When is the right time for your ‘first move’ from the accounting profession into the commercial world?
The profession is a great place to start your accounting and finance career, but it’s long term for only a very few. Having an awareness of what you want to achieve from your experience, and understanding when is the right time to leave and pursue a broader career, is critical to creating valuable foundations for later in your career.
When an accounting graduate enters the world of 'the profession', they are sold on the idea of partnership opportunities. Statistics say that 95% of all graduates leave after they become qualified, and of the remaining, only 2% of accounting seniors and upwards will make the level of partner.
This means there is a very, very small chance of achieving the grand "Partner" status. The reality is that you are highly likely to leave the profession at some stage on the ladder-climbing journey.
When is the right time? And what considerations should be made to ensure you set the platform for success for the rest of your career?
The advantages of an accounting career that starts in the profession are education, training, networks developed and the exposure you receive to a variety of companies and industries.
Developing a professional score card can be an excellent way to help you determine the right time to move, and can be developed around these four key areas:
- Education: For most accounting professionals in the chartered environment, education reaches its pinnacle at qualification stage from the CA/CPA/ACCA institutions. Aim to achieve this as a minimum base; it’s your ticket to the game and often a minimum expectation in most accounting functions.
- Training: Seek and gain exposure to the courses that the profession do offer, as well as the institution you have qualified under (CA, CPA or other). You could be involved as a mentor for juniors, seek exposure and access to specialist subject matter workshops, leadership courses and other professional development programs. Proactively get involved in these experiences, as this will typically broaden your thinking and can differentiate you from your peers. Diversifying your knowledge beyond billable hours pays dividends later in your career.
- Networks: Probably one of the most important benefits of the profession is the exposure to your clients, peers, partners and the broader firm. Spend time developing relationships across the firm in every way. As a bi-product, this builds your professional brand and equally creates a support framework when you do decide to leave the profession. At the same time, it is the same network that also develops and expands their own career, creating opportunity in the future for collaboration or potentially new employment.
- Exposure: Stretch yourself beyond your core function. Where possible, it is valuable to accept secondments, play an active role in internal projects, or seek an international posting. With your clients, look at ways to get involved in key events, such as IPOs, mergers, systems implementations and other transformational programs. This exposure, even if limited, will be come valuable as you inevitably get involved in similar events in industry.
Most accountants in the profession will at some stage feel underpaid, overworked, tired of timesheets and the monotony of the role itself. Just be sure you don’t fail to miss out on the valuable lessons you could be learning. Give yourself a goal, achieve as much as you can and work hard on the four areas above to maximise your valuable proposition to future career opportunities.
Remember, don’t be caught doing the same role year after year, gaining one year of experience but repeating it for many years – it’s still just one year of experience.
If you require additional support in this area or would like to discuss a career in industry beyond the profession, reach out to the team at The Outperformer ([email protected]) for independent guidance and start connecting with members of The Outperformer community on their experiences.