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Audit trainee uses volunteering powers to build small firm network

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 28 May 2021

To mark Volunteers’ Week, ICAEW Insights champions its volunteering community, starting with Olivia Carling, Vice Chair of The Chartered Accountant Student Society of London.

As Vice Chair of The Chartered Accountant Student Society of London (CASSL), and an ACA Audit Trainee at Sayer Vincent, Olivia Carling was elected to take students’ ideas within the society, help coordinate them and put the ideas into action. One of her ideas was to establish a buddy system among smaller accountancy firms to help with ACA training, much like the ones readily available to students inside the Big Four.

As part of ICAEW’s coverage of Volunteers’ Week, she spoke with ICAEW Insights about the project, and how volunteering has helped her from a professional and social standpoint.

“The buddy system was something I actually noticed in bigger firms where they have quite large networks available to them. Most people who are accounting students won’t have this system to benefit from,” said Carling.

She added: “The idea of the mentorship scheme is to give everyone access to the network and open up opportunities to meet each other and discuss things like how to manage work experience, exams, ethics and professional development within the ACA. When you’re first starting out, things like this can make a world of difference.”

What are the benefits of volunteering?

Carling believes the benefits of volunteering are twofold as there is a professional development side and also a social side.

Professional development

“In my volunteering role, I get to lead projects and make action plans that I would never be able to do in my day job. I get to come up with ideas and make them happen. In my day-to-day role, I'm looking at accounts and I'm pretty much answerable to my clients. Whereas when volunteering, I get that opportunity to be creative and make projects happen, which is a really good experience for me.”

Carling enjoys the added responsibility of volunteering as it enables her to practice vital job skills such as creating objectives and business proposals and hosting meetings. This progresses her professional development because ‘that's just something I probably wouldn't get the opportunity to do for much of my day job’. She also gains softer skills such as time networking, planning and communication.

The social side

“In terms of volunteering, you may think we’re just heavily involved in setting up all the events and don’t get involved much - that it’s all work, no play. But it’s quite the opposite. As I'm involved in the planning process, I can reap the benefits of all the amazing events we're hosting because I know what’s coming up and when.”

‘It sounds a bit lame, but creating a little network of people who understand what you're going through can be really beneficial,” says Carling. “You’re all going through the same thing, which means you can give each other advice going forward’.

‘Be the person that you wish you had’

“There's something really nice about being able to give back as a volunteer, especially when you have been presented with great opportunities and you’re able to present those opportunities to other people as well,” continues Carling. “Volunteering allows you to be the person you wish you had when you were starting out.”

That's part of what the buddy scheme exists, and one of the reasons she likes volunteering as well. Reflecting on the many people she has met through CASSL, Olivia has met some great friends and like-minded people with whom she enjoys spending time.

“It's the whole idea around having a growth mindset: you never want to be finished with learning, you always want to be continuously improving yourself because you're never a complete version. There's always something you can learn from everyone you speak to,” Carling concludes.

Volunteers’ Week is led in partnership by NCVO, Volunteer Scotland, Volunteer Now (Northern Ireland) and Wales Council for Voluntary Action and supported by organisations across the UK. It takes place between 1-7 June as a “Time to say thanks” to the volunteering community