Taking Stock: Auditing Your Career Plan as an Accountant

If I were to ask you where you see yourself in 10 years, what would you say? My guess is, you would say you’d like to be working in a leadership role that challenges you, with a progressive company. You might also add that you’d like more people management accountability, and I’ll place money on the fact it would involve more commercial, or strategic, responsibility.

But, in reality, what does that all mean? And is it authentic?

We all go through periods in our career we know we want to move “up”, but aren’t really quite sure what that next step is, or what it looks like. As a recruiter, I’ve spent years helping professionals get to where they want to be. To do this well, you’ve got to plan your career, in stages, and audit your progression on a regular basis.

Work Out Your End Goal

If you were leading a project, you’d never even attempt to start planning without fully understanding what the end goal is. So why do we do this so flippantly with our careers?

It’s understandable that when you’re younger, unless you are gifted with a vocational calling, this might be a difficult one to pin down. However, at this stage of your professional development, you should have a good idea of your strengths and your preferences to define where you want to head. Not everyone can be, or will want to be, a Fortune 500 CFO, and that’s perfectly ok. It might be that it’s your career goal to become an integrated finance business partner with no people management responsibility but lots of commercial input, or it might be that you want a career that focuses primarily on technical work and people management and a large transactional team lead role is your ideal fit.

SWOT Your Work Portfolio (or CV)

Bearing the above comments in mind, analyse and map out your career strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. What skills or areas of knowledge have you really got a firm grip on and where have you been successful? Likewise, you need to identify and deal head on with those negative areas where you have gained no experience, or where you need to improve.

Compare this with the criteria required to achieve your end goal, and you will start to see “gaps”, as in the areas that you need to work on and develop to get to where you want to be. Creating a list of what experience you need to master will focus your career plan, and create tangible objectives.

Consider and Plan Further Study

Consider what study opportunities you can avail of, either with your current employer or in a new role. It might not be top of the list to go back to the books, but being able to demonstrate continual educational advancement is of pivotal importance. Beyond looking good, you might also need it to perform your “end goal” role, so incorporating this into your career plan is key, to complete it at a suitable and logical time for you. CFA, MBA, Chartered Tax, PMP/Prince 2 or Six Sigma qualifications could all be valid considerations here, and may also help you overcome some of your career “weaknesses”.

Think Outside of The Box

Career planning is not all about changing jobs. In fact, if your plan requires constant job changes to facilitate your development, it’s going to be tough. You may very well achieve a promotion or role repositioning by moving to another company, but I’d suggest you attempt a number of these moves internally. Not only is it easier, as if you’ve done a good job, your company will facilitate your development, but it also demonstrates high-performance and tenacity, that you’re not just going to “jump” to a better option. If your company doesn’t really support internal transfers, or is too small, think about where you can add value outside of your role remit. If you’re lacking experience in corporate governance, present an idea to your FD regarding internal controls improvement, or take responsibility for updating risk registers or coordinating the annual audit.

Then, it’s over to you! Being ruthless with your career planning process shows advanced critical thinking capability, and also a focused drive, rather than untamed ambition. You’ll start to buzz when you begin ticking off those boxes, and feel more confident in your current role and career decisions.

Make sure you do take the time to re-evaluate, on a 6-month basis at least, and of course, congratulate yourself on the steps you’ve achieved!

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