For many qualified accountants a role in practice, usually audit, is their first taste of the working world. Therefore it is not surprising that it can be a very difficult decision to make as to whether to move from that relatively safe environment into the scary world of industry.
Practice provides a rich and fulfilling career path for many; it provides experience across a range of industries in a short space of time, the potential to specialise, a ready-made peer group, social life on-tap, good employee benefits packages and access to ongoing training. What’s not to like?
For some, however, qualifying in practice is simply a means to an end. For others the decision is less clear-cut. However, as you become more senior in practice it can often become harder to move into industry, as the available roles become fewer and technical skills become more specific.
If you do decide to make that leap, what can you expect in industry? Whilst this obviously depends on the specific organisations and roles, the following is often true:
- In practice, certainly at a more junior level, it can often be difficult to see how your work fits into the bigger picture. In industry you will not only get involved in finding pragmatic solutions to problems but also in making those solutions a reality.
- Responsibility for your own development. Often responsibility for training, development and career progression is much more in the hands of the individual. Although this may initially be daunting, it means that your career is in the best possible hands – yours. There may be opportunities to move into many different areas of business, potentially in non-financial roles, whilst still using that hard won qualification.
- Reduced formal feedback on performance. Practice lends itself perfectly to formal performance appraisal, often with a review at the end of each short term assignment. Often formal performance appraisal in industry is done annually at best and you would need to actively seek out feedback in the interim.
- If you are fortunate enough to land a role where you are managing people in industry it is often the case that some, or all, of your direct reports will not have taken a similar career path. Therefore the ability to communicate effectively at many different levels will be key.
The opportunities of a first role in industry will be very tempting for some – and rightly so. However it also pays to understand the potential differences in order to be as effective as possible from the outset.
If you’re in any doubt, why not arrange a confidential discussion with a specialist in financial recruitment – there are a number of financial recruitment agencies out there who have great insights into the types of finance careers available and may be able to offer some useful advice.