Every year brings a slightly different job market for Chartered Accountants and 2023 is no exception. As a Chartered Accountant at the early stages of your career, you will need to keep a close eye on economic trends, both national and global, as well as the sectors that are buoyant and those that are stagnating.
Even if you have only just gone through the job search process as a newly qualified ACA, it’s worth revisiting the key elements of the process that you need to get right. This will give you the best possible chance of securing the perfect role for the next step in your career path.
Here, in the latest article from the new Barden & Chartered Accountants Ireland Career Guide 2023, Dave Riordan, FCA, Recruitment Specialist and Career Coach with the Careers Team at Chartered Accountants Ireland , gives us some key pillars of the process worth considering…
Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses
The best place to start is by getting to know yourself. There are several methods by which you can test your aptitudes, strengths and weaknesses. Think about taking aptitude tests and talking honestly with mentors and peers about your work and career.
Take time to explore and define: – what you are good at; – what you have been praised for at annual reviews, and; – what you want to improve and develop. Create your own ‘career file’ aligning all three items with your career goals.
Define Your Brand
Build your CV while being cognisant of your personal brand. What unique selling point (USP) do you want to convey to set you apart from your competition?
When building your CV, don’t just list off the historical duties and responsibilities of the roles you have held. Describe your value and highlight your key achievements concisely to the reader. Remember this is your sales document. Its purpose is to get you to the interview stage.
Prepare For Interviews
Plan for both formal and informal interviews. Write down your key stories and examples and refine how you will put these across to an interviewer.
Start to build your interview narrative: what are your main selling points, key stories that illustrate your abilities, strengths and accomplishments, and examples of how you have added value in previous roles?
Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Contact the Institute’s Careers Team or a respected recruiter to request an interview preparation session. Remember, every interview is different, so customised preparation is always advised.
Document Your Career Plan
As we’ve mentioned here already, it’s a good idea to put together your own ‘career plan’ document, and to get into the habit of updating it on a weekly basis. Your career plan should become an essential resource when you are job-hunting, with information on market intelligence, key networking contacts, prospective job titles, and preferred companies to work for.
Once you have worked out what your USP is, think about how you will articulate this to recruiters and hiring managers. Write an action list aimed at enhancing your profile in the market. Have an ongoing segment in your career plan examining extra qualifications or courses, charities you can get involved with, pro bono board positions, etc. Make sure you fully research the different directions you could potentially take your career in, particularly if there is more than one sector you are passionate about. Don’t worry too much about what your peers are earning, or whether their employers seem ‘glamorous’—far off hills are always greener!
Do Some Market Mapping
You should begin market mapping during the initial research phase of your job search and document the results in your career plan. Mapping will help you job search more efficiently, rather than taking a scattergun approach to applications.
Analyse which organisations you want on your list of ‘top ten’ preferred employers and follow them on social media to stay abreast of current developments in each.
Set up alerts for different job titles you are interested in with various jobs boards. The roles sent to you will give you a broad snapshot of what your target market looks like. While standing at your ‘job change crossroads’, make sure you step back and take a helicopter view of the many ways you can use your qualification, and the myriad sectors and roles open to you.
Build Your Network
When you qualify, it can be tempting to distance yourself from the Institute, which you have perhaps come to associate with study, exams and hard slog over the course of your three-and-a-half year training contract. However, now is the perfect time to stay close to the Institute and leverage this ready-made network by participating in events, committees and CPD talks, etc.
Adopt a networking mentality by starting to speak to your peer group about what they plan to do with their careers in the years ahead. Use social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, and start to build sector and business connections. This will also serve to raise your visibility in the market, as well as enhancing your personal brand. Don’t be shy about exploring the LinkedIn profiles of successful Chartered Accountants that are a few years ahead of you. It can be useful to look at the steps they have taken in their own careers and the upskilling they have taken part in along the way.
Apply the Right Way
When it comes to active job applications, there are three main ways to secure a new role: – recruiters; – direct applications, and; – your personal network. Pay attention to how much time you are investing in each of these three options, bearing in mind the stage you have reached in your career pathway.
If you are working with a recruiter, make sure they fully understand the nuances and intricacies of a career as a Chartered Accountant. And keep in mind when making applications, that a short- or medium-term contract might be the perfect move for you at this juncture.
Round Up the Right Referees
Consider formalising your professional relationship with a few experienced mentors whose advice and support you can count on as you look to progress your career. Think about who you would like your referees to be in 2023 and beyond—making sure they will be ready to sing your praises when needed.
Consider Overseas Experience
Any recruiter will tell you that Chartered Accountants with international experience tend to display a worldliness and maturity that comes across well at interview. Working abroad can deliver great experience, giving you valuable ammunition and confidence for future interviews. Very often, greater responsibility is given to Chartered Accountants working overseas, which can help to accelerate your career trajectory if you return home.