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Managing Your Accountancy Career

6 Jan 2014
Paul Buchan

Managing your career, what does this actually mean? Fundamentally, it's about having a goal - where do you want to get to and how are you going to get there?

When I first meet newly-qualified accountants I always ask them what their career aspirations are.  Invariably, they all share a similar goal of becoming a Financial Director or Head of Finance.

Whilst many people will go on to have very successful careers, the fundamental factor for achieving their goals is to manage their career effectively.

Whilst intelligence, personal attributes, commercial ability and the ability to create innovative strategies are key, possessing a career management strategy helps give your career direction and outlines the steps on how you will get to where you want to.

1. Evaluate your current role

Never leave a job until you have exhausted all possible opportunities in your current role. Larger companies typically offer a wide choice of career progression opportunities. To stand out, analyse business issues that need addressed and come up with a proposal to tackle them. The people who actively seek out new opportunities internally usually strike a very positive note when it comes to promotions and internal appointments.

If you work for a start-up, or a small business, a promotion may not be immediately available to you. In this situation, attempt to design your own role - what would it consist of and what would be your responsibilities? Then determine if you can marry your role with your current employer. Who would you need to speak to make it happen?

Ultimately there are only two reasons you should ever look to join a new company:

  1. You have tried all possible angles to improve and advance in your current role
  2. You are presented with an opportunity that is simply far too good to refuse.

2. Assess your skills

If you have taken the decision to move on from your current role, you should first of all assess your current skill-set against your peer group and the level you are targeting.

Are there gaps in your knowledge, would these be better filled with a sideways move into a role that challenges different aspects? 

The key to this decision is how confident you are that in the event of open competition; are you likely to be a stand-out candidate?  If the answer is no, perhaps you would benefit from a sideways move. 

For example, if you are a technically strong accountant but with limited or no project management experience, you should consider a change management role, a CAPEX accounting role or something similar that lends itself to business improvement from a reporting and strategy point of view. 

If you are a qualified external auditor and you want to get into a management accounting role would you be better to look at moving into an internal audit role, getting to know the business and see where this takes you.

There are various routes you can take in order to plug gaps in your knowledge and advance.  Make sure you are clear in the route map you have set out within your career management strategy.

3. Is it time to step up the ladder?

If you have the right skills and experience to move up the ladder, set out how you are going to achieve this.

Set parameters, what would be the minimum salary and package you would accept in a career advancement role? Understand your worth and keep your expectations realistic, otherwise you could anchor yourself from moving forward.

4. Start your job search

Whether you are using offline or online media, make sure you are strategic in your job search. Read the advert thoroughly, and determine whether this is the right role for you - do you have the right skills and experience to take on the role?

Don't apply blind. List your skills and experience and be selective of the roles you apply for. Select roles that you are genuinely interested in and that you feel well suited for.

5. Look beyond the job board

Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Whilst job boards are a good source for finding opportunities, using social media and networking with other professionals are a great way of expanding your network of contacts.

Twitter is a fantastic tool to find out more about companies and learn more about their employer brand. If a company catches your interest, then it should be added to your list of businesses to target.

LinkedIn can widen your network and make you discoverable to many businesses and employers. Make sure to optimise your profile, to ensure you are findable.

6. Register with a reputable recruitment business

Align yourself with a reputable recruitment firm and register your CV with them. In order to develop strong relationships, you should associate yourself with no more than four recruitment businesses, particularly if you want to move forward in your career management strategy.

It's important to choose the right recruiter. How can you make sure you have the right people on board to help you?  It all comes down to research.  Recommendations and businesses that align themselves with industry bodies such as ICAS, CIMA and ACCA are a good starting point.

6. Network, network, network

Many roles are so under the radar that you will only find out about them through word of mouth. Attend industry events and seminars and talk to people. This doesn't only increase your professional brand, but also puts you in a position to hear about new roles that are available.

7. Got an interview offer? Evaluate the fit

Been offered an interview? Consider the organisation and the role. Does this take your career in the direction that you've outlined in your career strategy? Don't be afraid to turn down interviews if you feel there isn't a match.

It's better to pull out at the interview stage, rather than waiting until you've received an offer. Making the wrong career move has the potential to have dire consequences for your career management strategy, so you have the right to be selective.


A career move can be a daunting prospect at every level, whether you're newly qualified and starting your first role, or experienced and leaving a company you've spent several years with, make sure your career move is for the right reasons and beneficial to your career management strategy.

However the prospect of setting a career management strategy may seem daunting and you may not know where to start. Here are my top tips to help you create a career management strategy for success.


Paul Buchan
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