“I have made some great contacts with some very senior professionals and have developed transferable skills that I can take anywhere.”

Back to student profiles

Sophie Barlow, North Highland UK

BA Business Economics with Industrial Placement

Doing a placement in a smaller management consultancy has given Sophie the chance to gain more responsibility and get more involved in project work early on.

“I knew I wanted to take a year out while I was at uni, but I didn’t transfer onto the ‘with Industrial Placement’ option until a couple of months into my first year. That was one of the things I liked about Exeter, the fact that there are lots of optional add-ons and you can change your degree programme as your preferences emerge.

I began applying for my placements early – before the September of my second year. My approach was to treat my search and applications a bit like a part-time job. I scheduled in time in my diary to tailor my CV and cover letter to each position, and worked with the Career Zone to develop my interviewing and networking confidence.

My practice paid off and I was successful in securing my placement with my number one choice, a boutique management consulting firm called North Highland UK, located in the heart of Covent Garden. As a relatively small consultancy, interns get a lot of responsibility early on, and we’re treated exactly the same as graduate analysts. So after just two days of induction, I was put straight onto project work.

During my first six months, I’ve worked in the client services part of the business, so I’m part of the team that puts together the figures on how the company is doing and creates reports to update the key stakeholders. I’ve had to become very competent with Excel and essential business software and management information tools, and have had a lot of freedom to implement my own ideas in improving processes.

There’s a lot of support for us interns. As well as a buddy, I have my own ‘counselling manager’ who is there to look after me. She takes my interests into account when putting me forward for projects, including a project with a global pharmaceutical company, which I should be starting in December.

One of the main things I’ve enjoyed has been the level of responsibility I’ve been given, and the freedom to flex my role to help me gain the most from my experience. I noticed a gap in the training schedule so managed to create and run my own course that will be carried on even after I leave. That’s something I wouldn’t have had the chance to do at one of the larger firms.

I see myself returning to North Highland when I graduate but even if I don’t, I have made some great contacts with some very senior professionals and have developed transferable skills that I can take anywhere.

If I can offer any advice, it would be when you are applying to professional services firms to not limit yourself to the big four. Smaller firms can offer you great experience and tend to have much flatter organisational structures so you can have more responsibility and get to work alongside some very senior people.”