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Is it damaging to move into industry after 1 year?

Trapped in a difficult situation. Considering moving to industry to complete ACCA instead.

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Hello,

I would really appreciate some advice as I am stuck in an unfortunate situation. I have worked at a top 30 firm (trying to be vague) for 1 year in a very unpleasant work environment. When I started my training contract I was promised training in both accounts preparation and tax, however all I have been given (despite requests) is personal tax returns and admin work as most other work is outsourced. I want a challenge. Although I’ve been told that this will improve I’m not holding my breath and I do not want to work in tax (I am more interested in management accounting).

This lack of training has been a major barrier to me securing another job despite having completed 6-7 ACCA exams out of 13 this year (strong exam results are useless without experience). I feel that I may find a better work culture in industry (my office is silent). If I make the move to industry now after only 1 year (most likely to a transactional role) would it be damaging to my future career? I am struggling to secure interviews for practice accounting roles and feel that my chances are slim. I've been told that my CV is very good and I have had interviews for roles in industry. Should I not use recruiters anymore? Please help... I feel like giving up.

 

  • Which types of roles in industry would be suitable?
  • Are there any disadvantages to qualifying in industry?

Replies (17)

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By penelope pitstop
14th Apr 2019 00:56

Please can you explain exactly what you mean by "silent offices with highly introverted people".

Can you give me a couple of examples. I want to get a feel for the problem.

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Replying to penelope pitstop:
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By lizzie93
14th Apr 2019 09:12

In this example a toxic office where people rarely speak to each other unless there is a problem. Very cliquey. Trainees are not supportive of each other and nobody is willing to share knowledge. I want to move to a better environment but feel trapped.

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Replying to lizzie93:
By penelope pitstop
14th Apr 2019 12:10

Just be careful not to take things at face value.

In an extreme case, employees may have been the subject of a disciplinary(s) where they have to be careful what they say to each other during work's time. I once said literally one sentence about a private matter during work's time and was severely reprimanded by some idiot bosses for it.

Some employers adopt a very strict approach where they expect virtually 100% work output during work time. After all, you are being paid to work, not play.

Cliques are all well and good, but usually they only endure until someone rubs someone else up the wrong way (which always seems to happen at some stage, no matter how "best friends" they seem to be for the moment).

Trainees not being supportive is hardly surprising. Often the work environment is a "dog eat dog" situation. Accountancy seems to attract more than its fair share of lunatics and psychopaths, so be braced for trouble from time to time.

I have found during my career that too many jealous "mentors" keep too much information to themselves. Seems to be some form of self preservation.

In fact, not "sharing knowledge" blighted my career for years. That is until I realised you often have to obtain the knowledge yourself by additional hard graft.

Also remember that there is a phenomenon known as "female jealousy". You may find it easier to extract assistance from male colleagues, but not always, and be careful!.

I used to work for a very good firm of Chartered Accountants. I would reckon that if the partners I worked with were still there today they would be around 80 years of age. They were great to get on with.

But the new generation of partners are a different breed of animal. Actually, "animal" is a good description of the present partners of the firm I used to work for, because they show some very base traits in their dealings with clients and employees, despite the charm they exhibit at the outset.

However, I would suggest you take advantage of a bad situation as much as possible. Personal tax is not a bad place to start, and it is the end stage of many accounts jobs.

It gives a good grounding for capital gains tax and IHT, which are essential for the "rounded out" accountant.

Put on a brave face and keep your ears open. Absorb as much as you can at this early stage. As time progresses you will become much more valuable to a future employer.

In a rare case where your employment is unbearable and suicidal thoughts enter your mind, be prepared to break your contract and jump ship at an opportune time to a better employer (but watch out for a "frying pan/fire" scenario. "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't"). You may have to end up repaying costs to your employer but regain your sanity elsewhere.

But remember that you have only been there a year. Some trainees I have come across expect to become partners when they can barely write their own names. So do not get an exalted view of yourself, because it takes a lot more than one year to get a grip of personal tax. Try not to run before you can walk!

