First steps to becoming a rising star: accountancy practice or industry?
If you are a newly qualified accountant, you probably realise that you have the talent and ambition to become a rising star.
However, as a developing accountant on the way to qualifying within an accountancy firm you will also need to identify the right stepping stones to achieve your goals. You might take that first critical step when you come to the end of your training contract in an accountancy firm and decide whether to remain in accountancy practice, or to move into industry.
One thing to bear in mind, is that there is no right or wrong move; it really depends on your end goal and what elements of being an accountant you really enjoy and where you want to be in your career in 5 to 10 years’ time. Let’s consider your options…
Whether it’s tax, accounts, audit, corporate finance or another finance specialisms, you have the opportunity to interact with and learn from a wide variety of different and interesting internal and external stakeholders. Building long term working relationships with your clients can be extremely rewarding and satisfying.
Each day will often be very different, you have the opportunity to work with businesses and leaders across an array of sectors, locations and growth stages. Each have their unique goals and strategies which means that your day to day conversations and your ability to access privileged information will uncover all sorts of challenges and conundrums.
As accountancy practice is primarily relationship and service driven, retaining accomplished professionals who know their clients inside out is crucial to the success of firms. You therefore have a clear route to partnership.
Remaining in an accountancy firm keeps your options open. In practical terms, if you are keen to keep your options open until you decide which career path is the right one to take it is perhaps best to stay in a firm for a few years rather than move into industry straight away and then try to make the much more difficult move back into practice.
And the lows….
With the variety of client work, comes the varying and time critical demands of each client business. You may find that managing these competing demands can be pressured, particularly where various deadlines hit at once, as with tax filing dates or reporting.
Some client’s demands can be unrealistic which can lead to some crazy hours and stressful times. This is especially prevalent in areas such as corporate finance where it’s very much feast and famine.
Working within a business means you have more time to dedicate your energy and expertise to that business and its particular commercial and financial challenges, rather than being spread across and juggling the demands of a number of client organisations.
Yes, there will be busy times at month/year end, for instance in audit, but these are very much forecasted and so you can plan and prepare for what’s to come.
Developing commercial skills
Working within industry can help you to broaden your horizons and develop your business skills. This is especially relevant in small businesses that are evolving quickly, you will have the chance to work closely with senior internal stakeholders and get involved with business strategy. These skills are vital in your career journey towards a board level position.
Excluding partner roles within accountancy firms, companies tend to offer a higher salary which you may find attractive. Salary isn’t everything though; it’s important to weigh-up all the information to hand.
And the challenges...
Whilst it is by no means unheard of to return from industry into an accountancy firm, once you have moved away it certainly leaves the door more closed than open. This can be quite a gamble to take if you are at an early stage in your career and when you might not actually be sure about what you want to achieve to support your future career goals.
Moving into an environment where finance is perhaps a ‘quiet voice’ within the business could be difficult for you to adjust to. Working with non-finance professionals and leadership on a regular basis as opposed to working alongside other accounting professionals will need some adjustment.
Taking your next strategic step
There is no right answer here. It comes down to what’s important to you and where you want to be in the future. Without a doubt, it’s a very difficult decision and perhaps the most crucial one that you will make as you become a rising star.
Keep an open mind and don’t underestimate the power of meeting and listening to different people and perspectives. Don’t let a vacancy description or a particular perception of a role or company put you off. It’s your life and your choice, so make sure that it’s your decision too.
If you would like to discuss your next move confidentially or are looking for some specific career advice - our CA Careers Partners will provide an independent perspective.
This blog is one of a series of articles from our commercial partners.
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of ICAS.