Are you game?

The Gateway put their heads together and take on Ernst & Young's 'Game on challenge.'

Let's be honest, deciding what career route to embark on is rarely a precise science. You can weigh up the pros and cons of each profession; give points for expected salary, work life balance or the options a particular graduate role opens up further down the road. For many undergraduates these days, however, just getting a job is the main objective, which means that choosing your future employer may only marginally more precise than throwing darts at a big map of London.

Fortunately, a while back companies invented internships and work experience, effectively allowing you to 'try on' a particular career or company environment before signing up to it full-time. But what if you could have a 'dummy' attempt at doing your future job even before that and, better still, in your own free time and from the comfort of your own bedroom? Well now you can.

As the graduate recruitment process has gradually become more and more web-based, the latest innovation by Ernst & Young is an online game which simulates the real life working environment of the company by putting you through a simulation project. The 'Game on challenge' builds on the success of the game on milkround campus experience held at universities across the UK which received excellent student feedback. Students had the opportunity to meet the real people and partners that Ernst & Young's clients rely on day to day to help them guide their business, minimise their risk and look beyond today's issues to see tomorrow's opportunities. The online game is different in that it allows students to begin to understand the role they will play as an Ernst & Young graduate in helping them realise the real potential of their business.

Intrigued, The Gateway team decided to put its corporate expertise to the test and take on the 'Game on challenge' itself. Was The Gateway team cut out for a career in the professional services sector?

The challenge consists of four individuals tasks designed to simulate the steps involved in advising a fictional client - a coffee manufacturer - on a potential initial public offering (IPO), or stock market flotation. To assist you during the process, you are provided with a selection of resources: background on the company, information on the Industry, advice relating to the IPO process and emails from the client and your Ernst & Young colleagues.

First up you must pitch for the project itself, selecting the six best arguments as to why Ernst & Young deserve to be appointed as the advisers to the company. The Gateway picked what it thought were the most appropriate choices, cleverly emphasising the global expertise of Ernst & Young in response to the international nature of the coffee business. We had 'identified some of the key messages' but there was more that could be said. Our egos slightly bruised, we proceeded onto the next step.

Here we were asked to put together a team for the advisory process, selecting who we felt was the right individual from different divisions within the company: Advisory, Assurance, Corporate Finance and Tax. No problems there. Confident with our choices of key personnel we sailed through to the next round - the Project Plan. Here you must identify the priority in which to utilise these same divisions in the IPO process. Using the resources folder we identified the Corporate Finance unit as the most valuable but had we chosen correctly?

At the final stage we had to decide on how to spend the £1 million budget that the client have at their disposal; which areas should be prioritised as 'must have' services and those of which aren't necessary in this particular context. The sensible spending of money not being The Gateway team's forte, we struggled thought this stage - there are 16 different options, each vying for our cash.

With the task completed it was time to find out our score. Will the numerous talents of The Gateway team extend beyond putting words and images on pink paper?

To our surprise our final score was a respectable 76%. Not bad at all if we may say so. Ironically we excelled at the area we felt least confident about - the Budget spend, scoring an impressive 100%. Our team selection was also spot on, earning us 83%. Sadly it appears our project planning skills let us down with a laughable score of 0% all we have to show for our efforts.

Luckily, as a conversation with Elena Hickey, Ernst & Young's Senior Recruitment Marketing Manager, confirms, it is the taking part rather than the result that counts. The aim of the 'Game on challenge', she explains, is not provide a substitute for the interview or assessment centre stage of the application process. Instead, it looks to allow students an early insight into the nature of the work carried out by an employee at the firm to give them an inkling of whether it might be something they would enjoy and would be suited to. It highlights the different business areas which are involved over the life-span of a project and the types of skills required at each stage. This is by no means a complete view on life at the company, she emphasises, and will not give you the breadth of knowledge that an internship will allow. It is, however, a time-effective way for students to answer that most prevailing of questions - "what will the job be like?"

See if you can beat The Gateway Team: play take Ernst & Young's 'Game on Challenge' here.

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