Since beginning my accounting and finance degree I have had an interest in pursuing the CIMA qualification post-graduation so, when I heard about this opportunity, I knew I had to apply. The Undergraduate of the Year Award was brought to my attention by one of my lecturers who had also got me involved in the CIMA Business Game a few weeks prior, a great experience that helped motivate me to apply.

The process began with a short application form that included two questions set by CIMA. These challenged my thoughts on change within the industry and asked me to identify whom I admired within the profession. Subsequently, I was asked to complete online assessments from SHL, like those in graduate scheme applications. Having run out of time towards the end, I thought I would be unsuccessful in reaching the next stage. When I received an invitation to the webinar for the final 40 candidates, I was a little surprised.

During the webinar the ten finalists were announced followed by details of the final stage, which involved a CIMA business scenario like those in the case study exams for the professional qualification. We were tasked with writing a report outlining strategies for growth and then creating a presentation and short advert for our chosen strategy. Next, we presented our chosen strategy to an audience of six senior finance professionals, followed by a Q&A. I found this a challenging and rewarding experience, which enabled me to showcase and develop my strategic mindset, analytical skills and commercial acumen.

The time between making my presentation and the awards ceremony was filled with anxiety and excitement. Despite the current situation, the TARGETjobs team were able to create a fantastic virtual awards ceremony, which included an opportunity to network with other finalists and CIMA representatives. Overall, the competition has provided me with an invaluable opportunity to improve my skillset and stand out to employers at a time when other opportunities are difficult to find I would encourage anyone thinking of applying to do so; the competition will benefit your personal development and give an insight into the CIMA qualification.