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The Money Trap – Why you should avoid progressing in salary without progressing in experience

Posted by George Tatnell

So, I am going to tell you a story about an Audit professional in a small accountancy firm in London… 

This Audit professional is very keen to progress their career and when they finally finish the ACA, they receive an offer from a bigger firm that gives them access to a range of sectors, better experience, bigger brand on the CV, more audit, more experience to be surrounded by etc.

The offer is a good one! They currently receive a £38,000 salary and the firm have offered them £45,000 + bonuses & benefits. They are really happy, they resign within minutes and then every Partner comes into the room and they demand they stay, the Partners in the firm love them, the firm is pushing for them to be a Partner one day and here is an offer for £50,000 as a Manager! Excellent!

The audit professional reluctantly accepts the counter offer, but what they didn’t realise was that the Manager title doesn’t actually come with any different experience. They are still leading audits as a Senior, not directly managing clients or a team. A year later, they realise they still want to move to a bigger firm, partnership isn’t coming, and so they start looking for a Manager role and their current firm has already increased the current salary to £52,500.

Suddenly, the audit professional finds they receive very little interest from other firms for Manager roles (as they do the work of a Manager). They get frustrated with recruiters explaining that a move as a Senior is more likely and the possibility of taking a salary drop. They continue to hold out but get no success with any of the bigger firms.

The audit professional results in getting an offer of £48,000 as an Audit Senior and their current firm counter-offering with £55,000 again. Here we are again, in this same circle, should they fall for the money trap yet again?

This tale is common, one that I have come across many times every year and I feel it is my responsibility to widen the awareness of small experience and high salaries. This is not just for audit, this is for all professions and sectors. It’s not just counter-offers, it’s starting offers and just overpaying out of desperation.

It is far easier (and much cheaper) for a firm struggling to find staff, to offer you £5k-£10k more and the promise of progression or a fancy job title than to say ok, good luck and scour the market for another Audit Senior (recruitment fee, training, time out of Partner/Manager schedules). It pains me to say this but it is possible their interests come far above yours. That is cynical but I have seen it time and time again – “you will be made a Partner within a year”... to be a Partner you need portfolio management, business development experience, a large network developed over years - do you have this?

Always be conscious of your skill level, role and salary. It’s great you are getting a raise but is it ridiculous that you are doing the same job to the same standard, not learning anything new and now earning £15,000 more than you were when you started? Probably.

My golden rule would be to make sure you are conscious of how much you are developing, how much you have to learn, the internal structure of your organisation (does progression come with change or just a title?) and be honest with yourself.

If you find yourself in the position where you are pricing yourself out of the audit market, do not panic but be reasonable. You may have to drop down in title, you may have to drop in salary – short term pain for long term gain; if it gets you to the right firm and the start of a big learning curve, it’s worth it!

The key thing to consider is your long term goal, as difficult as it is, take the money out of the decision and consider which opportunity pushes you closer to where you aim to be.

If I or any of my team at Pro-Finance can help you with any of your audit and finance  recruiting needs or advise you on your next steps in your career, please give me a call on 020 7269  6357

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