Is your certificate a ticket to ride?

When you are newly qualified, the world is your oyster, especially if you have good exam results and the name of a well-known employer on your CV.

With the job market in the UK at its most buoyant for many years and demand for qualified accountants outstripping supply, it seems you cannot go wrong. All you have to do is register with a few agencies, sit back and wait for the interviews and job offers to roll in.

Or is it? The decisions you make at this stage in your career will greatly affect your marketability in the years to come.

By the time you get into your thirties, the supply demand situation will have done a u-turn. Because organisations are basically pyramid shaped, at each level on the upward climb there are more people chasing fewer jobs.

Advertisements for senior positions often attract large volumes of applications, and it is all too easy to be rejected without even getting an interview if you have not built the right kind of CV.

Then, as you get into your forties and beyond, comes ageism, making it harder to get a job at all and leaving many older accountants with no other option than self-employment.

So, what can you do to keep yourself marketable? Rule one is to be wary of specialised roles and sectors.

Unless you are confident that you want to spend the rest of your career in, for example, tax, treasury or forensic work, it is advisable to stay in the mainstream and avoid limiting your subsequent choices.

Broad expanding sectors, such as service industries and communications and IT companies are also better bets than declining or niche sectors.

For chartered accountants there is the big choice between practice and commerce. ‘Overstaying’ in practice can make the move into commerce or industry more difficult.

Rule two is that it is generally easier to move from a big organisation to a smaller one than vice versa. So whether you are in practice or commerce a period when qualifying or early post-qualified with a larger employer tends to be a good career move.

Rule three – the one you need to follow for the rest of your life – is to keep adding marketable experience to your CV. Ensure you review your CV at least once a year, maybe even six-monthly in the early years after qualifying. If you have not added anything worthwhile since your last review, it is time to move on before it becomes more difficult to do so.

Related reading