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Career Planning For Part and Newly Qualified CA’s

If one thing is clear, the work of an accountant and in turn professional services is changing.


Driven largely by offshoring and the automation of compliance based work it is becoming increasingly important for accountants to be able to provide value add services and consequently the stereotypical accountant over the next few years will start looking more and more like a sales person.

As part of our ongoing partnership with the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, over the next 12 months Ford Peterson will be working very closely with part and newly qualified CA’s.

In this post I’m going to cover the implications of this evolving landscape on career planning for part and newly qualified accountants by answering the following questions:

  • How will these changes effect the job I’m doing today?
  • How do I know where I’m working is the best place for me to develop my career?
  • What are the most important skills for me to develop?
  • What steps can I take today to improve my chance of getting the job I want in the future?

How will these changes effect the job I’m doing today?

It really depends on what area you are working in.

If you are working within business services for example the majority of compliance based work will either be offshored or automated.

In simple terms what this means is that your job will move from completing compliance work to very much business facing, advising businesses to help improve performance.

An understanding of compliance will still be important however it will be secondary to stakeholder management and influencing skills.

How do I know where I’m working is the best place for me to develop my career?

Core compliance knowledge is still very important and developing that knowledge early in your career is crucial for long term success.

With that in mind, purely from a technical development point of view you should be judging you current role on:

  • Size and complexity of clients, there are different thresholds for each stream within professional services so you should be asking yourself is the client base you are working on making the next job you want more or less accessible;
  • How work flows to you, that is does your manager or partner come with a parcel of work OR do you work directly with clients and seek help as needed?
  • Training and development, what training and development opportunities are available to you and how do these compare to your peers in the CA program?

How work flows to you is especially important for a few reasons, the most important being working directly with a client allows you to take a much more proactive approach to learning compared to the alternative.

For example compare the following situations, client comes to you with a complete problem, you can make a decision to either:

  • Research the problem yourself and find a solution and present it to your manager; OR
  • You can go to your manager and ask them for help;

Versus, client comes to the director of the firm with a complete problem, the director will:

  • Make a decision on what part of that problem they think you can do and distribute work accordingly;

As you can see in the former you have the opportunity to test your own knowledge, research problems and come up with a solution.

You also have the opportunity to dig deeper, understand the whole problem and develop your stakeholder management skills.

What are the most important skills for me to develop?

Communication, communication, communication.

The back office accountant is going the way of the dodo and if a career in accounting, or any other field for that matter, is something you want then communication and influencing skills are key to being a success.

Even ignoring the changes that are taking place in the accounting profession, communication skills, in my view, are the most reliable indicator of salary and performance that I have seen since working in recruitment.

The best way to improve you communication skills is by getting involved in organisations like Toastmasters.

I can honestly say, provided someone has a reasonable work history, involvement in things like debating or Toastmasters is an excellent indicator of earning potential.

What steps can I take today to improve my chance of getting the job I want in the future?

There are lots of actions you can take to give yourself the best chance of getting the job you want in the future.

The most important though is spending some time thinking about what that job is. If you are still unsure come up with 3 or 4 options and work towards those.

Once you know what the job is, research it independently and form an opinion on what steps you think you need to take.

Best starting points are:

  • LinkedIn – Search for people with the job title you want and look at their CV, see what steps they took and ask yourself how is my situation different?
  • Counterfactual simulation – Ask yourself, what would need to be true for me to be a {Insert Job Title Here}? Based on what you already know about the world, your brain will “automatically” work out what is the most likely path. For more information on Counterfactual simulation, see Josh Kaufman, personal MBA.

Once you have taken the time to think everything through independently speak with a mentor or recruiter and ask for an opinion.

Taking the time to do your own research will allow you to ask more informed questions and test the individual’s opinion.

A few closing points –

  • Technical capabilities are a given, you need to be working on clients that are challenging and improving that knowledge on a daily basis.
  • Stakeholder management, ability to understand complicated problems and deliver growth solutions will continue to be the most important skills to be developing.
  • Like everything, it is about balance, a partner is unlikely to let you loose on clients day 1 in the job, which is fair enough. If you look around the office though and can’t see that opportunity presenting it self in the next 18 months, you need to be asking why?

Follow Ford Peterson on LinkedIn to keep up to date with posts like these. If you are actively looking for your next job, check out our Candidate Resource Centre which covers off on most things from CV writing to interview success guide.



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