What do skills do you want to sharpen, fellow accountants? | AccountingWEB

What do skills do you want to sharpen, fellow accountants?

Greetings from Coach Carol, also known as theaccountantscoach.com and sometime ACCA and CiA agony aunt

Welcome to my inaugural post on the brand new accountingWEB discussion group. We've got some great facilities here to share thoughts, ideas, tips, issues, problems and solutions.
You may have been reading my weekly post, Reasons to be Cheerful, which takes one aspect of the accountants skillset, celebrates it and then shares some tips to sharpen it up.
I'd like to ask readers directly: What would you like to read about on professsional and personal development? What skills would you like to develop? Where are your gaps? What behaviours or mindsets would you like to change? What stands in the way of progress, satisfaction, balance?
You can read about some of these areas on my blog, www.theaccountantscoach.com, but let's hear from you. Get those thoughts flowing........


Experience is the BEST Teacher - Do you all agree?

Jumoke560 | | Permalink

I believe experience is the missing key for most new entrants to the accountancy field. Very many years ago, I had no one to show me how to operate a basic accounting system! Employers did not want to know me and so on..... So I started this profession blindly. It ended up working well for me because I was lucky.

Don't get me wrong, some companies do offer traineeship/apprentice programs these days but the trainees are no different to glorified errand staff.

What stands in the way of progress, satisfaction, balance? is EXPERIENCE

It would be nice for more companies to give accountants a chance - In my company we do!

As for me, I would like to see tips on how accountants acquire clients and for people I love, list of companies willing to give a chance.
Thank you

theaccountantscoach's picture

Experience as the best teacher

theaccountantscoach | | Permalink

From a personal perspective, I'm thankful that I worked for 3 years in a corporate environment before starting my ACA training contract (ok - I'll come clean - it was 1986, Rolls House, good old Arthur Young's London office). 3 years of post-grad office work introduced me to the commercial world, systems and processes, and new culture(s) which provided a solid foundation for when I was let loose on clients. It enabled me to hit the ground running, particuarly on the comms front, from talking the 'lingo' to being comfortable in building relationships and dealing with the incessant stream of new people.
These days trainees also have many opportunities on the practical front; I know from my years as an EY Resource Director that the undergrad seems to be awash with opportunities for workshadowing, summer school, secondments, placements as well as the sheer necessity of self-funding during study. What I dont know is how widespread these opportunities are, how useful trainees find them and how much take up there is. Thoughts from the frontline?


Anonymous | | Permalink

I work in Industry and want to make the next step to the board room, what should my strategy be ?

theaccountantscoach's picture

Next step - the Boardroom

theaccountantscoach | | Permalink

Apologies for keeping you waiting for a response on this. theaccountants Time Management coach has been balancing work and life over the school hols!

This is a great question which can be answered in two words: Career Strategy!
Here's an extract from my article 'Your Career by Design'. Readers can request a full copy and/or a 30 minute coaching consultation on Career Planning by emailing me at [email protected]. And in the case of initial boardroom entry - your personal SWOT (particularly the outward faces - Opportunities and Threats) is a vital tool at this point.

Read on:
You wouldn’t expect to start a business without a Business Plan would you? You’d want to establish your vision, calculate return on your investment, work out how to get to where you want to be, assess the risks. Isn’t your career (and for that matter your life) just the same? It’s not only you who is making the investment. There are your stakeholders to consider: your nearest and dearest, family and friends, not to mention the entities to whom you owe money...................
So how do you plan your career? Well, I’m not talking about a step by step guide to take you from cradle to grave. That just won’t work. You can bet your bottom dollar – the answers will change. I’m talking something much more fluid. A plan that evolves as you grow, personally and professionally. A plan that is shaped by your ever changing needs. To meet these challenges you need a plan which is founded on your core personal values. Personal values provide the solid bedrock. They evolve – they don’t fundamentally change.....................
Your Career Plan checklist
• Decide where you want to be in x years time. Establish your vision
• Identify your core values and stakeholder needs
• Draw up your personal SWOT -
• Make a plan to remedy obstacles and gaps
• Review your Career Plan every 6 months. Let it evolve with your personal and professional growth
• Take action. Take action. And continue to take action

LauraBlair's picture

Trying to break into accountancy

LauraBlair | | Permalink


I'm currently studying AAT just finished the intermediate level (exam results next Tuesday fingers crossed) and im trying to break into accountancy.

