Are you about to finish your training contract? Are you already thinking about your next step when it comes to your professional future…but don’t know where to start? Well you’ve come to the right place. Barden is where recently qualified accountants go before they even start looking for a job.
This blog series is designed specifically with you in mind, giving you the information you need to make your very best first step as a qualified accountant.
First up…Why job titles are irrelevant.
Ever looked at a job title and got excited, only to read on and find it’s not the job you thought it was?
Welcome to the world of misleading job titles!
In one organisation a ‘Financial Analyst’ will be someone who is very involved in partnering with commercial functions to provide insights, while in another it refers to someone who performs the monthly GAAP close; both quite different roles, yet with the same title.
Likewise, as your career progresses, you’ll find that the further you move up and through the organisational chain, the more difference you will see across job titles – a Financial Controller in an SME company will be doing a very different job than a Financial Controller in Facebook.
To help you navigate your career in the right direction, we have highlighted the three main groups of positions you will encounter coming out of contract and all their possible titles!
#1 FINANCIAL ACCOUNTANT
AKA GL Accountant, Financial Analyst, Management Accountant, Reporting Accountant, or just plain… Accountant.
Don’t let the term ‘Analyst’ sway you here.
This group can be defined by the common objective of “producing a set of financial statements for a business”. The role is also likely to include other variants, but your core mandate will be financial accounting delivery. Look out for items in the job description that might point to additional tasks you have and also consider the structure of the organisation itself. If it’s a shared service centre for a US business, you can bank on the fact a lot of the work will be very month-end focused and may have less interaction with the ‘business’ than with an ‘Accountant’ role in an SME or group finance function.
#2 MANAGEMENT ACCOUNTANT/ FINANCIAL ANALYST
AKA Commercial Accountant, Finance Business Partner, Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A), Commercial Finance Analyst, or, yet again, just… Accountant.
You’re starting to see the overlap in titles!
So, let’s define this category as everything you do after the financial statements or month-end results are produced – variance analysis, budgeting, forecasting and profitability analyses, assisting with core strategies and key decision-making. These roles can be OpEx, CapEx or Revenue oriented.
What you will need to assess here is the % of time spent behind the computer screen analysing information and time spent interacting with key stakeholders and influencing decisions, ie. business partnering. A 90%/10% split in this dimension is a very very different job to a 10%/90% split. The key here is that ‘financial analysis’ can have a broad range of connotations and can have a different purpose from one company to another. The function of of the ‘Financial Analyst’ and the structure of the organisation/finance function often defines the distance between you and key internal stakeholders.
#3 INTERNAL AUDIT
No confusing alternative job titles here; it’s just known as Internal Audit!
This is probably the most misunderstood of the categories. Chuck out those ideas of it being the same as External Audit – it’s not!
Internal Audit roles can be a great way of accessing certain industries, which ordinarily may not be accessible to you given your experience, and to gain an understanding of how a business actually works. Despite initial impressions, IA presents a commercial opportunity, so it’s worthwhile assessing the long-term opportunities that can be afforded to you by choosing an IA role at this stage in your career.
Most of the Group FCs and executive-level finance professional we work with have spent some of their career in IA. Why? Because IA gives you access to senior (if not executive) management like no other role and will enable you to pick and choose your career path within the business in the future. If you’re particularly ambitious and are striving for the top, IA is a smart and strategic career move to jump you ahead of your peers, so it’s definitely one you should explore further. We asked Craig Doherty in CRH what he thought about working in Internal audit and here’s what he said…..
All in all, the key takeaway here is to read beyond the title and get into the detail. Do your research on the organisational structure, establish what it is you want from your career and don’t get mislead by preconceptions you may have developed in external audit.