For many, the attraction of joining an accounting firm lies in the variety of industries they can explore. However, few can visualise the full range of possibilities and challenges when applying for a job.
For example, Ken Yam had barely started working with Grant Thornton Jingdu Tianhua when he got involved in auditing a coal-mining company in China's Shandong province.
"I had no experience in the natural resources industry prior to this, so this was a valuable opportunity. Not only did I gain valuable audit experience, but I also learned a great deal about the industry in general and the specifics of the mining world through the work and the coaching experience of my project managers," he says.
Only six months into his employment, Yam has become an "Accountant I" in auditing and is preparing to become a qualified accountant.
He says the company backs him up with a solid training programme and a mentoring system. "Even if we come across situations that we do not know how to deal with, our mentor and senior colleagues are there to guide us and explain how to approach the situation professionally," Yam adds.
"Another challenge is that each client operates in very different ways and as an auditor, we have to adapt to the needs of the clients while providing the same high quality services," he says. "Each challenge is an opportunity and the outcome is that I have learned good strategies for time management and am now strong in adapting to different situations."
The company is an integrated part of Grant Thornton China, which has 70 partners and 1,500 professionals, with plans to expand to 4,000 to 5,000 people - including on the mainland - by 2015. It is recruiting for both entry level and senior positions.
Business savvy and communication skills are highly regarded, says Kelvin Kwong, staff partner. "Candidates should be able to take time and understand issues, and be able to respond in an appropriate manner. We seek candidates with the confidence to share their opinions and communicate effectively with people in all levels, from junior staff to partners," Kwong says.
Staff are encouraged to seize every opportunity for cultural exchange with their mainland colleagues to broaden their horizons. Most will have a chance to work in China. High performers will also be sent to member firms of Grant Thornton International on a secondment basis.
"The work is often challenging and demanding. This requires people to constantly upgrade their knowledge," says Kwong.
Technical and non-technical global training programmes are given regularly. The "advanced managers" programme draws together 60 experienced managers and takes place in different locations, the latest ones in Miami, Stockholm and Beijing.
The Grand Thornton Leadership Institute also presents a set of milestone leadership and business development programmes.