I currently work in a letting agents, I do deal with accounts but I want more experience. It just I am unsure of what to do or where to go. Practice sounds very appealing but seems very difficult to get into especially with my academic background. I didn't do very well at GCSE level only managed 4 at grade C however at the time I wasn't following an academic career path, my life then changed drastically and I started working for my current company, a small letting agents and construction company, so I don't have any A Levels or a degree. I've passed my AAT exams all first time (fingers crossed for the next one) and I absolutely love my studies and really really want to get into accountancy. What should my next move be?

LB :)

theaccountantscoach's picture

Moving into Practice

theaccountantscoach | | Permalink

Of course you need a strategy - see my response to the Boardroom transition above but your first move should be to get some experience of practice. At the very least this is vital to test out your assumption that this is the right move for you. But there are some major additional benefits. Firstly, the experience will make you more 'saleable' to a future employer; you will be able to demonstrate a serious commitment to your career choice, as well as articulating convincingly, that you understand practice environment, and how this a good fit for you. Secondly, it will give you a chance to do some research on what you'd actually like to do in practice and what sort of firm would best suit you. And thirdly, it gives you an edge over thecompetition.

Many firms will offer workshadowing opportunities or even junior level unpaid work. If you can't afford to this on a prolonged basis, consider using a few days of your annual leave entitlement. You can apply direct or even better call on your contacts - friends, family, colleagues who might be able to introduce you directly to a friendly practice. Or ask on the AccountingWEB forums!

And good luck with the exam results!


Jumoke560 | | Permalink

LB, congratulations on your choice of career and passing your exams.
I completely agree with Coach Carol - SWOT analysis on your personal life and career is paramount before you reach out to companies. At the same time, you have to be prepared to give your time in exchange for experience. Choose a couple of industries you would like to work in - eg. Telecoms, Media, Small Business or Corporation. It is probably easier and better for you to contact small businesses in your area. Use the local directories, google etc to check out these companies, contact and forward your CV to them for practical work experience. If you can afford it, try companies that offer work experience for a fee. You get to concentrate on real life situations using all the tools and software necessary - eg. MS Office, Sage, VT Accounts, Tax computation tools etc.
I have found that many qualified Accountants have never seen a taxt returs form before! They do not understand the relationship between the accounts departmet and other departments in a company/business.
So do the right things:
Your life plan, SWOT Analysis, A Mentor and get that company.
Good luck!


n.kashif | | Permalink

AGREE: experience is a best teacher

experience is the key

david5541 | | Permalink

my problem through the early 90's for a good decade was the OPPOSITE  - bearing in mind i was doing resits,

 I was getting experience in lots of different firms who had an immediate need to hire as the answer, and yet from the employers viewpoint I looked like a job hopper, I was exposed to so many different environments but was not welcomed by any them in terms of committment or desire to encourage role development in the task which i accomplished usually quite quickly.

I had to resign myself to the fact that most NON-corporate SME employers who I had worked for were hopeless HR/man managers and that I could not expect to be treated like an EMPLOYEE/MEMBER OF STAFF with  pay/holiday rights to which under labour I was legally entitled to after 12 months.

I have now resigned myself to not expecting those rights in the workplace(and here we have the public sector unions striking against public sector employers for MORE employment rights. The right to strike doesnt exist in NON-corporate ununionised sectors.

eve2206's picture


eve2206 | | Permalink

Ageism.  I know it's illegal now but it is still a massive barrier to getting paid employment.  If I tried to get a job in practice, my experience would have me down as a junior/trainee.  I  have suffered a number of redundancies lately and have basically given up on trying to get work in the corporate sector - either private or civil service (I used to be a civil servant until redundancy in May 2011).

But I'm too old to get a job as a trainee, and also I have massive commitments based on my previous income, and I can't offload these.  Believe me, I've tried!

So I've set up my own practice but I lack the confidence to grow the business as I should be or to talk with any certainty about my profession.  I'm sure I know a lot more than I give myself credit for, or how else would I have obtained my practice certificate.  So I've played safe by taking on clients who are friends (no financial reward really) and a few referrals from them.

I've researched the practices that provide experience training but a full grounding (reasonably so) will take about a year at one or two days a week and will cost around £3k.  Not affordable when you don't have an income to speak of. Plus they are all central London based so travel would cost around £60 a week for two days.  What I've done instead is to sign up for short, one-day, sessions here and there learning Sage and Quickbooks etc but the training quality is poor. 

Any ideas much appreciated.



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