When I first found out that I’d passed the NAO assessment centre, I was obviously really happy, but then I discovered the opportunity to start early in January, before the rest of my intake. Initially, I was unsure what to make of the position. Getting vital experience before exams start seemed like a huge advantage, while the full salary was also very attractive, but what would my responsibilities be when I hadn’t had any official training? Would I fit in without having other members of a cohort to discuss things with?

I decided that it was definitely worth it, and I’m incredibly glad that I did. A month in, I’ve already had some excellent grounding in the work that the NAO do, as well as a lot of fun in general! I was dropped into meetings straight away, which sounds daunting, but they made it clear from the outset that there were no expectations of me to do anything outside my comfort zone. My team were also eager to introduce themselves and help me settle in. A couple of other early starters began at the same time as me in London, so I haven’t been completely on my own in terms of a cohort either, with more starting in February and March.

In terms of work, I’ve been tasked with activities that are achievable, but not meaningless. I’ve also received some important training into how to use excel (something I’ve been told that I will learn to love), and double-entry bookkeeping (something that I’ve been told I need to get used to whether I like it or not). As someone with zero accountancy knowledge or expertise prior to starting, it’s been very helpful! It also helps me get ahead of the game for when college starts in September.

In just my third week, I was out on audit with some of my team. This was a great insight into how government organisations are run and the NAO’s role in making sure they fulfil their role correctly. I was given real responsibility from the first day, but wasn’t alone, with support from my manager and the other trainees. While I was just shadowing members of the team as they dealt officially with the client’s staff, I did carry out some of the sample tests myself behind the scenes.

The next few months should be as exciting as my first. I’m getting involved in a high-profile VfM study, as well as carrying out some other audits with the different teams in my cluster. After these projects, final audit season begins, which should be challenging but interesting! Ultimately, if you’re reading this and considering whether to go for the early starter scheme, I can definitely recommend it. Especially so if, like me, you’re interested in government but don’t know the first thing about accounting. I’ve gained some vital grounding in audit before the exams kick off, as well as accountancy more broadly!

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