Industry or Practice?
Posted by Tom Eagle
Both sectors offer unique rewards, but which one is right for you? And when’s the best time to make a move if ever? There are pros and cons to both; the scope of industry or the fantastically full-tilt pace and variety of practice? Chances are, it’s a crossroads you’ll probably confront at some stage of your career. In your early career, a lot of junior finance professionals begin their journey in practice – attracted by funded qualification options, generous leave for exam prep and a clear career progression route. You will be given the opportunity to learn processes, the methodology of supporting and communicating with clients and how to make snap but savvy business decisions. However, there is no such thing as a free lunch and in practice, you need to be ready to deliver on your firm’s investment in you and your career by building clawback clauses into their study contracts. Some have high expectations in terms of your exam record. To offset education costs, your pay might not feel that competitive until you become qualified and complete your training contract. As a qualified accountant in practice, you’ll oversee the financial needs of a portfolio of clients (as well as sharpening your prioritisation and diplomacy skills), coach junior staff and, depending on your area of expertise, manage special projects within audit, tax, financial risk and more. It’s demanding, diverse work and plenty of people love the range of sectors you can work in. But this is also the jumping-off point for many finance professionals looking to make a more hands-on commercial contribution. The opportunity to own a finance process can make the grass surrounding qualified roles in industry look invitingly greener. Look before you leap, however. Practice advances at a pace, so you’ll be playing catch up to more experienced colleagues should you wish to return. The answer to the dilemma….. The reality is that each individual is different and the common pitfall we see both in industry and practice is being too quick to compare yourself to a “peer” and to discount either practice or industry because you have worked in one of the two. Comparing yourself to a peer is a dangerous game to play. Firstly, it is worth bearing in mind that it is human nature to focus on the positives when meeting with an old co-worker/friend/training buddy; don’t be too quick to believe everything someone tells you (they have an agenda to prove to their audience or to themselves) that the choice they made was the right one. Also, it is very rare for a “peer” to be an exact comparison; Has your “peer” worked on exactly the same client size and portfolio? Has your “peer” got exactly the same academic background, exam scores, and personality to you? If you ask yourself these questions and the answer is no to one or both of them then you shouldn’t be comparing yourselves. Within both industry and practice careers you can experience a very different culture, workload, client portfolio, office environment and approach to flexible working. One of the greatest limitations when looking for a move in writing off a business because you have worked in that sector or size firm before. Now more than ever practices, in particular, are evolving and are at the forefront of agile working, dressing for your diary and the softer benefits that come with a new role so don’t write a firm off just because you have “worked somewhere with a similar client portfolio”. The best candidates are always open to listening, researching and exploring good new roles and business as and when the opportunities may arise!