It can be difficult when we’re starting out in our careers to know exactly where we want to be in the future.
Here, in the latest article from the new Barden & Chartered Accountants Ireland Career Guide 2023, Siobhán Sexton ACA, Business Lead Expert in Recently Qualified Accounting, Tax and Practice Careers with Barden gives her advice on planning career changes in 2023.
We’re navigating the ins and outs of the professional world, many of us for the first time, learning about our strengths and weaknesses, and striving to meet our responsibilities and, where possible, exceed expectations.
It’s not surprising then that, for some of us, the bigger picture can take a back seat and it’s a few years down the line before we realise that we may be heading in the wrong direction.
For Chartered Accountants with a few years’ post-qualified experience under their belt, it’s not impossible to pivot and propel your career in a new direction—from practice to industry, for example, or vice versa, or from a Big 4 firm to a smaller practice. Timing is important, however, so, if you find yourself questioning your choices where you are, get the advice you need to make the move to where you want to be.
Siobhán Sexton ACA, is Business Lead Expert in Recently Qualified Accounting, Tax and Practice Careers with Barden
Options Starting Out
Once Chartered Accountants qualify, they have a number of options open to them. The majority move into industry or financial services, depending on the department they have trained with.
Typically, between 75 and 80 percent will move into a financial role in industry. Ten to 15 percent, meanwhile, will become financial analysts, and the remainder will become internal auditors or tax specialists—again, depending on the area they have trained in.
Some might choose to move abroad to gain international experience and others will choose to stick with the practice they trained in, gaining additional experience and becoming managers and assistant managers. For those that move from a bigger to a smaller practice, the draw is often the opportunity to gain experience they did not have access to during their training contract.
Financial accountants and financial analysts have different job titles in different companies. At Barden, when working with qualified accountants, we spend a lot of time deciphering what these job titles mean.
Your Options Now
It’s possible to move from practice into industry, or from industry into practice. However, the further along a professional is in their career, and the more senior they have become, the trickier it becomes to make a lateral career move, one potential consequence being a drop in salary. Hence, most professionals tend to make the move earlier, rather than later, in their career.
The most common move we see is from practice into industry. The appeal here for some candidates is that, in business, accountants tend to gain really good exposure to reporting and analysis. It’s less common for accountants to move from industry to practice, but doing so can actually be very rewarding. You have the opportunity to gain experience across different industries, for example, and to learn about building key business relationships with clients and other stakeholders.
Long Term Opportunities
The earlier you make the move from practice to industry, or vice-versa, the easier it will be. Ultimately, you have to ask yourself, ‘where do I see myself in the long-term?’ If you don’t see yourself as a partner in practice, for example, it would be more beneficial for your long-term career to move out of practice sooner rather than later.
If you stay in practice for a couple of years and then look to make a move, you may be competing with people who have already switched course and gained experience in industry. Also, the more senior you are in your existing career, the more likely it is that you will have to compromise on salary or title to gain traction where others have already proved themselves.
Joining A Smaller Practise
Leaving the Big 4 realm to join a smaller practice will typically allow you to gain broader experience. If you’re coming from the audit department of a Big 4 firm, for example, you naturally won’t have gained a lot of exposure to tax. Working at a smaller practice, you will gain wider experience of financial reporting, tax and advisory services, acting as a trusted partner to clients in businesses that are typically owner- or manager-led.
It’s important to bear in mind that, by their nature, these businesses will be smaller than the clients you will have worked with in Big 4. It’s a different dynamic.
To Move Or Not To Move?
A career-focused Chartered Accountant will typically move two or three times in their first five years PQE, either internally or externally. At Barden, we recommend that you initially seek out opportunities internally, because you will already have gained a solid understanding of the business and that can be a big advantage.
There are no hard and fast rules in this scenario. If you’re gaining good experience in your existing team, learning from good people around you and you’re progressing, don’t move just for the sake of moving. If you feel you’re not the best person on your team, however, you’re probably not in the right place and an internal move could bring better career benefits.
For those who have itchy feet and an urge to travel and explore after the stifling restrictions of the recent pandemic, the good news is that the Chartered Accountants Ireland qualification is recognised in the majority of countries worldwide.
Better yet, in the current market, there is strong demand internationally for Chartered Accountants trained in Ireland. The ease or difficulty of moving abroad will depend on a number of factors, including an individual country’s visa requirements. In some cases, you might also need to consider language barriers.
If you want to work in France, for example, you will need to factor in your ability to speak French well enough to communicate clearly with colleagues and clients.
Plotting Your Job Search
If you’re looking for a new role, either in your existing field or a new one, your first port-of-call should be an expert recruitment firm specialising in your profession and skill set. At Barden, we are all qualified Chartered Accountants, advising Chartered Accountants.
Sending out your CV blindly, without having a fundamental knowledge of the role you’re applying for, or the organisation you’re applying to, is a huge risk. Instead, you should thoroughly research the companies and organisations that are recruiting and for which you would like to work. Other people’s views and experiences matter so don’t be afraid to talk to people who may have experience of working for these companies— but take care to maintain a balanced view of what they have to say. Gather as much information and insight as you can before you make any final decision.
At Barden, we advise and guide Chartered Accountants on a daily basis. We give them step-by-step guidance on their CVs and support them with interview preparation, so that they have the best possible chance of succeeding in their job search.
The primary focus of your CV will be on your professional qualification and work experience, but don’t neglect your interests and activities outside work. You may enjoy sports, have an interest in the arts, or engage in voluntary work, for example. All of this makes you human and, for the majority of employers, culture fit is very important. Preparation for interviews is also crucial.
At Barden, we will spend an hour with you either over coffee or via Microsoft Teams, going through sample interview questions and answers to make sure you are properly prepared.
Like to Know More or Are You Considering Your Next Step?
Siobhan Sexton is a Business Lead Expert in Recently Qualified Accounting, Tax and Practice Careers with Barden. Reach out to Siobhan at email@example.com for further insights on the market and to see how he, and his team, can help you identify the best next step in your professional career.