Qualified in practice? How to make a successful first move into industry By Steve Gillan

Training in practice sells well. Nothing beats the experience or credibility gained by training at an accounting firm, whatever their size. However, after three years where the focus has understandably been on getting qualified, accountants can suddenly find themselves with little idea how to approach the next stage of their career.

Here, Axon Moore recruiter Steve Gillan, a former finance professional, gives advice on how candidates can make the most of the opportunities available to them in industry and maximise their potential at this crucial juncture in their career.

  • Moving from practice to industry can give you the opportunity to use your skills in a very different environment. There is greater continuity and you can focus on core areas of the business rather than working with multiple clients in practice. In the medium to long term there is the opportunity to stand out, make an impact and move into more commercial/operational roles where you will be able to influence the future direction of a business.
  • The traditional route into industry from audit/accounts preparation is into a financial reporting role. This will leverage the experience you gained in practice and give you ownership of a reporting process. Often when people leave practice, they are keen to move away from retrospective reporting and into a role where you can support and influence decision makers with forward looking information. This first step will give you a platform from which to move into a commercial or operational role.
  • When deciding on the type of business to target, the first choice is between larger corporates and SMEs. Roles in larger businesses tend to be more specialised and narrow and so it is more likely your responsibilities will be more specialist and often reporting focused here. In an SME, roles are much broader and it is possible to gain commercial/operational exposure, straight out of practice. For some, the lure of industry comes in the form of a large firm – only a FTSE 250 name on the CV will do. Some want to have a broader role within a smaller company, while for others, the thrill of a start-up, and with it the chance to combine a thorough understanding of finance with pure entrepreneurial spirit, is appealing.
  • In some cases, making the right move is a matter of avoiding the wrong one. One mistake recently qualified finance professionals make early in their careers is putting too much emphasis on salary, commute, and benefits. Finding the best opportunity for growth and exposure is more important, these will open more doors, enable you to progress more quickly and lead to far greater rewards in the future. Focusing on change will give you the greatest opportunity to get achievements on the CV, whether in a corporate transformation or in a venture capital/private equity backed SME.

Whether you are looking for route to FD, advice on how to get a commercial role or how best to achieve a better work life balance after audit then it’s a smart move to build a strong relationship with a recruiter/career advisor. The stronger the relationship the better your chance of receiving honest advice, insight into the market for your skills and support with navigating the job market. Good recruiters have large networks, excellent knowledge of market opportunities and routes for progression.

If you’d like an initial, informal conversation about making a move from practice into industry, please contact Steve Gillan on 0161 8283121 or by email sgillan@axonmoore.com