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Advice please on career


Im currently working in practice, I have been for about 5 years.  I attained my AAT about 18 months ago and decided to do the ACA fast track.

Im sponsoring myself as in i take the pay hit for college fees/books/exams out of my wages and i also have to take my time unpaid.

My employers, as much as i appreciate them letting me have time off etc do not help or give guidance and im really struggling and losing the will.  Noone in the company is allowed responsibilty for jobs, everything has to go through the partners, we arent allowed client contact or decision making responsibilities as they are 'control freaks'.  My course work hasnt been signed off for 6 months now despite me asking.

Ive failed Audit & Assurance twice now first by 5 marks, now by 1 mark.  Ive never had any audit experience and never will.  I also dont want to work for a big firm.

Im 31 now and in the not so distant future I hope to have children and obviously wont be able to devote all my life to work as I do now.

Im beginning to wonder if its really worth doing myy ACA, i still have 5 papers to sit to be Part Qual and the thought of going back to college fills me with dread and the expense is starting to make me ill with stress/worry as I have a mortgage etc.

What I would really like to do is my ATT.  However, would I need to work in practice to get my 2 years of experience or could I work in another accountancy role, say doing the accounts for a small limited company, or working as a MIP using my AAT?

I dont know what to do, as I know im lucky getting the oppourtunity to study ACA, but is it really worth it and is AAT/ATT enough to run my own business?

I hope someone can give me some advice as im really confused.


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You sound committed, hard-working and competent.  From what you say, I would imagine you could remove a great deal of stress from your life by simply moving to a new firm.  Have you considered doing this, or tried looking for another post?

I don't have time to write a detailed reply to your post, I'm afraid, but I would make the point that in terms of running your own business, your qualification takes a (distant) second place to your interpersonal and communication skills.  As you yourself point out, the ACA assurance exam is, for you, professionally pointless.  Because of the importance of communication, I would see a job move as essential so that you can get some decent client contact time.

Good luck,


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Thank you for your response.


I am very very hardworking and passionate about learning,  I have tried so hard to get a job in another practice, ive literally applied for every job going, ive even written to every single firm within about a 20 mile radius asking if they have any positions and have had little or no response.  In fact about 2 out of 50 have replied.

I just really dont know what to do any more, as my job is making  me miserable as I feel like lim banging my head on the ceiling and cant get any further. 


I have spoken to the partners in the firm and they just say 'oh well thats how we work we have to deal with everything and we have nothing else to give you, we have to deal with clients as its our names on the letterheads, just get your ACA and look elsewhere'


Thats not what I want, I want longevity in a company where I can be an asset, not feel im struggling and then have to leave.

It seems the only way for me is to quit my ACA and find a job elsewhere that probably isnt in practice as the response i get is that im too old to be a trainee in practice as I have 10 years experience in various accounts environments.  However Id be happy in practice not studying as long as I get to learn and progress.


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Long term

You need to think of your long term goals rather than your short term problems. What do you want to do long term? Do you want to be in a position where you can work from home and look after children while having your own business?

Work towards that and if you can't change other things for the better then continue with what you have got. If you can change things to work towards your goal then all well and good. I accept you are not young (not old either) but I wouldn't change your long term goals to fit in with your short term problems because that would make you unhappy in the long term.

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Thank you.

My long term goals probably will be to work for myself. But will my AAT and learning more be sufficient? As I feel I need to be elsewhere to learn more, is my ACA vital?

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Thank you for your time to reply.

I very much appreciate and understand your answer.  The difference is though that in a few years time I will be (hopefully) in the position where I will be having children and spending time living away from home/working long hours etc will no longer be an option for me, so putting all that blood, sweat and tears in almost seems like a waste of my time, but then the other half of me says it could be worth it.

All so very confusing.

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Just a suggestion but why not have a chat with a reputable recruitment agent, or a student liaison person at the ACA (if there is one).  A good agent should be able to help you to work through what you really want to aim for and will be able to advise you of the opportunities that may arise.  It seems to me that you are finding it really hard to see the woods for the trees because of the worry about your present situation, and perhaps that is knocking your confidence. 

I agree with earlier posts that you should not sacrifice long term goals for short term gains, however from what you are saying in your posting it does not look likely that you will be provided with the support you need to get where you want to be in your present role.  You need to decide for yourself what you really want and whether you will be happy to stay put and perhaps accept that you will not progress much further, or whether you want different opportunities, but there is nothing wrong with asking for help to clarify what that may be. 

