Career break: How to reignite your financial flameby
How do you cope with re-entering such a demanding profession? Ria-Jaine Lincoln shares her experiences of coming back to accountancy’s front line.
Career breaks happen for all sorts of reasons. AccountingWEB member Jaybee661 recently told their story: “I lost my wife in 2017 so sold my practice and resigned with the AAT.”
With their enthusiasm renewed Jaybee661 began to think about returning to accountancy, and turned to the Any Answers page to ask whether other accountants thought it was worth reinstating that AAT membership.
“There are a lot of challenges around setting up, depending on what you’re taking a break from,” said Ria-Jaine Lincoln, founder of Ria-Jaine Accounts.
“There’s getting your license and then proving you’ve got the experience that you can sign off on all areas in accounting.”
When Lincoln started out as a trainee within a large firm, she found it difficult to get a grasp of all the different branches of the profession because other teams around her dealt with different functions.
To expand her awareness, she applied for as many teams as she could and also did some volunteer work in order to move around and gain different experience: “It’s just about building as much as you can on your CV and trying to access the opportunities.”
Before starting her own practice in 2019, Lincoln took a break from the profession for some time due to struggles with her mental health.
“I was at a crossroads - I had a lot going on,” she explained. “I just couldn’t cope with the nine-to-five. I needed something flexible that worked with the challenges that I was facing.”
She decided to leave and retrain as a beautician as the work schedule was a better fit for the issues she was dealing with at the time. But when large numbers of her beauty clients started clamouring for her accounting expertise, she discovered that she could combine these two loves to create her own niche.
“I realised that I could add some value to the industry with my accounting services,” she said. “It’s still an area I’m passionate about, so it doesn’t feel like work.”
Taking a break
While everyone experiences low points from time to time, AccountingWEB members have been increasingly complaining about falling out of love with accountancy, thanks to the ever increasing demands of clients and non-stop regulatory changes.
Lincoln argued that having a break was a good way to reignite your passion for work: “It got to the point where I was asking to go back to work because I felt really motivated and ready.” This revival would probably not have happened if she not stopped to look after herself, she added.
Having a break doesn’t mean you’re taking your foot off the pedal. “I know some people may feel like it’s a step backwards maybe, but it really isn’t,” she said. “It’s much more beneficial to take that time out rather than running yourself to exhaustion.”
Back in the groove
She even urged the importance of having breaks within your working regime, for example with an occasional respite from social media: “I’m very active on social media, but then I will have a week or two where I don’t post anything and it’s purely because I’m gathering my thoughts and trying to get back into the groove.”
Don’t feel pressured into pleasing others. Some contacts warned Lincoln she would lose clients or followers, but “if it means [you’re] going to come out the other side feeling stronger,” a break was unlikely to derail her practice, she said.
“It’s really important to go at a pace that works for you and not to worry too much about what else is happening. It’s always good to have your eye on the competition, but not to the extent that it’s controlling your decisions. Focus on your USP, what makes you different, and prioritise the customer journey.”
She also advised setting realistic targets and goals, and not punishing yourself if you don’t quite meet them: “Life happens, and you have to go with it and just do what works for you.” She related this to her studies at the Open University, when she had to push her final year back three times due to personal problems.
Take care of yourself
With the effects of the pandemic likely to continue into the coming year, AccountingWEB has been overflowing with reports of readers feeling overwhelmed: “[I] could literally run away,” shared murphy1 as the Chancellor unveiled yet another job support scheme a fortnight ago.
Countless readers have reported feeling mentally and physically exhausted.
Although she admitted it’s easier said than done, looking after yourself first is Lincoln’s key to managing stress.
“I schedule everything now,” she said. After working non-stop during the early days of her career, she quickly learned the importance of making time for everything else in her life. She sets specific periods in her calendar for work, family, personal and study time. The discipline sets boundaries that prevent her from getting overwhelmed by all the things she has to do.
“Listen to your body,” Lincoln advised. “Sometimes when it goes too far it can take a lot longer to recover rather than just having that one day off.”
If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed by your work, don’t be afraid to reach out and speak to people. The community is always here to listen; as one user said, “I’d be a mess without AWEB for counselling.”