February 18

Making a career change from accounting

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If you’re thinking about a career change from accounting, it can be difficult figuring out what else you can do that isn’t related to this field. In this article I’ll share some ideas on alternative career options for accountants, and how you can make the career change you want.

First, I’d like to share a story about someone called Daniel. Daniel is an accountant from Manchester. He’s in his late twenties, working more hours than he cares to count.

If he enjoyed the job, he would probably thrive, like some of his colleagues do. But while he’s good at his job, it doesn’t give him any fulfilment, and he’s starting to hate it. He’s drained at the end of each day, with no energy to do more than blast a microwave meal and crash in front of the TV. The work doesn’t really mean anything to him, something is missing. Maybe it’s him?

He’s worked hard these last few years, studying, passing his exams alongside an increasingly busy job. He’s been so focused on achieving, on excelling, reaching his current professional level. He’s thinking: I’m here, what now?

It seemed the right career, a good job, well paid, a prestigious firm. He’s lucky to be here. He invested so much of himself to get here, changing now would be stupid. At least, that’s what people tell him.

But there’s a nagging doubt that he made the wrong choice. Too late now though, right?

Actually, no.

Daniel is a typical client of mine. Have you ever felt like him?  

I’ve helped a number of coaching clients change career from accounting. Often, they have worked really hard to get to where they are, completing a degree, several years of training and study to achieve their ACA or other professional qualifications, followed by an onward push to develop and be promoted within their firm. That constant forward focus and pressure can sometimes disguise the realisation that this isn’t the career for them.

Many clients I work with feel like the conversation they have with me is the first time they’ve really paused to consider what they want from their career. They pursued accounting because it felt like a good option, lots of training, good salary. There is a certain professional status, and for those with a numerical or problem-solving flair, it feels like a good way to use their strengths.

Some of the downsides they talk about include lack of job satisfaction due to an intense workload, long hours, no work life balance, and constant pressure to meet deadlines and move onto the next thing. Plus balancing all their study toward exams. One client even said it got so bad that sometimes they didn’t have time to eat.

Their experiences don’t represent everyone within the accounting profession - other people will feel more positively about their work and career. However, if the above sounds a bit like you, it’s perfectly understandable that you’d question whether this is what you really want and want to know what else is out there.

So, what else can an accountant do? Below, we’ll look at a few different career options, as well as the skills and strengths you have developed as an accountant, which can help you make a career change from accounting into something else. 

Career coaching support

Would you like support in working out what career direction is right for you?

For over 15 years I've helped professionals who feel stuck in their career to find work they love. Find out more about how I can help you.

How can I make a career change from accounting? 

One thing that can be helpful, is starting by looking at yourself and what you want, rather than going straight to the job sites. There’s a reason why you want a career change, so it’s best to be clear on what needs aren’t being met right now. What is missing? What things are important to you, and how well does your current work match up to that?

These questions aren’t about navel gazing, they are about trying to create better fit with whatever new work you might do. If you ignore the things that motivate you all the time important to you in your work, you’re destined to repeat the same mistake all over again. Think of it this way, it’s like you’re trying to create a blueprint, so when you look at all the myriad of jobs out there, you get a better sense of what is a good fit for you personally.

This is work I do with clients, we use a four-step process to help them work out what they really want in their career, what their options are and how to get there.

Define

Working out what you really want from your career.

Explore

Creating options and exploring what your new future could look like.

Evaluate

Which options are best for you and how you can get there

Apply

You take positive and supported steps toward your new career.

What’s wrong with my accounting career?

Take a moment to think about what you like or don’t like about your current job or career. Write down what things are bothering you. Things that are wrong are often clues for things that are missing, so why not flip them round the other way to identify what you want instead. So, for example, working really long hours (all the time) might be the thing that’s wrong – so you might want a better work life balance and ability to spend time doing things outside of work that you enjoy. 

Sometimes, a smaller change may be all you need to solve the problem. Maybe it’s the manager you have, or the firm you work for, or the types of clients you’re dealing with? The more specific you can be, the more it will help you to find the right way forward. So, ask yourself, if these things were no longer a problem, would I still want to a career change from accounting?

What do I want instead?

Once you’ve identified a few things that you’re looking for, try to picture what life would be like if you have them, and you are really enjoying your work. Close your eyes, try to visualise it. Then write down as much as you can of this vision, as this can guide you to where you really want to be. Try the postcard from the future exercise to help you do this.

You can also try my career satisfaction questionnaire to help you work out what is or isn't important to you in a job, and what's missing for you right now.

Skills gained from a career in accountancy

A career in accounting equips you with some really valuable skills, many of which you could use in a new role or career path.

  • Commercial awareness and understanding of how businesses work
  • Strong analytical ability
  • Highly numerate
  • Drive and self-motivation – after all, you’ve had to get through several years of professional exams on top of your day job
  • Communication skills, dealing with clients, colleagues and senior level stakeholders
  • Ability to create rapport with clients and demonstrate credibility
  • Time management and organisation
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Team working skills
  • Ethics/trustworthiness
  • IT skills

In addition, you will have other strengths which are more specific to you. Consider what other people would say but your best qualities? What do people come to you for advice or guidance about (aside from accountancy)? What do you enjoy doing outside of your work? Again, this is an area I help clients explore so they have a clear view of what they can bring to a new career.

Options for a career change from accounting

There are many alternative careers you want to change from accounting. Here are a few, including some more obvious career moves as well as those where you could use your existing knowledge, skills and expertise in a different way:

  • Moving from practice into industry (or vice versa)
  • Tax
  • Moving into the public sector
  • Internal audit
  • Corporate finance
  • Management consultancy
  • Banking
  • Risk management
  • Business analyst
  • Business development
  • Recruitment (specialising in the finance sector)

Other jobs for former accountants

Of course, there are many other jobs you could do, where you might utilise your skills from accounting as well as from other parts of your life. I often find when working with clients that the careers that appeal most to them are quite unrelated to their current career path. We also get really creative and explore their interests, strengths and preferences, and how these link to different careers. This is different for each person, the obvious list of jobs is I'm just the starting point! So don’t feel the list above is all you can aspire to, you have many more options. 

The important thing when you’re exploring options and ideas of what else you could do, is to be receptive to new ideas, rather than shut them down before you really understood if they could work. Beware of phrases like ‘yes but…’or ‘that couldn’t work because…’ as they might be based on assumptions rather than facts. Give yourself space to explore new ideas, be creative and allow your mind to roam free. Gather information and insight to help you understand what’s really required before you start analysing these ideas with a fine-tooth comb.

How easy is it to change career from accounting?

A career change is certainly possible. It usually depends on personal circumstances, what you want to achieve, and also what’s keeping you stuck. It takes an openness with being uncomfortable as you go outside your comfort zone. I often talk about a formula for career change, which helps you understand which parts of the puzzle are missing for you, and what you need to work on to make your change happen.

The most important thing to make a successful change is really being open to it happening. Not a wishful thinking, one day I’ll… I mean waking up and thinking I’m going to do this, and I can do it. I’ve been in that place, where even to the last minute you can doubt whether it’s possible. I can tell you - it is.

So being aware of the things you still like about your role, what attracted you in the first place, and what you don’t want to lose – this is important because these are the things that will keep you stuck.

A successful career change also requires time, ideally 12 months or more, and depending on the job you want to move into, you may need to bridge that gap with additional study, gaining experience, or taking a stepping stone role first.

Career coaching support

Would you like support in working out what career direction is right for you?

For over 15 years I've helped professionals who feel stuck in their career to find work they love. Find out more about how I can help you.


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