The Barden Career Accountancy Ireland & Barden (Career Guide 2017)

With the ability to fully assess your current context, you’re now ready to use the Barden Career Model.

Designed specifically for accountants, this is a simple yet robust model that will help you visualise your options. It will also help you identify the strategic moves necessary for the realisation of your ultimate career goals. Most importantly, the model will allow you to compare your hopes, dreams and aspirations with the reality in the external market while giving you a road-map to guide you on your journey.


Draw a large circle. Let the centre of that circle represent the role and company you’ll be perceived to add the most value to, and hence where you will be compensated most for the value of your time; and be more likely to “beat the other guy” when you apply. The term “perceived” is key. It isn’t actually about being able to do the job, but the perception of your ability compared to the other guy (or, quite often, the “ideal” candidate). Quite often, your centre will be a direct replication of your current role with your nearest competitor. For example, a financial services audit manager in a Big 4 firm will find that it’s easiest to get a job as a financial services audit manager in another Big 4 firm. That person will also be able to hit the ground running and contribute higher-value billable hours. In essence, they will create more value faster, are more valuable as a result, and will therefore be compensated more for the value of their time. I guess they’ll also gain less value professionally from the move, as they won’t necessarily develop a dramatically different skillset.


Draw a short line from the centre of the circle and let that represent the radius of a smaller circle. Draw the smaller circle. Let’s call the area bound by the smaller circle the “near environment”. The near environment contains companies and roles that have something in common with your current company and role. The company may be in the same industry or close on the supply chain. It may operate to similar commercial drivers (B2B or B2C, high volume/low margin, Capex intensive, etc.) The role may be in the same structure (a consolidation environment, for example) or within a similar reporting environment (US GAAP, for example). This is where you need to use your imagination and look for strong or weak connections between your current experience and where you will be perceived to add value externally. The “far environment” is everything outside your near environment. This includes companies and roles that don’t have a lot in common with your current experience. The key here is perception. Opportunities in your far environment aren’t impossible to access, they’re just less likely because someone else’s centre will be closer.


Go back to the centre and draw a straight line heading for the far environment. Let that line represent the perception of your ability to do a job and hence your likelihood of winning that job: your access curve. As you approach the circumference of your near environment, that straight line begins to slowly curve downwards, further downwards as you head out into the far environment. The further you get from your centre, the less likely you will be to win the job. The chances never reach zero, as nothing is impossible – it just gets less likely. Interestingly, there’s another curve that correlates with your access curve – your learning curve. This takes a similar trajectory from the centre but curves up, not down. The difference between these two curves represents the value you will gain from a move (i.e. how much learning there will be for you).


Your access curve can be reshaped in certain circumstances. You can use trading variables to reduce the dip and increase the likelihood. However, trading variables is another term for compromise. Compromises can come in the form of: reduced salary; more difficulty in accessing the location; availability to start immediately; and willingness to take on a contract. In return for these compromises, you should gain learning in return. You can also get the opportunity to shift your centre and define for yourself an entirely new near environment. Using the Barden Career Model, you can become quite strategic about how you plot your career. You can understand when you should get a large/small pay rise/drop (and what you will get in return), identify opportunities on the periphery of your near environment that can shift your centre in the right direction, or you can understand when, why and how you might need to take a calculated risk for a longer-term goal.

click here to download your copy of Accounting Career Guide 2017 today.

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