidays or other commitments posing distractions.
Therefore, my main piece of advice is do not under-estimate the amount of time and work that goes into this project. Whilst the main document may only include 12,000 words there is so much more to be done including research, appendices, referencing, calculations and analysis.
Finally, being organised in communication with your dissertation supervisor from the very start of the project is essential, as they too will have other commitments and holidays planned which may not fit with your schedule. Having all meetings planned from the start of the project, will assist in limiting the detrimental impact of this on your piece of work.
The consultancy project was a challenging but very rewarding piece of work that I enjoyed producing. I gained a lot from in terms of practical knowledge but also in improving my research, analytical, organisational and problem-solving skills.
What do I do next?
Having completed this Masters, it helped in answering the question that daunted me earlier in my studies…’what am I going to do after University?’. This course allowed myself to rule out a career in accountancy, as I missed the creativity and excitement that I got from my previous work within marketing. It did however, make me realise that I wanted to work for a global firm allowing myself to work with individuals across the world. Having worked on improving communication, organisation, problem-solving and teamwork skills, detailed above, I have successfully been able to secure a job as a Marketing Assistant at a global law firm, a role I cant wait to get stuck into.
- I would encourage all Masters students to be reflective of your own experience throughout the year. In doing this, I found that it helped improve the standard of my work, become fully immersed in the course and I improved in a broader range of areas than I expected. In addition, this allowed me to pin point the areas I enjoyed and excelled in to set myself up in the best position for job interviews and the next stage – starting work.
- Be open to discovering new styles of working and new subjects. As well as discovering I enjoy self-directed learning, I have also learnt that I enjoy economics. A subject I always thought was complicated and potentially ‘boring’ prior to studying.
- Finally, enjoy this year as it will absolutely fly by!!