That’s a tough question and one that is hard to get a truly honest and impartial answer on. Why? Because the people you are likely to ask for advice might well have a vested interest in your decision. A Partner will nearly always want you to stay on. A recruiter will, more than likely, want you to move on.
The best place to start is at the end… what are your long term aspirations and then work back from there. We have compiled a number of pointers to help you think this question through carefully. Just remember – everyone’s situation is different, so make sure the decision you are making is in your best interests, not someone else’s….
Broadly speaking, people tend to have three types of answers to the big picture question:
#1 “I want to become Partner” If you have ambitions to become a Partner, the best route is to stay on in Practice after your training contract. It is very unusual for a Partner to come from industry, even if they have initially trained in Practice. Usually, becoming Partner is achieved by staying with your training firm or transferring to a competitor to get a step up to the next level. What is worth considering now is what area you want to become Partner in – for example, if you are really looking to transfer out of Audit into Advisory or Corporate Finance, you should plan to make this transition as early as possible after you qualify…making a move like that as a Director or a Partner is far less likely.
#2 “I want to become a Financial Controller, and perhaps ultimately, a CFO or CEO” If you have the ambition to become a captain of industry, staying on in Practice after your training contract is less likely to get you where you want to go. It is a misnomer that you will get “paid more” or access “better jobs” in industry if you get a few years under your belt as a Manager in practice. Why?
Let’s look at an example: If a company is looking for a Financial Controller or Finance Manager, they will nearly always look first for a qualified accountant with “x” years of post-qualified experience doing the job they are looking to hire. They will look first for Financial Controllers or Finance Managers that are in industry and look second (and a distant second) to Managers or Directors out of Practice. The people in your intake that left Practice after they qualified, are likely to have a significant competitive advantage over you for these types of roles as their experience will be more relevant. Fact.
Moving from Practice to industry is not easy. Staying on in Practice simply to receive a bump in salary or an Assistant Manager/Manager job title, is likely to make your move to industry more difficult than moving once your training contract ends.
#3 “I am not sure where I want my career to take me and want to keep my options open” If you are not 100% sure on your end goal, consider the following questions:
- Enjoy the work you are doing? If yes, staying on for a little while until you feel more comfortable in your decision is not a bad thing – just don’t leave it too long! (see #2 above)
- Not ready to leave but would like to do something new? It might be an idea to look internally and externally for different roles in practice like consulting, FAAS or similar. This type of move can sometimes give you the best of both worlds and can open up alternative career opportunities down the line beyond Finance teams – don’t under estimate it! Check out our piece on navigating your career in consulting here…
- Torn because you feel a sense of loyalty to your team/Partner? You really need to put that to one side. You have given 3 or 4 years to your team/Partner and now is the time to put yourself and your future first. Even if you do sign on for “another 6 months” after your contract ends, remember that after your training contract the employment relationship changes. Your new employment relationship is just like any other – you have a notice period and as long as you honour that, you are playing by the rules. If your “dream” job comes up during your 6 month contract, while it might not be optimal timing for your Partner, you have the right to hand in your notice at any time.
The above only scratches the surface of our original question and the right answer for you might not be the right answer for the person sitting next to you. Keep in mind that a good recruiter should be able to give you objective, personalised, advice on this and other questions.
In summary….seek out different opinions, align your aspirations for the future with the decisions you make today and make sure you don’t just do what someone else wants you to do; do what’s best for you and your career.
Coming out of your training contract in 2021? Do you want to make sure you make the very best first step after qualifying? Do you want a virtual coffee meeting with an expert recruitment consultant; someone who is a qualified accountant, just like you (meet some of our team here >>>)? Do you want a little help to create your very own best financial future? No problem. Just drop us a line today on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will take it from there. Simple.