6 top career tips for Accountants

November 10th 2023 | Posted by phil scott

Achieving an accountancy career of longevity and success takes thought, planning and commitment.  For ambitious and driven professionals who are aiming high, it’s essential to put career planning at the top of the agenda.  An accomplished career doesn’t happen by chance.

Here are 6 top career tips for accountants:

1. Set your own personal career objectives

At the start of your accountancy career, and at various points throughout, it’s crucial to set you own individual career objectives.  At the beginning, take the time to visualise where you see yourself in 5, 10 and 20 years.  Set yourself challenging (but achievable) goals and map out a plan of action of how you could achieve these.

As your career progresses, you’ll be able to benchmark your career path against your plans and, importantly, fine-tune your goals as your career develops.  Being exposed to new opportunities and people can influence your objectives and ambitions, so it’s important to amend your objectives should your direction change.

2. Get to know the type of environment that works for you

Do you want to work in accountancy practice?  Or would you prefer to be an accountancy professional within a business?  Are you leaning towards a specialised role within a bigger company or do you enjoy the broader accounting responsibilities that come with working for a smaller enterprise?  What type of accountancy role appeals to you – auditing, management account or tax accountant?  Are you keen to specialise in a role?

There are merits to each type of environment and each opportunity.  It’s important to understand what appeals to you, your personality and your career objectives, as this will influence the type of work opportunities that you pursue.

3. Understand your personal USPs and make a niche for yourself

As you move along in your career, it will become easier to understand your personal USPs – the areas of your skills set that are unique to you and make you an attractive candidate for new roles.

Your personal unique skills set may be an enhanced knowledge of a particular sector gained by many years accountancy experience in that area or it may be deep knowledge of an area within the field, such as tax or audit.  Whatever it may be, understanding your unique skills and how to present these will help you drive your career forward.

4. Continued learning & development

Like a living being, a career does not stand still.  To be current and a competitive candidate in the market, continual learning & development is vital.  You’ll need up-to-date accountancy knowledge, competitive market insight gained from working within the industry and relevant professional qualifications.  The ICAEW has a number of Continued Learning Development courses available.

Plus, it’s important not only to enhance accountancy skills, but to develop in other areas, making your knowledge and skills-set more rounded.  Challenging yourself to broaden your experiences by getting involved with new work projects and experiences will help to enhance career opportunities.

5. Find a mentor and mentor others

Mentors are valuable all the way along a career, not just in the early days.  A mentor is able to share their knowledge and experience and provide guidance, especially helpful when making important career decisions.

If there is somebody in the industry that you know and respect, invest time in that relationship and learn from them.  Personal, insightful experience should not be undervalued.  Take the time to mentor junior individuals when the time is right in your career.  Not only does this give back and contribute to the industry as a whole, but it offers learning and growth opportunities to the mentor themselves.

6. Be aware of the market, including salaries and opportunities

An understanding of the accountancy sector and the financial job market as a whole is very useful for career progression.  You need to be aware of opportunities in the market and have a solid understanding of current salaries to know your position in the sector, whether you’re achieving in line with market rate and where your next step will be as you move up.

This type of understanding will help ensure that you’re progressing at a pace that you would like in your career and that you’re being rewarded in line with the market rate for your level of experience, skill and commitment.