Achieving Your Career Aspirations – Top Tips for Newly Qualified Professionals

Grant Atkinson, CFO Services at Rutherford Cross By Grant Atkinson, CFO Services at Rutherford Cross, Sponsored Content

23 March 2016

Now that you've qualified, you may be wondering how to get your career started. Grant Atkinson, CFO Services at Rutherford Cross, shares his top tips for newly-qualified professionals.

The effort and determination required to become a qualified chartered accountant are considerable, and newly-qualified professionals should be congratulated on their achievements. However, the reality is that for these newly-qualified accountants, the hard work is far from over.

Many of those who get into the accountancy profession do so with clear career ambitions; to make partner at one of the Big Four firms, or land the role of CFO for a global business, perhaps. What is sometimes not so clear is exactly how to get there.

Put simply, the answer is to think tactically about career goals. Researching the career paths of others who have gone before, building professional networks, and working to understand what a business needs from its accountancy partner or CFO. At Rutherford Cross, we work closely with accountancy firms and businesses to help them source their ideal candidates. As such, we are privileged to have a good understanding of what these candidates have to offer.

Below we discuss some of some of the key things accountants can do throughout their careers to ensure that they are on track to achieve their career aspirations.

Define your goal

Success requires focus, and focus requires a set goal. The earlier in your career you can define what success looks like for you, the more likely you are to achieve it. Once you have done your research and defined your goal, understand that achieving it will require hard work and an element of sacrifice. Take time to reflect on this, and build in time to do so as you progress in your career, ensuring that the goal you set yourself at the beginning still motivates and inspires you.

Work with a mentor

Having a mentor who can advise and assure you as you work your way up the career ladder can be invaluable. Your mentor may be your manager, a more experienced colleague, or someone you connect with via a programme such as the ICAS Career Mentoring Programme. This programme matches mentees and mentors from a global network of CAs, based on their experience and requirements.  Your mentor can share their own experiences, support you to fill your skill gaps,  and advise you on decisions that will impact on your future career.


Building a strong network of peers, senior colleagues, and advisors can be hugely beneficial to your career progression.  Sharing experiences and challenges with peers and colleagues with different backgrounds and experiences can help you shape your career journey, and may also open doors to new career opportunities. The networks available via professional accounting bodies such as ICAS are amongst the strongest in the world and newly-qualified accountants should make the most of them by attending relevant events and staying abreast of global industry news and opportunities.

Advisors, such as specialist recruiters, can give you an insight into what others who are further up the career ladder have done in order to achieve their goals. They can also help you to widen your peer network. Rutherford Cross hosts regular ‘Planning Your Career Journey’ events, bringing together newly-qualified professionals to learn from experienced accountants from across practice and industry.

Be open to opportunity

The path you think leads straight to the top may not be the one that ends up getting you to your goal.  There are many ambitious professionals out there set on climbing the career ladder, so it can help to think outside the box in terms of your career path.

Initially, positioning yourself as ‘front of mind’ with your managers through volunteering for projects and going beyond expectations can lead to promotion and recognition. However, showing your commitment and expanding your experience by taking secondments with different teams across your business, or taking an international posting can really give your career a boost. Taking a ‘sideways step’ into another function or business can seem like a distraction from your end goal, but in reality it could help to make you a more rounded and experienced professional.

About the author

Grant Atkinson works in the Newly Qualified market at specialist finance recruiters, Rutherford Cross. Grant specialises in placing qualified accountants into a broad spectrum of roles across multiple industries in the West of Scotland. He graduated with a (M.A.) Joint Honours in History and Politics from Glasgow University.

To find out more about career opportunities, or our programme of networking events visit

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.


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