Achieving your career aspirations – top tips for newly qualified professionals

Rutherford Cross aspirations
Gillian Donaldson Rutherford Cross By Gillian Donaldson, Senior Financial Recruiter, Rutherford Cross

27 May 2019

Gillian Donaldson at Rutherford Cross shares her 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 accountancy firms, or land the role of CFO for a SME or global business, perhaps. What is sometimes not so clear is exactly how to get there.

Many young accountants are full of ambition, but not quite clear on the path they should follow.  Think strategically about your 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 future finance leaders. 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 business need, and too, what skills the accountants of the future need to be successful.

Below we discuss 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. What does success look like to you? 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 is invaluable. Your mentor may be your manager, a more experienced colleague, or someone you connect with via a course such as the ICAS Career Mentoring Programme. This virtual programme matches mentees and mentors from a global network of CAs, based on their experience and requirements and you can register your interest in the programme now.

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.

Also, don’t overlook building a trusted relationship with a selected specialist finance recruiter. They will be constantly interacting with professionals who you are aspiring to emulate and understand how successful careers build and develop. As a minimum, they should provide a good sounding board on live market trends and career options.


Building a strong network of peers, senior colleagues, and advisors can be hugely beneficial to your career progression. Sharing experiences and challenges 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.

As touched upon earlier, advisors, such as specialist recruiters, can give you an insight into what others have done to achieve their goals, we also can help widen your peer network. Check for resources within your firm which are designed to help you plan your career and make the most of your network.

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 to the top, so start thinking about how you can differentiate yourself and build your personal brand.

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.

Rutherford Cross 

Rutherford Cross is a senior finance recruitment firm working across Scotland. We work across all areas of the finance market, providing CAs with multiple options and career paths.

Contact Gillian Donaldson from Rutherford Cross for further advice or a careers discussion on opportunities available

Contact Rutherford Cross

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.


  • Career mentoring
  • Leadership and management
  • CA life

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