Duncan Brodie is a former Finance Director who helps accountants build successful careers. I’ve known him a while and feel his views are worth sharing here.
Duncan’s views will be especially helpful to you if you are nearly or recently qualified. As he explains:
Once upon a time a professional accounting qualification almost guaranteed that you would progress pretty far in your career. These days this is no longer the case. There are many who get qualified but fail to achieve the success that they had hoped for.
If you want to achieve success in your accounting career you have to take control. So what should you do to take control of your accounting career?
Determine what you want from your career.
This might seem like a statement of the obvious. Yet in truth most just drift along. People usually only give this any significant thought when something significant happens like being made redundant.
This was true in my day too. I originally studied accountancy simply as a way to get a business focused qualification whilst deferring the decision as to what I would do career wise. When I qualified I was no closer to knowing what I wanted. I moved into tax – as that was the only exam I passed first time. And I had realised that clients would gladly pay good money for good advice on how to reduce their tax bills. (The top rate of tax back then was 98%!)
I stayed in tax for another 25 years before concluding that I enjoyed the non-tax aspects of my career more than the tax focused ones!
It’s also worth remembering that what matters will be different at different stages in your career. Money and earning more is definitely a consideration when starting out.
As you progress other factors like enjoying your work, gaining the right experience and being challenged matter more.
He advises that you:
Plot out your key moves. There are certain important points in your career and the decisions you make can help or hinder.
The first key move is when you qualify. It can be tempting to jump ship too quickly.
The decision you take at this point can have a huge bearing long term.
I’ve already mentioned that I moved into Tax when I qualified. Duncan’s first job after qualifying was as a Head of Internal Audit. Why?
I knew that I would get the chance to set up a new function from scratch and also get exposure to Board level working.
If you don’t know what you want to do long-term (and why should you?) make a conscious choice about to do first. You can review your choice down the line. At worst you will have discovered one of the things you do NOT want to do long-term!
Duncan also advises that you take responsibility for your professional development:
In the early stages of my career there was little or nothing available to me in terms of professional development.
That all changed when I went to work for a bank. Areas for improvement to make you more effective were openly discussed and then courses found to build capability.
When I worked in the Big 4 this was even more evident.
Despite it never being easier to access professional development opportunities, it’s surprising how few take personal responsibility for it.
That is really good advice. When you ask for permission to attend specific courses, make sure you can identify for your bosses why you will be more of more value to them after you have been trained in these new skills or enhanced your abilities.
Duncan also suggests that you actively seek out new challenges and responsibilities
You can very easily just plod along doing what you can do extremely well. The problem is that if you are not challenging yourself you are probably not growing.
I found that getting involved in business projects was a great way of building knowledge, skills and attributes.
And adopt a long term outlook. Yes some make it to a senior level quickly. For the vast majority it is a much slower progression. I encourage people to take a long term view of their career. In my experience a career is more like a marathon and less like a sprint.
Don’t expect it to be plain sailing. There will be:
- People who don’t rate you
The important thing is to stay positive and believe in yourself, even when the going gets tough.
Many thanks to Duncan Brodie for sharing his careers focused advice for accountants. You can access his free guide The 7 Biggest Barriers To A Successful Career In Accounting here >>>