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Career Advice (Former Tax Trainee)

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Hello all,

I've made the difficult decision to leave my role as a tax trainee in a practice firm. I've completed five ACA exams, and I have five exemptions for the CIMA qualification through my degree.

I'm interested in a career in industry, but I'm struggling to find a junior accounting role due to my lack of experience with accounts. I'm currently in the running for a few finance graduate programmes (fingers crossed!), but failing that, I'd really like to secure a relevant role that would enable me to develop industry experience and consolidate what I've learned from the exams (and potentially receive sponsorship to undertake more exams).

How should I proceed? Should I finish the CIMA operational level in the hopes that it demonstrates committment? Should I contact recruiters? Is there anything I could do right now that would make me more attractive to employers? I have plenty of admin experience, I'm very good with Excel, and I recently recieved a distinction for my master's degree - although I'm now learning the latter doesn't really amount to much in the job market.

Any advice would be very much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Replies (12)

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By paul.benny
28th Jan 2020 07:50

1) Leaving your current job without a new one to go to is a Bad Move. Whatever the reasons, it will play badly with recruiters and potential employers.

2) You don't explain about your ACA qualification - are you still studying? it sounds like you are out of your training contract and have failed or abandoned ACA. If you can't complete ACA, what makes you believe you can pass CIMA?

3) Have you asked your current employer about gaining wider experience? Most will attempt to accommodate such requests.

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Replying to paul.benny:
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By oakroys
28th Jan 2020 12:13

paul.benny wrote:

1) Leaving your current job without a new one to go to is a Bad Move. Whatever the reasons, it will play badly with recruiters and potential employers.

2) You don't explain about your ACA qualification - are you still studying? it sounds like you are out of your training contract and have failed or abandoned ACA. If you can't complete ACA, what makes you believe you can pass CIMA?

3) Have you asked your current employer about gaining wider experience? Most will attempt to accommodate such requests.

1. I accept this, but leaving was the right decision for me. I was quite unhappy with the role from the outset, but decided to give it six months before making any decisions. I am happy to discuss my reasons with recruiters/hiring managers, and have accepted that it may preclude me from some roles.

2. I failed my last exam (Law) because, frankly, I was quite miserable with my position & I couldn't bring myself to do the revision after work. I scored high marks in four of the five exams I passed, I have a strong higher education record, and I am confident that I can pass the exams associated with any professional qualifications. I am leaning towards CIMA because it's related to the role I'm seeking; I get a fair few exemptions towards it; and it appears to be the most cost-effective of the chartered qualifications.

3. I have. They were unwilling to let me spend some time with another part of the tax team (the knowledge I would've gained from this would've been critical to the performance of my role). They certainly wouldn't have entertained a secondment with the accounts team.

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Replying to oakroys:
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By paul.benny
28th Jan 2020 12:31

Firstly, it's good that you've come back to engage with the responses - but take note of what people say rather than justifying yourself.

Bluntly, walking out of job and your exam record will make it hard for you even to have an opportunity to explain yourself to recruiters or potential employers.

It sounds like your former employer became as much the problem as working in tax. I wonder if there was some (undiagnosed) depression. It's worth checking out CABA to see what help they can provide.

An alternative strategy might be to remain in tax with a more enlightened firm where you could also complete your ACA and possibly get a secondment to different function.

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Replying to oakroys:
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By lesley.barnes
28th Jan 2020 13:58

I'm Cima qualified and I would say that it is geared towards industry rather than practice. I moved from industry to practice but I had to do a lot of studying and courses to make sure that I was competent to work with tax before I took any clients. You need to make sure that industry's the way to go for you rather than practice it isn't easy to change later.

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Replying to lesley.barnes:
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By jbunkers1
12th Feb 2020 12:49

Hi Lesley,

Moving from industry to practice is something I'm exploring at the minute. What exams did you take? Did you stay in your industry role until you had passed?

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By James Green
28th Jan 2020 10:32

With what you’ve passed and are exempt you should be able to get AAT without (many) more exams.

Get it.

Then go temping for a while. There’s always demand for AAT temps in big company accounting teams.

Once youve got a year of this under your belt then decide on more exams / what route etc.

Good luck

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Replying to James Green:
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By oakroys
28th Jan 2020 12:15

James Green wrote:

With what you’ve passed and are exempt you should be able to get AAT without (many) more exams.

Get it.

Then go temping for a while. There’s always demand for AAT temps in big company accounting teams.

Once youve got a year of this under your belt then decide on more exams / what route etc.

Good luck

Thank you so much for the advice. I considered this, but I was concerned as to whether it would allow me to overcome the experience issue. Could employers respond favourably to someone who's completed the AAT but is lacking in terms of direct accounts experience? Thanks again.

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Replying to oakroys:
By James Green
28th Jan 2020 13:05

That’s why I said temp.

May sure you write your CV carefully to make the most of what you know, but Temps tend not to be looked at as closely. They’re often treated as “bums on seats”

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Replying to James Green:
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By [email protected]
30th Jan 2020 12:07

Temping is a good path forward - it will expose you to a wide range of industries and roles quickly.
As James has said, AAT is a good path.
The key to being a good temp is to be flexible, be adaptable, be available.
Build a relationship with local temp agencies. Work well for them and they'll be calling you...

If you decide to stay in industry them CIMA is an excelent route, as it is focussed more towards business than audit and tax.

If your previous job was toxic then you've done the right thing in leaving.
(I struggled with one of my CIMA exams, told myself I would leave when I passed, couldn't take the place anymore. Passed said exam immediately after leaving!)

Good luck

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By [email protected]
30th Jan 2020 13:12

Hi there, I left a large accounting firm part way through my training contract as I was so bored with the work, went to a new job as a management trainee in banking. I found that the people who did the most interesting work were in the merchant banking arm and when I asked them what their background was and how they had got there, they told me they were both chartered accountants. I realised my mistake, left the bank and went back to my old firm to finish off the rest of my contract which had remained "dormant" at the ICAEW since I had left. I have never regretted it. I didn't go into banking after qualifying, I specialised in tax but having the qualification gave me lots of choice. I suggest you rethink your decision and go back.

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By oakroys
05th Feb 2020 18:47

Hello. Thank you all for the advice. Thought I'd provide an update. I recently received and accepted an offer of a job as an assistant management accountant with a public sector body. They've placed me on a CIMA apprenticeship & I even received a payrise. It all worked out in the end. Thanks again!

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Replying to oakroys:
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By JoF
05th Feb 2020 19:19

Well done on the new job and good luck. Nice to see an outcome (and for thanks to be given to those who took the time to respond).

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