How An Accounting Career Sets You Up For Life … If You Get Out Now!
Spending time in Accounting & Audit certainly ticks the box when it comes to demonstrating grit, perseverance and solid technical financial acumen, but here’s why you should bank the skills you’ve learned and get out as soon as possible…
If you’re like most of us, you probably felt that by choosing a “generalist” degree subject – such as Business, Accounting or Economics – you’d be keeping the door open to a wide range of job opportunities and avoid making the Big Daddy of all decisions … what to do for your career.
After graduation, taking a role in Accounting, Finance or Auditing probably seemed like yet another way to “keep the door open” to a multitude of industries and could further delay your decision making.
We’re here to tell you why you’ve already chosen a solid career foundation, but that it’s now time to bank what you’ve learned and move out of Accounting & Audit as soon as possible.
The story we were sold
Careers in Accounting and Auditing can supposedly provide the following:
- Prestige – Working at the “Big 4” and / or gaining a world-renowned accounting qualification is well-respected in the business world. You’ll be set up for a baseline high quality of living, earning no less than £50k for the rest of your life.
- Prospects – Finance is the life blood of any company, so your expertise in Accounting will propel you through the ranks. One day you’ll become a CEO / CFO / Finance Director or Partner, earning mouth-watering salaries and running the show.
- Authority – As you become more senior, others in your company will require your “finance” stamp of approval before making any strategic decisions. You’ll be the gatekeeper to deals getting done; the tap that allows the revenue to pour in; and you’ll be heavily rewarded for it.
- Versatility – Being an accountant means that you can work in any industry, in any location in the World. Every business supposedly needs an accountant or finance expert.
It’s no surprise that we chose to get into this seemingly lucrative profession. Particularly as we aren’t closing any doors, right?
So what’s the pickle?
Firstly, Accounting & Audit is not an easy ride.
The hours can vary massively, and will be especially long if you find yourself in Audit Busy Season or experiencing the regular Month End periods. Both can break souls … and in the worst case, you might find yourself working until 3am.
That also doesn’t include the endless nights and weekends where you will be revising for your exams, alongside the constant pressure that you may lose your job if you fail an exam (it’s not unheard of for Accounting firms to lay off 50% of their grad intake in the course of 1 year for exam failures).
Your pay will also be uninspiring, so don’t rely on that to get you through. Particularly when you’re at a junior level (where the graduate salaries have remained stagnant for the last decade), those Executive / Partner positions will feel a loooong way off.
Secondly, having the glitz of the “Big 4” or other large finance employer brands on your CV doesn’t come for free.
Undeniably, having it on there will make you feel pretty good, but after qualification, generally you’ll be paying to have the brand on your CV. Pay in Newly-qualified Accountant roles being up to 40% less in the Big 4 than those you can find elsewhere.
Thirdly, once you enter the world of Accounting & Audit, you’ll soon realise that rather than being able to enter any industry and company as you please, you are now one of a vast number of qualified accountants with exactly the same experience as each other.
Having the “Accountant” brand on your CV certainly ensures you’ll get noticed by recruiters, as it’s very easy for them to filter for this on LinkedIn. But this is simply a quick (lazy) way for them to seek out a particular set of skills.
But it’s not the only way you can demonstrate them.
You may even consider doing the CFA (or equivalent) as a means of differentiating yourself. Guess what? Everyone else is doing it too.
It’s better to display “against the grain” experience in order to stand out.
There’s a boat load of competition and struggle to land the more strategic & commercial roles. You’re not going to find it by proving you know more about numbers and demonstrating further technical knowledge which people outside of the finance industry don’t particularly care about.
More than ever, you need to step away from the heard.
Lastly, being “the accountant” is no longer a sure-fire route to Executive level as you might think.
In the past, the Accountant on the team was the source of making sound commercial decisions. You will find a large majority of existing CEOs having an Accounting background.
However, in today’s business environment, with an increasing emphasis on cross-functional collaboration and laser focus on user experience and technology, other functions have increased their prominence in strategic decision making processes.
Through training to be an Accountant, you’ve certainly demonstrated grit, perseverance and robust technical financial acumen: a solid base for a lucrative, enjoyable career.
But treat your time in Accounting as a sunk cost: bank the skills you’ve learned so far and get out as soon as possible after you’ve qualified.
At a senior / strategic level, financial KPIs still do (and will continue to) play a crucial part in the decision making process, yet there is now a real need to thread such financial acumen with a more commercial mindset in order to get to the top.
Exit Options | Mapping the post-accounting & audit landscape
A lot of the clients we coach ask about moving into more strategic & commercial roles after spending time in traditional accounting & audit, but don’t know where to start or even what opportunities exist …so-much-so that we’ve put together a map of the , which I encourage you to check out!
Want personalised advice from one of our Co-Founders?
We’ve been where you are and can help you forge your swift exit. Click here to Get Coached.