I want to return to work – where do I start?

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There are many reasons why people choose to take some time away from their careers. Looking after children is perhaps the most obvious; caring for ageing parents is something that’s on the increase.

People also step out of the workplace due to illness, or choose to take some time away to travel or study. And as the past ten years have clearly shown, accountants can be particularly vulnerable to redundancy in a tough financial climate.

But whatever the reason for taking a break, coming back can feel surprisingly daunting. Maybe you’re feeling unfamiliar with changes to regulations and reporting standards. Perhaps your client management and communication skills have got a bit rusty; your confidence may have taken a bit of a knock. And what on earth is Slack?*

The good news is, none of these should hold you back; with a bit of planning and preparation, you’ll be workplace ready before you know it. Here are some of the key things you should think about.

Is your industry membership up to date?

If you’re a member of a professional accountancy body, you’re usually required to show that you’ve kept up to date with industry developments by taking a certain number of units of CPD. For the ACCA, it’s 40 per year, of which 21 need to be verifiable. Read more about your place on the register

Generally speaking, you won’t be able to practise as an accountant without an up-to-date professional membership, and catching up on CPD may take some time, so this should be your first priority. If you’re an ACCA member, our CPD area should have everything you need.

What might have changed?

However long you have been away from the workplace, there are likely to have been a raft of changes to accounting processes; everything from regulatory standards and statutory accounting formats to small, but equally important details, such as VAT thresholds and tax bands.

There are also likely to have been wider changes that affect the finance industry which you also ought to familiarise yourself with, such as cyber-crime, data security and the use of social media and robotic process automation.

Our professional insights team have created a range of resources, covering anything and everything that accountants need to know about. Access professional insights

What do you want to return to?

There are so many options available to accountants, from private or public practice and professional services firms to in-house roles in almost every sector – not to mention the option of going freelance or setting up your own practice.

Every kind of organisation or role has its pros and cons, and some will be more mission-critical than others; the key is to work out which route matches your needs the best. Some of the things you should think about are:

  • Would you like the familiarity of a similar role or are you ready for a change of direction?
  • Do you need to be able to work part-time or flexibly?
  • If so, which route is most likely to provide this?
  • Would you prefer to take part in a formal returner programme?
  • Are you keen to be client facing or would you prefer a support role?
  • What size organisation would you prefer to work in?
  • Would you be happy working for yourself?
  • If so, do you feel confident that you would be able to build up a base of clients?

In many ways, the transition is likely to be easier if you’re going back to a similar role, but equally, if you are keen to change direction, post-break is a great time to do so.

To help you make your mind up, we’ve provided some advice and insights about the different roles, sectors and industries that are suitable for accountancy professionals.

Where else should you look for advice (and jobs)?

Your professional body is a brilliant place to go for support and advice. Aside from the resources mentioned above, we’ve answered pretty much any question you could imagine asking about ACCA membership or practising accountancy in our FAQs section.

We’ve also put together a range of advice and support in our careers advice area. And if you’re ready to start looking, our jobs board features thousands of live jobs, across all sectors and industries.

You could also consider:

  • Your own network is likely to be a great source of advice and leads. LinkedIn is probably the best online platform for this; if you’re not already on it, it’s well worth signing up.
  • Coaching programmes and other support groups are a useful way to overcome barriers to getting back into work. For example, Women Returners offer a range of coaching programmes for people who have had a career break.

Returning to work after a break can feel daunting, but it can also be an exciting experience, which helps you find a career path that suits your life-stage. The key is to spend enough time thinking, planning and preparing so you make an informed decision; then just give it your best shot. Good luck.

*It’s an instant messaging and collaboration system that brings teams together in channels to help them work more efficiently together. Lots of people swear by it. Access slack.

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