some lessons learnt from vac work
In December of 2011 I participated in the Ernst & Young vacation program in Brisbane. I'll firstly describe what I did during the 4 week program, and then point out some of the lessons gained.
The first day was an induction day where all of the vacationers were sent to a conference room and people from the HR department came and gave us presentations about EY, about what we would do, what the EY values are etc. I was assigned to work in the Supply Chain sub-section of the Performance Improvement section, which is a part of the Advisory department. I found all of these subsections pretty confusing to grasp, and after 4 weeks I was still pretty confused about it! In the afternoon we were issued with our ID's and building passes and our laptops, which really emphasised what the HR people said about how we were official EY employees now.
The rest of the week was filled with small jobs, such as doing some research for my 'buddy' (the employee from EY assigned to look after me essentially), and doing some online tutorials and courses that all new employees have to do. I also met a lot of the other employees in Performance Improvement: everyone was really friendly which ultimately made the vacation program go really smoothly. So the first week was pretty low key.
The next 2-3 weeks I pretty much worked on a Department of Education and Training (DET) proposal that EY was bidding for. Now as an engineering student, this is something I had no knowledge about, so it was a great learning experience for me. Over this time I had to summarize a lot of reports (most of which were up to 200 pages long!) and present my findings to one of the directors, which was very different for me; what really took me by surprise was that when I had the one-on-one with the director, he was actually taking notes on what I was saying, and asking me for recommendations! This was something I didn't expect to happen at my time at EY.
The rest of the time I worked on the proposal I was working directly with another EY employee, helping him gather employee and company credentials that were required for the proposal. I can tell you that it was one of the most vanilla things I've done, because, as you might expect, my interests dwell in science and maths, not CV's! But it was required for the proposal, and so I took great pleasure in knowing that I was directly helping everyone out.
In the last week I got the opportunity to visit a client of EY, with an EY employee. It was a small job about some loans, but it was pretty cool to get out of the office and do some client work.
So all in all, I learnt a lot of things over the vacation program. For example, I learnt how proactive you had to be in this industry, either by finding work for myself or following up on emails I sent to some of the partners in EY for the DET proposal. I learnt how you have to display yourself when visiting clients: dress smartly and always be respectful and understanding of the clients situation. I learnt that communication is essential between employees, and between employees and clients: you can't assume anything in this business, otherwise it could cost the company in many areas. Other lesson what that you always had to display yourself professionally in both a social and business scene as you are always representing the company. But probably the main lesson/experience I gained from the program was how a EY/consulting employee works, as in what is required by yourself to work in this industry, from your communication skills (both verbal and written) to the various clients in the various industries that EY deals with.
There's honestly so much more about the vacation program I could tell you about, but I think this is a nice summary.
So when you consider doing vacation work over the summer (or even winter) don't rule out consulting firms as you'll learn more than you think.