Managing director
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Make a mid-career switch

21st Nov 2016
Managing director
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Career development
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Six in 10 accountants would like to make a career switch to either practice or industry, according to new research from

However nearly half said they wouldn’t be making that crossover as they felt they didn’t have the right skills, there’s too much competition, it won’t turn out as they imagined or it is the wrong economic climate.

Simon Wright, operations director at, explains how fears and concerns shouldn’t stand in the way of crossing over to the other side.

Don’t see the ‘great divide’

Change of any kind can be a little scary, but it can also be exciting and open up new opportunities for your career. Don’t let fears hamper a yearning ambition. Around 30 or 40 years ago it would have been considered the career protocol to make the decision to stay either in practice or industry. Yet the role of the accountant over the past five to 10 years has changed and will continue to do so.

Today’s accountants are required to have a much broader skill-base and to be strategic business advisers rather than just number crunchers. Mixing up the CV with both industry and practice experience is increasingly seen as a good thing and not the mark of a flighty accountant.

Change your mindset

The reality is there will always be competition, regardless of the profession or industry sector you work in. 

The important issue is to feel confident about the experience and expertise you have acquired to date and, if you feel there is a gap in your skillset, then be proactive about gaining new skills.  

Get the right skills

Building up your skillset may involve asking your current employer whether you can go on more courses and get extra training. If you want to fast-track your career and your employer isn’t supportive then be prepared to make financial and time investment outside the office hours. 

To stand the best chance of moving from industry to practice, make sure you focus your efforts on building your overall business and commercial awareness and skills within your current role, gain knowledge across different aspects of the business and get involved with team management and client contact. These skills added to your professional arsenal will serve to strengthen your position when you make the move.

If you want to make the transition from practice to industry good people skills are essential as you will need to work with people from different disciplines on a daily basis. Employers like to see that you have an interest in the area in which they operate. For example, if you want to move out of audit and into the retail sector or financial services, it will help if you have focused on audits for retail companies or done pure financial services audits. You will need a credible story about why you want to move into business, or any particular industry sector.

All in the timing

In the current climate, it may be advisable to stay put and make an impact in your current role. Making a success of your current position and climbing the ladder during a slow or uncertain economy when moving jobs is risky could be a smart strategy.

When the economic conditions improve then you will be in an even better position to make the move from industry to practice or vice versa. On the other hand, with Brexit looming and the uncertainly of working within certain sectors in the UK, such as financial services and manufacturing, plus uncertainly about how leaving the EU may affect migration and working abroad, now might be a very good time to make the move from industry to practice.

Weigh up all of your options in your current role and if factors such as job security, role advancement and career growth opportunities look better after making the jump, then this should be a strong consideration for you. Time is however of the essence in the current climate – if you are looking to make the move, doing this sooner rather than later would be in your interest and you could beat your competition to the best jobs which may not be available later.

You haven’t missed the boat

Remember both the practice and industry sectors are very receptive to the candidates with experience and experience is certainly something that a mid or even late career-er can bring to the table.

By then it should be a gentle hop rather than a giant leap when you cross over to the other side.


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