A Strong Career Start: Hatching An Entry-Level Accounting Career With Grant Thornton


Sariyya Panahi had her sights set on Grant Thornton early in her career.

She would often attend networking events at York University, meeting potential employers and looking to connect with companies in her field. Through meeting Grant Thornton’s employees, she quickly determined that their positive and supportive work culture would be a prime place to start her career.

Grant Thornton’s positive reputation also caught the eye of Yanyu Sha. Their “Best Workplace” award made it clear to her that the firm was a place that offered balance and equal opportunities for its workers.

Award Alert – Grant Thornton has won a number of TalentEgg awards, including Campus Recruiting Program of the Year (2013).

Today, Sariyya and Yanyu both work as accountants with Grant Thornton. They’re still early in their careers, but they say their experiences so far have been extremely valuable and rewarding.

The hiring process

Applying to Grant Thornton? Here’s Sariyya’s advice:

  • Network: This was one of the biggest factors in Sariyya’s success. Having an excellent resume is not enough – you need to show potential employers the person behind the application.
  • Tailor your application: Outline your major successes and connect the skills you’ve gained/improved through those experiences. Highlight how these skills will make you valuable to potential employers.

Sariyya landed her role with Grant Thornton through immense preparation. She maintained connections with Grant Thornton employees she met at several campus networking events, and conducted in-depth research on the company to see if it would be a good fit for her.

Sariyya found out what services they perform and what industries they serve, as well as their community involvement outside of the workplace. Furthermore, she talked to Grant Thornton employees and found out what qualities and skills they were looking for in a candidate.

For Yanyu, the process was a bit more direct. After researching Grant Thornton’s credentials online, she submitted her application and waited for a response.

Her application was strong enough to grant her an opportunity to meet with the firm in Winnipeg. About a week after applying, she was contacted by email for a phone interview, and eventually, an in-person interview.

“The process is very friendly. My interviewers encouraged me to tell them more about myself and my career goals,” says Yanyu. “They focused on determining if my personality would fit the team.”

Yanyu stressed that being prepared was a key factor in helping her stand out in the interview process.

“I researched the company and its strategy, then tied Grant Thornton’s goals with my personal experience to show why I was the best candidate,” she said. “I asked my friends who are working in public practice about their job in order to get a better idea of what the interviewers could ask me during the interview.”

Sariyya followed a similar application and interview process, where she was also hired for the position. While there were other factors that led to Sariyya’s success, she believes her friendly personality and her work/school experiences made her stand out during the process.

“[My experiences] showed them I could both lead and work as part of the team, take initiative and that I was not afraid to face challenges,” she says. “In addition to that, my interests and ability to hold conversations on non-work related topics played an important role in my success.”

Learning the ropes

Starting Careers Off Right: Hatching An Entry-Level Accounting Career With Grant Thornton
Yanyu Sha, Junior Accountant at Grant Thornton LLP.

During their first few weeks at Grant Thornton, both Yanyu and Sariyya were involved in an extensive training session. All the new employees were taught Grant Thornton’s methodology and values, as well as the software used by Grant Thornton.

As an Intermediate Accountant, Sariyya spends an average day working with her team of 2-4 team members. Part of the day is spent with the client, where they discuss accounting and non-accounting related items. Even though they are assigned their work and roles, each team member is encouraged to take on more challenging work to grow their experiences and skillsets.

“The boardroom is rarely quiet since we often discuss the file within the team or hold non-audit related conversations,” says Sariyya.

“We also take our lunch together and get to know one another better. The social aspect of the job ensures that although my average day at work is a pretty long one, it is still fun and enjoyable.”

Yanyu is a Junior Accountant – on a typical day, she works on a variety of different client files, prepares tax returns, and asks a lot of questions in order to learn.

“I’m always looking for opportunities where I can give meaningful advice to our clients, to help them grow their business,” she says.

One of Sariyya’s favourite things about working at Grant Thornton is the work culture – The team at Grant Thornton understands that new hires don’t have a lot of direct accounting or audit experience, so new hires are always encouraged to ask as many questions as possible.

It’s very easy for a newer employee to connect with someone more experienced to seek out their expertise. Sariyya recalls the first time she was assigned to lead a small engagement, her Senior Manager ensured that she had all the help and guidance possible to successfully complete the file.

“At the end of the day, the better we understand the engagement, the more efficiently the file will be done,” she says

Yanyu has had similar positive experiences with her team. Her initial training sessions showcased the company’s willingness to help new grads grow in their role.

“People working at Grant Thornton are very willing to help me out whenever I have questions,” she says. “They not only provide the answer, but explain how they came to that conclusion.“

Successes and challenges

Since starting their careers at Grant Thornton, Sariyya and Yanyu have gained important career skills. Aside from learning new software, Yanyu says she has improved her communication and time management skills. She has also become much more detail-oriented – an important skill in her line of work.

Sariyya Panahi, Intermediate Accountant at Grant Thornton LLP

Sariyya says she’s learned how to train and develop new team members, and how to quickly identify risks and tailor procedures based on a client’s file. She has also gained engagement management skills.

She says that the most challenging part of her career comes during the busy season, where the accounting team works extended hours – but Grant Thornton does a good job at recognizing the work they do through performance reviews and supportive management.

Yanyu finds satisfaction in her day-to-day work – she says working in-person with her clients is the most rewarding part of her role.

“I had the chance to help a client solve issues on her inventory account, and it felt really good to give meaningful advice,” she says. “I think being able to help clients is the most rewarding part of the job for me.”

Sariyya found herself pleasantly surprised by how much she enjoyed her new work environment. Even though they are one of the biggest accounting firms in the country, they still maintain a small firm culture.

“Everybody knows one another, including partners and senior managers,” says Sariyya. “I realized I would be more than just an employee – I would be a family member.”

Career planning

Sariyya and Yanyu’s experiences as accountants with Grant Thornton have given them great foundations to build their careers.

Why you should connect with your co-workers – Yanyu’s advice

  • Manage expectations: It’s difficult to know what the company expects of you from day one. Ask someone who’s been there!
  • Listen and learn: People love giving advice. And taking their advice benefits you too!

Sariyya’s new position hasn’t slowed down her drive – her goal is to be promoted to Senior Accountant next year, and to take the lead on larger, more complex engagements. She hopes this experience will help her transition into a managerial role with Grant Thornton.

Yanyu has no set career plans for the moment – while she keeps her options open, Grant Thornton has provided valuable resources to help her map out her career growth.

“Each year, we set our goals with the help of a coach that the firm assigns to us,” she says. “I indicate what kind of goals that I would like to achieve in a year, and my coach helps me stay on track and achieve my goals. It’s nice to know that someone is looking out for me, that they want me to be successful.”

Grant Thornton has also supported Sariyya in her personal development. She’s grateful for it, and attributes a big part of her career success so far to her employer’s help.

“There are always opportunities to learn and shine, including seminars, secondments to different countries, exposure to more complex engagements and many training sessions covering different aspects of accounting,” says Sariyya.

For now, Yanyu and Sariyya are enjoying where they are in their careers – and the prospects of where their experiences with Grant Thornton will take them.

“My favourite thing about my job is the ability to work on a different team and with different clients every few weeks, which makes the job more fun,” says Sariyya. “The fact that I am not working on the same thing every day keeps it interesting.”

“Through my work at Grant Thornton, I’ve had the opportunity to experience many different types of industries,” says Yanyu. “I believe this experience, which I wouldn’t get outside of Grant Thornton, is what has helped me be successful and adapt to new situations.”

Looking for an egg-cellent career in accounting? Check out Grant Thornton’s opportunities here