Most of the candidates I speak to are first movers out of the Big 4 – they have gone through the graduate programs, completed their CA and perhaps moved to management level roles within their divisions, and now they’re looking for a change. However, many of them are confused about the opportunities available in the market and how they can make the transition into a commercial role.
Having worked in Deloitte Private’s Family Enterprise Advisory division and experienced a similar dilemma myself, I know how challenging it can be to determine the next step in your career. A lot of the uncertainty comes from simply not having a good grasp of what is available to you. If you’re struggling to determine where to go next, here’s my advice for finding your next move in accounting.
Know Your Options
When it comes to commercial accounting, there are a variety of different paths you can take, including:
- Financial Accounting – This route is very financial reporting heavy, and requires delving into the technical side of accounting and keeping up to date with accounting standards. It is primarily focused on historical performance and involves preparing and presenting financial statements for use by both internal and external stakeholders.
- Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) – This role concentrates on helping the business plan for the future. It serves as the bridge between Finance and the wider organisation, building relationships and liaising with other business units such as Operations and Marketing to ensure they are achieving their KPIs, identifying gaps in performance and developing strategies to help meet targets. This could potentially lead to becoming a Finance Business Partner in the future.
- Management Accounting – This branch of accounting is internally-focused and involves providing information for use by managers in key decision making. It is a more forward-thinking position in which you’ll create forecasts and budgets, and predict how the business might perform based on historical results.
This is just a taste of the possible routes you can take, so if you’d like to find out more about the options, talking to a recruiter specialising in accounting should be your first port of call.
Making the Move to Commercial
When moving to the commercial side of the industry, one of the biggest challenges candidates face is a lack of commercial experience, particularly because of the way the different branches of accounting tend to be streamlined in large firms. However, this does not necessarily limit opportunities – there are a number of ways you can bridge the gap. Instead of making a direct move, an alternative is to move laterally into a different stream. For example, it could be worthwhile to begin in a financial accounting role similar to what you’ve done previously to gain experience in a commercial business and then move into another role later down the track.
Often, candidates coming out of a Big 4 accounting firm have comparable CVs and career paths, so another key concern for those making the move to commercial is standing out in the talent pool. The good news is that today’s employers want more than a good academic record and number crunching abilities – they are looking for the complete package. Passion for the role, enthusiasm and personality will provide a significant advantage in the market and make you much more attractive to commercial businesses.
Understandably, deciding what to do next after leaving a Big 4 accounting firm can be a difficult task. When weighing up the next move, it’s up to the candidate to reflect on their strengths and what they enjoy. Do they just want to focus on the technical aspects of accounting, or are they more interested in relationship-building? In my experience, if a candidate is unsure, often the biggest problem is not knowing what’s out there. When I was at Deloitte, I didn’t even know what a Financial Analyst was!
This is where getting the advice of a specialist accounting recruiter will come in handy – they are experts on the market and will help you weigh up your options and identify the most suitable role.