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Retraining in Accountancy in your 50s

Training

Navigating the world of finance careers in your fifties can provide a rewarding and exciting new challenge, especially if it’s your first time applying within the finance and accountancy landscape. Flexible working, online education resources, and the push for more inclusive and diverse workplaces all provide a fertile environment for change.

Take accountancy and finance. While you may need to conduct training, it can more often than not be completed online. The ACCA qualification allows you to complete your training online, in virtual classrooms and at your own pace. Upon completion and once employed, you may even be able to work 100% remotely within a home working job role or just spend a few days a week in the office.

Retraining in accountancy may seem like a daunting move, yet it’s worth remembering that you’re already employable, even before studying a qualification such as ACCA (allowing you to become fully qualified and secure the ACCA letters after your name). Those in part-qualified accountant jobs often work full-time in finance departments or with accountancy firms as juniors and trainees, while continuing to study in the evenings, sometimes with financial support and study leave provided by employers.

You may equally decide to mine your network and start providing bookkeeping or tax services to ex-colleagues, clients, and friends, which again can also be done while you’re still studying for ACCA, and from the luxury of your own home or office, developing a workload to suit you.

First steps:

Let’s take a step back. There are a few things to consider before you jump into a career change:

Why?

First and foremost, why are you changing careers and why now? Are you hoping to pursue a long-held passion? Do you want to earn more? Do you want more flexibility and control of your time? Are you looking to mellow your professional life as you wind down to retirement?

How you answer these questions will shape the route you take.

What?

It may be easy if you have a passion and know what you want to do, but how are you going to achieve it? Is it realistic? Will it require a lot of retraining, which can be expensive and time-consuming? Is there demand in the job market, or will you be struggling even with the right qualifications? Following a passion is one thing, but letting it lead you into a difficult situation is another.

It could be that you’re not led by a dream as such, but you just know you want a change. So what skills and experience do you have? How might they transfer to other professions? What kind of lifestyle do you want to lead – ie more flexibility, better work-life balance, being your own boss etc? What are your interests?

Do your research: consider everything carefully and don’t be afraid to think outside the box and allow your research to lead you down less obvious paths - connecting the dots between skills, interests, abilities, networks, experience and the job market might lead to some unexpected and appealing options.

For example, a sales background can be great for accounting - you’ll already have experience of focusing on numbers and people. If you’ve had to work within budgets, you might be great at setting them. If you’ve had to develop business, drive revenue or deliver projects, then why not advise small businesses?

How?

In the event of retraining to become an accountant, consider carefully whether you can afford financially to make the transition? How will you build a network or a client list in your target profession? Do you need relevant work experience? Do you need to rebrand yourself?

• Education: again, research will show you what’s needed. It might be that you’ll need to devote yourself full-time to education, perhaps for several years, before you can start working. This will require financial backing, such as familial support or relying on savings. If you need to retrain, ask yourself honestly if you’re truly ready. Try online courses to warm up and get a better idea of your suitability to the subject matter.
• Networking and personal branding: you’ll likely be in the fortunate position of having a deep network built up over years of working, so put it to good use. Start rebranding yourself to reflect where you’re going, not where you’ve been; put the word out to people that you’re making a change; ask for advice; seek support; start conversations - you never know where this can lead; it might simply be encouragement, advice from someone who’s already done it, or even new clients or job offers.
• Work experience: If you need relevant experience before an employer or client will consider you, try working voluntarily. This might sound daunting, but it might also be refreshing and invigorating, as well providing some real-world context to your dreams and ambitions.

  • Try getting in touch with employers locally who can provide the experience you want. They may be amenable to helping and supporting you. Alternatively, seek out government schemes, such as apprenticeships or return-to-work initiatives. Some businesses, particularly larger ones, offer schemes for older people returning to work. The broad push for diversity and inclusion may well open doors for you, so keep an eye out.

• Confronting ageism: unfortunately, you may come up against ageism, yet it’s worth keeping in mind that this will likely be based on certain fears the employer has – often assumptions based on stereotypes - that you’ll be out of touch, uncomfortable with using technology, or unable or unwilling to learn or be managed by younger people.

  • It falls on you to prove them wrong. Start by highlighting transferable skills in your CV, especially tech, adaptation to AI, and other high-value or in-demand skills. When approaching people - whether face-to-face, or via a cover letter or application to ACCA jobs on GAAPweb - highlight a willingness to learn and be part of diverse teams. If you’ve been managed by younger people in the past, highlight this; if you’ve worked on complex projects, used cutting-edge technology and had to constantly learn in a role, shout about it.

 

We wish you the best of luck in your job search; discover the latest ACCA jobs and Finance Careers on GAAPweb alongside a myriad of CV, interview and industry advice on our blog.

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This article was first published on ACCA Careers, a globally recognised professional accountancy body providing qualifications and advancing standards in accountancy worldwide. Read the original article here.