In recent years, corporate governance has experienced a growth in recognition and the role of a company secretary has developed into one of a trusted advisor, fundamental to the board and the company as a whole. It is not surprising that the profession has increased in popularity, with graduates choosing a company secretarial career as their first choice as opposed to ‘falling into the world of cosec’.
As a Fellow of ICSA, I am passionate about seeing the company secretarial profession flourish. However, I am aware that a number of aspiring and junior company secretaries have expressed concerns about the difficulty in securing entry-level roles or further advancing their career as a company secretary.
Competition for company secretarial opportunities is always increasing and a number of individuals have come to the realisation that a degree at university and/or the ICSA qualification will not automatically secure graduates a role.
Aviva has participated in a number of initiatives aimed at graduates who want to be given an opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to a career as a company secretary. There are various initiatives that members of secretariat departments can get involved in to help aspiring company secretaries’ boots their CV’s:
Work experience placements
ICSA have launched a work experience/trainee platform called ICSA Advance. Here, employers have the opportunity to post opportunities for students who are eager to learn and who have an interest in all company secretarial matters. This is a great initiative from ICSA and I would encourage all employers to consider posting vacancies, work placements or internship opportunities on this site.
Following a conversation with ICSA, I have committed Aviva plc to working closely with them on future work experience placements and I encourage fellow employers to do the same.
Host an Insight Day
ICSA, in conjunction with the company secretarial recruitment specialist DMJ, have organised a series of ‘Insight Days’. These offer an opportunity for students and graduates interested in a company secretarial career to attend sessions led by prominent UK companies. The sessions provide those interested with further insight into what life is really like as a company secretary and the functionality of the secretarial department. This is an excellent opportunity to promote our profession.
Invite students to your upcoming AGM
In March 2017, a few keen individuals attended Aviva’s 2017 AGM. The experience was hugely beneficial to these aspiring company secretaries as they were granted an insight into the biggest event in a company’s calendar and the opportunity to understand the AGM process of a FTSE 100 company.
One student who attended our AGM wrote a blog about his experience and following a short placement in our secretariat department, he was offered a full time position at a listed company.
The blog of his experience can be found on DMJ’s website.
ICSA has an ongoing scheme called ‘AGM Invitations’ that offers opportunities for students to attend AGMs and is always keen for more companies to get involved.
To find out more information about ICSA Advance, Insight Days and AGM Invitations, visit ICSA’s new Graduate Hub.
Become a professional mentor
Mentoring can be an incredibly rewarding experience, which can help you maximise your mentees potential and confidence through guidance and encouragement. Do not underestimate your position as a role model. An increasing number of graduates aspire to be governance professional and will be extremely grateful for your time and your opinion.
A good place to start would be the ICSA’s official mentoring scheme, launched in 2016. ICSA graduates, Associates and Fellows can volunteer to offer their time and services to support other members of ICSA with matters related to their career and development. If you are interested in joining the scheme either as a mentee or mentor, please contact Theresa Minnie, ICSA’s Head of Outreach, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Julian Baddeley FCIS is Deputy Group Company Secretary & Corporate Counsel at Aviva plc
I am a chartered secretary in Aviva plc’s secretariat team. I joined Aviva in 2013 as a company secretarial assistant while completing my dissertation for the LLM Corporate Governance and Law/GradICSA degree at the University of Portsmouth. I achieved full chartered status and became an Associate of ICSA in October 2016.
Throughout my degree, I applied for many trainee company secretarial positions and either did not receive any responses or was unsuccessful due to the lack of experience I possessed. This was hugely frustrating as people at the start of their careers are usually inexperienced.
I decided to gain the required experience by contacting various employers applying for unpaid work experience opportunities but again I did not receive many responses. However, I persevered and was offered a two-week placement in an investment company. I hugely enjoyed the work experience placement – it mainly focused on the administrative aspects of company secretarial work but was beneficial for my career as it demonstrated my commitment to being a company secretary and strengthened my CV.
I mentor aspiring cosecs and co-organise Aviva’s work experience placements and Insight Days. I think it is hugely important to promote growth and self esteem and entice talented individuals to our profession.
Marsha Rennie ACIS is a Chartered Secretary at Aviva plc