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Chartered Accountants: Thinking of a move from practice - Take these 3 steps before deciding

Written by: Rory McDermott
Published on: 12 Dec 2016

Chartered Accountants: Thinking of a move from practice - Take these 3 steps before deciding

Should I stay or should I go? A common question for us all as we seek career fulfilment, and one that is particularly pertinent for Chartered Accountants given the career diversity available for those who hold the prestigious ACA qualification.

ACA Prospects: FTSE 100 board members, Entrepreneurs, Practice Partners and Directors, Technical Accountants, Corporate Finance Professionals driving some of the world’s biggest acquisitions, Investment Professionals in banks and even the odd politician hold the ACA qualification.

Once you qualify, deciding what your next career move will be, and when the right time is to make it, can be a complicated and stressful process. Research conducted by ICAEW indicates the top reasons ACAs leave their roles shortly after completing their training contracts, and the main reasons ACAs decided to stay. These may be helpful for you to consider if you find yourself in that stage of your career, regardless of the size of your firm or practice.

Top three reasons ACAs leave practice

Top three reasons ACAs stay in practice

  • Change of role or sector
  • Lack of career progression
  • Salary and move to industry
  • Job security
  • Work life balance
  • Loyalty towards clients or firm

Question: Have you thought about whether you will choose to stay in practice or leave for industry?

If you wish to move on from your current role once qualified or at any point thereafter, there are many potential opportunities for you to consider, and there are more ways to engage with employers and recruiters than ever before. However, before you do so you should ensure you have done the following:

Step 1: Have a discussion about your career path internally

Step 2: Your career is unique to you so take the time to research, think and plan your path

Step 3: Discuss your plan with someone impartial, then think again

Authors view

Think about what you would like to get out of your career personally. Talk to your manager, your mentor or others in different areas about your career path within the company. Taking this approach will allow you to subtly suggest to your employer that you are contemplating your options, thus giving them the chance to make a positive change for you before you make the commitment in your mind to leave. You may be surprised what they have in mind for you.

Impartial advice can be hugely valuable. It can help you either consolidate or challenge your own ideas and bring a new perspective to your thought process.

Final thought

Making the decision to leave practice should not be taken lightly, nor should it be based on the choices of your colleagues.

ICAEW research showed that a handful of ACAs chose to leave practice as they had heard  ‘the grass was greener’ from peers who had moved to industry. However, this may not be the case for you, as every ACA’s career is individual to them.

Note on research:
ICAEW commissioned an independent market research agency to conduct 40 in depth interviews with recently qualified ACAs in November 2014. Interviews were also conducted with employers and recruitment consultants to provide a 360 view of retention.

The author, Rory McDermott, is Head of the Talent Acquisition Solutions Team at ICAEW and writes regularly on topics related to recruitment and employer branding. The views within this article are his own and not necessarily those of ICAEW.