Several years worth of work experience in an accounting environment is a worthwhile asset and I would suggest that you should have quite a lot to offer.  Have a think about how your CV reads - are you making the most of your capabilities and really selling yourself.  Jobs are scarce so you need to make sure your CV stands oout from the crowd.

Best wishes







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One thing that always stands out is to include a photo on your CV. I have got a few CVs with photos and unsurprisingly they are always of women and always very attractive. If I was looking for an employee I would think that it would show a more human touch than only text.

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The 2 years of experience required for ATT is self certified and can be completed as part of your own private practice i.e. you don't have to be in employment or part of some training contract. You can always give the ATT a ring and ask if you have more specific questions.

Speaking from experience, starting a family really does make you re-evaluate everything, especially your career and it is possible that what matters to you now will be irrelevant when you have started your family. Unfortunately, it's really hard to tell exactly how you will feel so it may be worth keeping your options open.

I will say that as a single mum with a toddler my career options have diminished considerably (through my own choices). Gone is the desire to work regular 60 hour weeks in industry - coming home after midnight at year-end and bringing work home most weekends. I was so passionate about my work pre-kids - it is sometimes hard to reconcile the old career-obsessed-me with the new family-come-first-me. That's life I guess!

Good luck.


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Thanks Catherine

I seem to be really re-evaluating things at the moment and completely understand where you are coming from!

I dont however imagine ever not working, even if its part time, but then who wants a fully qualified ACA who has to organise her work life around her kids is kind of the conclusion I drawing.

I dont feel confident enough in myself any more to set up my own little practice (although I do have 2 personal clients who were recommended by word of mouth whos accounts I do in my spare time) as I feel in my current role (of 2 years) that I feel like im going backwards.

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You don't have to decide now just do what you can

"I dont feel confident enough in myself any more to set up my own little practice (although I do have 2 personal clients who were recommended by word of mouth whos accounts I do in my spare time) as I feel in my current role (of 2 years) that I feel like im going backwards."

I think you can do it. Ideally you would have been doing exactly the kind of work in your job that you would be doing when self employed. You can either keep looking for another job and/or get set up to take on more work. Look for sub-contract work. I would always advise somebody to get accounts production and tax software but it would cost some money (but not a lot) even though you don't have a lot of use for it. Go on tax courses to get you up to speed.

I would think you have decided that you want to be self employed eventually so you might as well go forward with that. It doesn't stop you still working now.

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Thanks Peter

I actually trained with Sage to be a Line 50 trainer, so I know the in's and out's of that software and feel comfortable with it, so thats a bonus.

I think the main focus is now do I continue with my ACA or do I stop doing it and concentrate on learning as much as I can myself?  I feel that having a bit of paper saying 'woo look at me im ACA qualified but have no actual useful experience' is pretty pointless?

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Get qualified


"I actually trained with Sage to be a Line 50 trainer, so I know the in's and out's of that software and feel comfortable with it, so thats a bonus."

Sage is useful for bookkeeping but you still need accounts production software and tax software.

When you are self employed you need a wide range of experience with different software packages.

"I think the main focus is now do I continue with my ACA or do I stop doing it and concentrate on learning as much as I can myself?  I feel that having a bit of paper saying 'woo look at me im ACA qualified but have no actual useful experience' is pretty pointless?"

Get the useful experience after ACA.

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I see your point but...

petersaxton wrote:

Get the useful experience after ACA.


I see your point but im 31 and wont qualify until about 33.  Im not likely to get a lot of experience after that if i want a family id assume?

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Are people dismissing ATT?

I am AAT, ATT (which is just excellent for small practice IMO) and about 6 years practice experience. Like you I have no big firm/audit aspirations.

Rarely do I feel underqualified to provide service to our SME clients.  I have been offered partnership at my small practice. I am debating as to whether to go on to CTA.

So I took the route you are considering and it has gone well.

I would expect ACA to be the 'safer' option though, given it's undoubted superiority in the employment market.




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You might not get a lot but you might get enough. If you are 80% certain that you wont get any use out of ACA then don't do it.

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Blok - i find your comments quite rude.  Up until the age of 31 I have been working hard in accountancy, just because I havent done my ACA/ACCA doesnt mean I havent achieved much.  Its hardly like I have wasted my life getting drunk and partying.  In the company I worked for prior to this they put little emphasis on having a bit of paper to say you could do a job and appreciated the ability instead.  In hindsight I should never have left and lost my confidence and I would probably be running my own little business by now.