And by the way, "silence is golden" in accountancy. Try balancing a complex set of trust accounts in the middle of a noisy crowd; almost impossible to do.

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Replying to penelope pitstop:
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By lizzie93
14th Apr 2019 21:26

Thank you for the helpful advice, a lot of the things that you said ring true.

It is possible that past events have led to this 'culture' so I have tried not to take it personally and focused on my work instead. Hmm yeah at first I thought maybe it was because they were 'concentrating' but it's more than that. Sorry to hear about your experience.

What you said about 'dog eat dog' is definitely true as my mentors have been either been hostile or completely ignored me thus preventing me from reaching their level and negatively impacting on my performance.

When you mentioned obtaining knowledge independently - my manager simply told me to do research/google things if I wanted to learn. Worth a try I guess... I know I'm only a novice but I really do want to learn, I'm sure there's much more to personal tax than churning out returns but this is my only insight so far.

You're right about female jealousy... I think this has been an issue too, partly because of exam results. Isolation isn't fun. Haha oh dear... animals doesn't sound good either.

At the moment I'm just trying to get as much out of this situation as possible although it is slow coming. I am holding it together but it is certainly stressful and eroding my confidence. Yes I hope the next office will be an improvement but I'm unsure how to gauge/ensure this?

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By Accountant A
14th Apr 2019 02:01

lizzie93 wrote:

It seems that companies have better work cultures than accountancy practices

I'm sorry for the predicament you find yourself in but I wouldn't make career decisions on the basis of inaccurate sweeping stereotypes. I'm sure not all accountancy practices are "silent offices with highly introverted people" and I'm equally sure all finance jobs in industry are not buzzing with extrovert accountants.

Decide what you want to do (practice or industry) and pursue that. Your priority is getting qualified so try to focus on that in the short-term.

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Replying to Accountant A:
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By lizzie93
14th Apr 2019 20:51

What I mean is that I don't want to move to a similar environment. In finance jobs there are a mixture of people not purely accountants so I thought that this might help.

I want to work in industry and my interests lie in management accounting but I am asking whether I should stay in practice longer first and what type of role would be best to start with. I feel that the hardest part of my training has been dealing with office politics as opposed to exams and the actual work. I have pushed through my exams quickly to increase my employability elsewhere but this is becoming exhausting.

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By Matrix
14th Apr 2019 07:17

I expect it will be hard to move half way through a training contract. I would not move to industry unless there is the right opportunity.

There is nothing wrong with getting tax experience and, if you haven’t done anything else, then you don’t know if you would prefer accounts etc.

Is there a requirement to have accounts experience to qualify? If so then push for a date to get this experience. If it is a fairly big firm then there must be other positions internally. You need to find a mentor/HR officer who will listen and hopefully help you.

Read your training contract too.

You will hopefully have lots of different jobs over a long career, don’t expect to get on with everyone. I had a blast during my training contract, mostly with auditors since they were so bored for 3 years. Some of them are CFOs of FTSE100 companies now so stick it out.

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By lizzie93
14th Apr 2019 20:45

Yes I know it is hard but I feel that my employer hasn't kept their side of the agreement. I don't want to leave in 2 years and still have poor prospects. HR are not helpful and if anything punitive of people who ask for support.

What would the right opportunity be? I have experience of studying accounts, management accounting and audit and much prefer these topics. I do not want to work in tax and if I stay I might become pigeon-holed. They will not let me move department so the only solution is to leave. Most people who work here seem to quit accountancy after their 3 years here and many are unhappy. The manager who has been asked to train me is overworked and not keen to help, I can't force him to. I have had terrible jobs in the past where at least a couple of people were nice but that is not the case here.

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By bernard michael
14th Apr 2019 10:20

Have you put your training concerns to your employer. If not you should before you make any career choices

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By lizzie93
14th Apr 2019 11:47

Yes several times to no avail unfortunately. I feel like I have no choice

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By adf2410
14th Apr 2019 16:11

I absolutely loathed my 3 years and 1 month in the practice I trained at, but I stuck it out and qualified. I handed my notice in as soon as I could and resisted all their attempts to keep me, such as offering to double my salary.

