Choosing a sector and job

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This article was first published in the May 2019 edition of Student Accountant magazine.

Choosing a sector, industry or role can seem overwhelming when starting out.

‘Try to think about where you see yourself working and where your passion lies,’ suggests Martin Parr, manager at finance and accountancy recruiter Sellick Partnership. ‘The work from sector to sector will have similarities, but can also vary hugely and each will have something different.’

Your main areas of choice will be private practice, commerce and industry, and the not-for-profit/public sector, in which there are various roles dependent on your skill set and area of interest. ‘Think beyond your initial role and imagine what you want to get from your career in 10 or 15 years’ time,’ urges Parr, ‘and then think about what sector and route will best help you get there.’

Keep an open mind

Avoid narrowing the goalposts. Try not to become too fixated on one sector early in the process.

‘Even if you’ve got your heart set on one sector, speak to people working in different industries to get a broader view,’ says Sophie Phillipson, co-founder of student and graduate support site Hellograds. ‘Finance is relevant to every single industry – which can be both a blessing and a curse to new graduates – so narrowing the goalposts early on isn’t advisable.’

Check out sites like GAAPweb and LinkedIn to research companies and roles that you see yourself in. ‘This way you will get a feeling of the market, and it should help you eliminate some options that may not be as suited to you,’ says Parr. ‘For example, if you aspire to be the finance director of a large public sector organisation, you will need to determine the organisations and the route that would make this possible.’

But don’t underestimate the value of having a conversation with someone who works in an area that interests you, says Phillipson. ‘Make connections through family and friends if possible; take them out for a coffee or arrange a phone call and you’ll get insights that no website, recruiter or employer would ever be able to give you.’

Consider finding a mentor

It can also be helpful to find a mentor, says Lee Owen, director at Hays Accountancy and Finance. ‘Reach out to contacts who work in sectors that you might be considering and ask for guidance and advice. Also attend relevant events within the accountancy industry and look on company review sites to see what opportunities are available and which of these might suit you best.’

Pretty much all recruiters agree that it’s a mistake to be chasing money over what interests you.

‘The interesting job with the warm and welcoming team is the right job every single time,’ says Phillipson. ‘Work is what you spend most of your waking hours doing, so aim to love what you do and you won’t be disappointed or unfulfilled.’

Finally, don’t feel paralysed with indecision because you feel the decision you’re about to make is irrevocable, says Owen.

‘Whatever choice you make will not define your career forever, as accountants typically cross over various industry sectors as they develop a portfolio of skills and experiences over time,’ he says.

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