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I apologise, I didn't mean to appear rude but can see that it might come accross that way.  Please understand that I am posting vey quickly without much emotional thought which in forums can come accross wrong.

I never said you haven't worked hard , all I was saying is that if you really wish to make this happen it is really tough and at the end of the day you have failed a couple of exams so I guess that is why you are having your doubts. 

I often come accross people in a similar situation to you and I was at the cross roads myself a few years ago and its not easy.  I wish you all the best anyway whatever you decide.  I will stick to posting about tax and accounts from now on.


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For what its worth, here's my two-pence worth:

As for your study: do it. Once you have your letters no one can take them away from you (assuming you pay your fees, do your CPD & dont do anything naughty). It opens so many doors, you can stay in practice (either working for someone else or on your own) or in industry or alternatively it gives you a good general business qualification if you choose to do something completely different. If you suceed in your aim of having your own practice, the added value of having a qualificaiton to the general public is a great selling point.


Regarding your employer, you hate it, they're not giving you enough to do etc. etc. dont let this get you downhearted, get energised instead. Use it to motivate yourself to find another role - as others have said get to know a couple of good recruitment consultants (think of them as looking for a life partner - there's a lot of pratts out there but there are a couple of diamonds you just need to keep looking) once you've found them get them to start looking for roles for you. They can advise you on interview technique, and have so many contacts they get roles that aren't even advertised. In the meantime dont let the current role get you down too much - you'll still be learning something even if its not as much as in another role - when you stop caring you'll stop learning.


But I have to say, it appears that you have already made your decision - stop studying on the basis that you are unhappy in your current role and think you dont need the qualification and is it really worth the time studying now. If it is the case you need to accept this and move on with your life - but be certain it is really what you want and not just a passing phase whilst you're unhappy in your current role. If you realise you should have continued with your studies in the future it may be too late to start again - I have two young children (one 3 and one 7 mths old) and am studying for the less time intensive (compared to ACA) AMCT exams and its a million times harder than when I completed my ACCA exams 10 years ago. 


Regardless of what you choose I wish you well. As others have said your life will undoubtably change when you have a family in ways you can never imagine now. So my recommendation is dont let what you think your life will be dictate what you do now as you'll undoubtably be wrong with your forecast and besides you'll be forever wondering could I have done it?



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I'd say stick with it - if you want it.......

The ACA is a difficult qualification to get - if it wasn't it wouldn't be worth anything. The anxiety you are feeling sounds like it is solely due to the attitude of the partners where you work; if you are actively looking for another position then that could change very quickly.

I was 32 when I decided to become a Chartered Accountant and I found it very difficult going back to studying for exams. I too failed A&A twice (by 1%), I also failed Tax once, and Business Management once. I didn't particularly feel I was well supported by the firm that employed me but my only focus was on qualifying because then I would be able go wherever I wanted to. I actually stayed for a couple of years after qualifying until something I fancied came up.

If I were you I would ask myself whether getting a new job in a practice that gave you more support would make you feel differently about continuing with your ACA, if the answer is yes then I think that is what you should focus strongly on and keep working hard on getting a new job. Even if you don't find another job you should concentrate on getting qualified. 

If the answer is no then do something else and do it as soon as possible. (whatever the answer is it sounds like you should still look for a new job as a priority). 


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Thank you for all your replies, they are very very much appreciated and it has definitely given me food for thought in regards to my decisions.

I have spoken to numerous employers and one partner in a company i applied to emailed me and said they were very interested in my CV but the salary im on regardless of study support is to high for them.  People seem to be currently recruiting ACA qualified seniors on a very similar salary to mine at current (and my salary isnt actually that high - definitely not high enough to take a cut as I have already sold my car to help with tuition costs!).

With that in mind and Daves point of ' would you wonder could i have done it' I have bitten the bullet and booked into my Audit exam for the third time...

It will bug me forever and a day if I dont try, but I struggle so very much with it that I just dont know how I will ever pass it.  I had a long chat with my boss and his opinion was to not do any of the rest of the modules until i pass audit (if ever) as he doesnt think that I will have a problem with the others as i passed a Financial Reporting mock after only 2 days of the 5 day course.

So if anyone had any subliminal message tapes with the audit and assurance syllabus on it, i would love to hear from you ...!



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