Switching Sectors

By Frank Bolger - Last update

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In the past, professionals traditionally expected linear, conventional career progression within one industry and even one organization. In the dynamic economic climate of the 21st century, the nature of career management has utterly transformed and the onus for career development now lies with the individual, not with the company for whom they work. This shift has major implications for the characteristics of a candidate led market. . .

As the second quarter comes to a close and bi-annual appraisals are imminent, individuals begin the process of self assessment. Many of us will re-engage with ambitions of the past and embark on a new career path. Job switching is common; most of us change job 3 times before we turn 30, however a complete career change is less common and evidently requires a great deal more careful consideration.

When considering changing careers midstream, Mairead Fleming, Director of Operations at Brightwater Recruitment explains that it is important to note that some skill sets are more transferable than others, particularly when the skills are specialised and have taken years to acquire. With accounting for example, career change is more likely to occur by chance than by design. Financial professionals involved in a systems implementation may well enter into a new sector by default. Internal audit within Banking is an area in which the roles of IT and accounting professionals are known to coincide.

A common shift within Banking is from a legal or audit role into a compliance or regulatory position; a transition which can be executed with some ease given the similarity of the skill sets. It should be noted that a move into banking from an entirely unrelated profession is difficult and may require a considerable salary drop; a Fund Accountant moving into banking will have more options but again will experience an initial reduction in their salary.

Estelle Davis, team leader of Brightwater s Financial Services desk has seen a lot of Fund Accountants making a transition from funds into financial / management accounting and says this is a difficult transition but is minimised by moving towards financial reporting or a financial control division whilst still employed by a fund company before considering a move into general accounting within the Financial Services Sector (which would be more specific to the Bank, Insurance, Investment/ Asset Management companies).

According to Estelle, a number of Big 4 Audit Senior / Managers (within the FS Sector) looking to move from practice can make a transition into Banking Compliance / Risk Management or Corporate Finance / Risk the majority of people making that move would be ACA / ACCA professionals with 1-4 years PQE.

Some qualified accountants with 3-5 years also decide to move towards financial advisory, usually within a SME financial consultancy tied to a practice with the right background in FS accounting, this is very doable and will require that they complete the QFA (qualified financial advisors) on top of their accountancy professional exams.

Choosing a career in tax is becoming an increasingly popular option but not just for new graduates. There has been a growing number of people switching to Tax after having spent one to three years in another career. This decision is based largely on the fact that they have to move backwards in order to move forwards; meaning there is no easy route into tax, everyone has to start as a trainee and to embark on their Institute of Tax exams. Not only does this entail a drop in status but inevitably a significant initial decrease in salary; however the long term rewards of a career in tax in terms of job satisfaction, career progression and future remuneration mean that short term pain will lead to long term gain.

Of course, not all career changes transpire as a matter of choice. Redundancies and restructuring may result in the discovery of a new career path whilst in the process of seeking out interim or contract work. Women are generally more likely to opt for a career change as a direct result of lifestyle requirements, maternity leave, in pursuit of a greater work-life balance, flexibility and / or a slower paced atmosphere. Often, people will choose a path deemed to create authenticity, a role which echoes their values and is beneficial to others such as the choice to work for a charity or engage in part time or flexitime work to accommodate volunteer work.

Candidates should remember that career fit and company culture fit are two separate concepts and that issues resulting in dissatisfaction in your current job may not necessarily re-emerge in a new job with a different company. An analysis of your sector in addition to your current employment will aid you in measuring your current job satisfaction.



Frank Bolger

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