I am so glad that I didn't give up on the qualification though. 20 years later, the memory of working there has dimmed, and I've had a very happy career since.

I would say that unless this training contract is adversely affecting your mental health (in which case, get out asap), then you'd be best to stick it out, and take the advice of others in this thread about how to improve your current working conditions.

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Replying to adf2410:
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By lizzie93
14th Apr 2019 20:28

Yes I can see that people from my current firm have done the same but the ones who left most recently have been put off accountancy altogether. I really want to finish ACCA because I have invested so much in it already and am doing well, I'm just feel that I need a better environment in which to complete it.

That's great, what kind of roles did it lead to for you? I think that my current working conditions are beyond repair so my best option is to survive until another opportunity arises. I mostly wanted to know if it would be better to move to another accountancy practice instead of a company and how this decision would affect me.

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By Moonbeam
14th Apr 2019 17:45

I spent years in commerce, often working in offices with people I couldn't stand (including a silent office where the boss would tell you off for talking to anyone). I never worked in practice because I was put off by the small minded attitude and poor pay that seemed endemic. I often wish I had worked in practice now, but I would have hated it.
You want to leave, and whilst others who know better than me advise against it, if I were that unhappy I would leave.
If you want to qualify in commerce you might have to take a junior position and work your way upwards. But the sooner you do that the better. I don't guarantee you will like the other people any better, but the whole buzz of commerce is so different from practice. Personality can take you very far in commerce if the right opportunity arises.
Look at Indeed and see who's advertising. The agencies ought to be able to help you as long as you tell them you want to move to commerce and qualify there and make it a positive statement, rather than a negative comment about your current employer.
The only thing is that Brexit seems to be affecting the employment market. People aren't moving around so much at present so there are fewer job opportunities than normal.
Just keep positive and keep looking.

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Replying to Moonbeam:
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By lizzie93
14th Apr 2019 20:17

Thank you for this, I think that being happier at work would help me to finish my ACCA studies. Yes I have been putting it across as a positive statement because I genuinely would like to work in industry. I've had several positive responses so far but have had to lower my search to more junior roles (albeit better paid) e.g. finance assistant / accounts assistant. Does that sound about right? I'll have to work my way up but likewise in practice. I am more interested in corporate finance than tax/audit and my end goal was always to work in industry (preferably in the media/music sector) but I was under the impression that it was the norm (preferable maybe) to qualify in practice. I guess I could always return to practice in a few years time if I wanted to?

I know that the people/environment can be purely down to luck but I would welcome a fresh start and it couldn't really be much worse. It is a complicated situation and I can't explain fully here. Yes I think that Brexit is a barrier at the moment, although there have been more job adverts in the last week so fingers crossed. I'm trying to stay positive and keep myself busy while I wait.

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Replying to lizzie93:
By Moonbeam
15th Apr 2019 08:26

Look at the business/company and the opportunities in the future when job hunting. Finance assistant would be fine if there are opportunities for promotion. However good you turn out to be, if there aren't enough jobs in the Finance department to be promoted up to it's no good for you.

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By spilly
15th Apr 2019 08:59

It is possible to switch between practice and commerce, but it may take you longer to qualify.
I started in practice, moved to a small business, then went back into practice for the final set of exams.
Whilst working in the business, I was only paid for a 4-day week, although they did pay for the ACCA course at my local college. I had no mentor there either, so had to do a lot of extra reading and work on my own.
So don’t suffer where you are working now, and also take a look at some smaller practices as they can be less stuffy.

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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
15th Apr 2019 16:12

Do read through the ACCA's training requirements: it used to be the case that they would not accept as relevant experience employments of less than 18 months' duration.

That was a long while ago, but as you've only been 12 months with your present firm I should look at that before you leap, by checking out any such present-day ACCA criteria. I was going to suggest you ask around in the office; but perhaps not :)

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