Congratulations! You’re a newly qualified ACA. Although this is certainly a cause for celebration, we understand that the career options ahead can be daunting, now that you’re suddenly in such demand. And, for some – the paradox of choice can become all too much.
This is likely to be the first time there is a defining fork in the road with options in different directions, and the decisions you make at this stage could affect the rest of your career. Therefore, it’s worth spending some time to get them right, as well as talking to a specialist independent recruitment consultant to seek advice and guidance.
The most common dilemma is whether to make the move into industry from practice. We’ve blogged before about hearing, “I want a commercial role” from dozens of NQs who don’t really know what they mean beyond the grass is probably greener in commerce, and that they want a role with as little financial reporting as possible.
While it’s true that some candidates know exactly where they want to go, the majority don’t have an exact path mapped out. Additionally, some candidates can fall into the trap of choosing something that ends up not being the best option for them.
Market conditions in 2022
We are entering a unique market climate, which puts ACA’s in an excellent position. Currently, we’re in a candidate-short market, meaning that the demand for talent is incredibly high – leading companies to have even more open roles; remember what we said about the paradox of choice?!
This comes with a lot of positives – the most notable being an uplift in salary in a shorter time period, or starting off with a higher basic salary than you would have seen even 18 months ago. However, it’s important to not be blinded by the market conditions and be realistic with your expectations from an employer. Ironically, it shouldn’t be “all about the money” – and if you make a decision to choose an employer solely on this, you may find yourself unfulfilled later on down the line.
If you choose to search without the aid of a recruiter to consult you and scope out options that are aligned technically and commercially, we highly recommend looking beyond salaries and bonuses, and instead assessing on a three-pronged approach: Culture and benefits, salary and bonuses, and training and development. Look at each of these areas with a long-term view, as you want to be able to grow with an organisation – as well as enrich your career.
Staying in Practice
Your current firm will want to keep you, so it’s worth discussing what they can offer and how your career might advance were you to stay where you are, whether that be bigger clients, increased responsibility, or more challenging work.
You may see a more interesting career ahead with another firm, which would also offer a new challenge and a new working environment, though you will most likely need to navigate around a counteroffer from your employer, as they won’t want to lose you to a competitor.
If you feel you have focused on one area for a long time, a change of specialism, either internally or with another practice, could be the best move for you and now is the right time to switch to something that interests you.
Moving to Commerce
It’s important to remember that several roles will still involve a degree or reporting and depending on the size of the company you join, you could be doing everything, including the mundane elements you were hoping to leave behind. That said, there is a wide range of roles to consider when moving into commerce and now is a good time to consider your long-term goals and choose a move that will set you on the right path.
- A Group Accountant role offers a top-down overview of how a business operates with plenty of interaction with senior management.
- A Financial Accountant role is more suited for someone looking to apply their technical knowledge and is a strong first move in the direction of Financial Controller.
- A Management Accountant sits within a head office Finance team and provides the financial information that will enable the leadership team to make strategic business decisions.
- A role in Financial Planning & Analysis is for the more commercially minded NQ who can analyse a company’s finances for anomalies, trends, and deviations.
Size and Culture
Leaving practice can include a huge culture change that can be unnerving for some. You will have worked alongside other similarly qualified people, but depending on the size of the business you join, you could be on your own doing everything, or a small fish in a big pond doing one thing. There are pros and cons to consider for large and small organisations.
Large multinationals or blue-chip companies often have better resources, a defined career path, and come with nice benefits and salary, but while the security of an established brand is a positive, career progress can be slow, and you may not have access or involvement with many senior figures. As one member of a large Finance function your role may not have much variety and you could feel like your efforts aren’t having a tangible impact.
An SME, on the other hand, can offer an accelerated career path and a much more hands-on role where you will interact with senior managers and be at the heart of the business. The downside might be its distinct culture and personality fit, and limited mentoring and development programs. It can also be tougher to move into a large organisation later.
Culture at large and smaller businesses is driven from the top, so an important consideration is who you will be working for and with.
Researching line managers and how other people have progressed at a company isn’t always easy but is something a recruitment company is well-placed to help with, so if you have recently qualified and want to learn more about what moves are open to you in the current market, or want advice on your next move or getting your CV into shape, talk to us today.