6 things newly qualified accountants should do to prepare for their future career

6 things newly qualified accountants should do to prepare for their future career

After you have qualified as an accountant, facing an uncertain future can be daunting, but there are solid steps you can take to help you choose the right career path

If you’ve recently gained your accounting qualification then the first thing to say is – well done. You have worked incredibly hard to gain a qualification that will set you up for life and you can take your newly qualified status in many directions.

However, in amidst the celebrations, you might be feeling a bit worried about your future. If you have taken the traditional route, you will have been to school, university, and then into your professional accounting qualification, now might be the first time you have a less certain journey ahead of you.

Even if you feel like you don’t know what path to take next, there are some key actions you can take to help you work out what you want to do.

1. Decide where you want to take your career

One of the first key decisions to make when think about your long term accounting career is do you want to work in practice or industry?

Practice involves working for a firm, whether that be a Big Four firm or a smaller one. It is a more client facing role and allows you to work with a portfolio of clients across different sectors and industries.

Industry accountants, on the other hand, work in the finance teams of specific companies, helping that company grow. Often industry accountants work in banks and earn very decent wages, though not-for-profit is also a popular sector.

It is also important to remember that having an accounting qualification does not necessarily mean you have to stay in a traditional accounting role.

2. Focus more

After deciding between practice and industry, you need to think about where you specifically want to be within these areas.

Do you want to work in audit, tax, advisory, or consultancy to name a few? Do you want to do something more specialist like forensic accounting?

What about the sector? In practice, you might have less of a choice, but in industry you can apply to roles with companies or within sectors you would like to work in, from travel and tourism to government and non-profit.

3. Continue building skills

Studying and learning does not stop when you qualify as an accountant. While you may no longer have to sit in classrooms or pass exams, succeeding in accounting involves constantly developing your skills.

You need to be using the newest technologies as well as ensuring you can master traditional favourites like Excel.

If there are areas of your professional life you think you could improve on, there’s no time like the present. Whether it’s presentation skills, time management, or knowledge gaps that you want to improve on, you can improve these by actively dedicating some of you time at work to them. Take a course, ask for senior guidance, and put yourself into situations where you can be doing this regularly so you can improve.

Continuing Professional Development is an important part of pursuing a successful accounting career, with all of the major professional bodies offering CPD courses.

4. Network

As well as technical skills, you need to be able to communicate with all levels of people both in and outside of your organisation. While networking is generally a word that people hate, the action it is talking about is important.

Building a relationship with your colleagues and your clients is vital for you to excel in your role, and you never know when a connection you formed with someone will come back to help you. While you don’t have to go out socialising every night, it is a good idea to spend time at some work-related events. Being able to get on with the people you work with will make a big difference to how much you enjoy the job.

If you network regularly, you can begin making a name for yourself in the industry and connecting with people who will help and maybe even mentor your in your career. Don’t forget to check in regularly with the people you meet so they remain good contacts.

5. Plan well but be flexible

If you can stop and think about your future, it will always help you to make the right decisions and focus on the skills you need to pursue it. However, don’t assume you won’t change your mind as you go along.

If you have never experienced the world of accounting, how can you know what exactly you want to be doing there? You might think you want to work in audit, and end up in tax because you become interested in a certain area or an unmissable opportunity arises.

Essentially, be thinking about your future and set yourself goals, but be prepared to bend and flex as new opportunities come up. Often you will be able to have these conversations with your manager at work, when setting targets, but you can also discuss this with colleagues in less formal settings.

6. Make mistakes

Everyone wants to have the best start to their career and set themselves up for a successful future, and by reading this you’re probably already thinking along those lines.

However, don’t associate success with making no mistakes. The only way to discover what you truly want from your professional life is to experiment. Try out different roles, and maybe decide you don’t like some of them.

Whether you move to a job you don’t like, or simply agree to a task that you end up not doing very well in, you have to accept that mistakes will happen, and then learn from them. If you don’t, you will never try new things.

 

 

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