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Should I Stay or Should I Go? Taking your next step after qualifying

Published on: 16 Mar 2016


Dan Hopkins is a Consultant at Argyll Scott, with 3 years experience recruiting within the Technology, Media & Telecommunications sector.  He typically recruits Finance Analysts, Finance Managers, Head of Finance and Finance Directors.

Mankind has a natural fear of the Unknown. Opportunity and challenge is often overlooked in favour of stability and security. We are a species, like all others, that doesn't like biting off more than we can chew and our careers are a great testament to just how true that is. Before we get started let me clarify that there is a time and place for continuing down a tried and tested path, consistency is extremely important. All I'm saying is that this should be a decision based on logic rather than fear.

I'm a recruiter (Surprise!) and some of the most common questions I'm asked relate to, ‘How much am I worth?’, ‘When should I look to move?’ or my personal favourite ‘What's the market like at the moment?’ Unfortunately there is no easy way to answer any of these questions and for a lot of our newly qualified candidates this can be a daunting prospect. If you've recently qualified in practice and are flirting with the idea of leaving but are undecided, I’m primarily talking to you.

The most important thing to consider before anyone starts a job search is to define what are you looking to achieve out of this move? Is this move a stepping stone on your way to global domination, the desire for a better work/life balance or simply all about the money? To the people sitting out there saying to themselves ‘Well none of those apply to me”, make sure you know what is important to you. The point I’m trying to make is what matters most is knowing what your personal objectives and priorities are and staying true to them.

Once you have these clearly defined, you're ready to start looking at your options. Does the practice you’re working for have the ability to offer you the tools to achieve your goals and if so, why haven't they been offered to you? Let me clarify, if you haven't put your hand up and discussed it with your employer, then you're your own worst enemy. Pause, go and have that conversation then continue reading. Now we're getting close, you know what you're looking for and you've discussed it with your boss. If your boss says they're unable to offer you what you want or you feel they’re stalling for time it's time to start looking.

The big practices are aware of this and have really stepped up their employee engagement over the last couple of years to try and combat the attrition rate of newly qualified accountants. More often than not, if you’ve spent your entire professional career auditing a Swiss bank or a car manufacturer, your job satisfaction is going to be quite low. The Big 4 for example are trying admirably to promote employee mobility as well as offer extremely competitive salaries to match or even beat industry.

On the flip side, there are many roles open to newly qualified accountants looking to move into industry with every job title under the sun. Essentially they break down into two main categories, the ‘What’s’ and the ‘Whys’. The ‘What’s’ are the roles which look at actual financial results, how are the business recording them and what are the implications to them as a result. The ‘Whys’ are the roles which will look at why are these results occurring and how can we improve them by making changes in the business.

If you’re a numbers person who enjoys the intricacies of the accounting profession, starting in a ‘What’ role might make sense. Financial/technical accounting would be the traditional route for a newly qualified accountant to take. This would lead you down the FC path and will give you a great understanding of the financial infrastructure of the business. If you're more interested in the commerciality of the business than accounting, then maybe look at a ‘Why’ role. This could be a Finance Analyst or Finance Business Partner role which could lead you to either a role in commercial finance or even one out of finance completely.

Something else to consider is if you want to make it to the top of the finance tree, you will need ample experience doing both type of roles. Once you’ve worked out what you want to do, you need to think about where you want to do it. If you end up working for a big blue chip getting exposure to both types of roles will require moving around internally. If you’re thinking about an SME, you might get exposure to both sides, dependent on the size of the business. Industry sector is an important consideration when making career decision. If you find yourself working in an industry in which you have an interest or in which you have an appreciation of particular business models and their potential, your job will be more enjoyable.

Finally before you start planning every career move over the next 25 years, remember what you’ll think you enjoy and what you actually enjoy could be two very different things. If you’d like to get a better insight into the options that could be available to you feel free to contact our team of expert consultants and we will very happy to offer you confidential personal career advice.

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