Ask an Accountant: What's it like being one?
The accountancy world can be a daunting prospect as an outsider. What’s it like being an Accountant? What do people enjoy about it? Do they regret it? Do I have the qualities needed to strive in this field? (If you’re unsure of which qualifications might help you get into this industry, check out: I want to be an Accountant but what qualifications should I choose?)
An insider’s perspective can really help! We posed some frequent questions to several experienced qualified Accountants working as Financial Controllers/Directors in the sector.
Here’s what they had to say:
Is working in finance different to what you expected? If so, in what way?
"The work has been more varied than I expected. In practice, from dealing with clients from a wide range of business sectors, to providing free tax clinics for senior citizens. In industry, dealing with matters you wouldn’t normally associate with accountancy, from negotiating utility contracts to coming up with the new brand names. I certainly didn’t think a Finance Manager job would be based in a shed on a farm with a wellies and jeans dress code!”
"It’s a hugely varied industry with so many career options (financial accounting, management accounting, external audit, internal audit, tax, assurance, advisory, etc.). I always saw myself working in a financial accountant role but working in industry has highlighted the many different areas I can specialise in as my career develops.”
"Finance and accountancy roles can be far more varied than you may expect. Accounts roles do not necessarily mean staring at a computer screen all day long or having a high volume of data to input. Depending on which path you choose to pursue, you may find that finance is far more integrated in business now than before. You may find yourself as a business partner with other departments, giving presentations, answering queries, speaking with banks and stakeholders as well as the day to day book-keeping of a company.”
"Working as an accountant is very different as there are so many more areas and fundamentals than I ever originally considered. The different regulations around what different sized entities have to disclose, why certain transactions had to be treated a certain why and where they then had to recorded. I assumed finance was a very end point profession but there is no much more that goes on behind the scenes.”
What do you believe are the key skills and competencies someone needs to be successful working in the sector?
"A certain level of numeracy is essential, but you don’t need to be a maths whizz. A logical and methodical mind is much more important. Interpersonal and communication skills, plus adaptability are equally as important. Passion is essential, as this career requires you to constantly seek new knowledge to add value to what you do.”
"Accuracy and attention to detail. Pride in what you do and deliver. Good IT systems knowledge and a willingness to learn new processes. Patience and diligence.”
"Being able to see the bigger picture is key, understanding the impact of the numbers on different areas of the business, and spotting anomalies before they become an issue.”
"Attention to detail, common sense, the desire to actually work in finance as it can be considered quite dull, striving to achieve the end result.”
"Accuracy and attention to detail is most definitely required. I’d also recommend patience and an enquiring mind!”
What do you most enjoy about your profession?
"I enjoy the satisfaction of producing useful management information that can help drive a business forward, being able to make a difference and the variety of work.”
"Variety and challenge. Whilst a cliché, each day is not the same, there is always something different to overcome, resolve, report or manage.”
"When something balances or when you complete a big project. There really is no greater feeling!”
"I like the preciseness and accuracy, and the ability to work cross-functionally with other departments.”
"The different people I get to work with and the constant learning and development.”
In general, what advice would you give to someone considering a career in the finance sector?
"Don’t be afraid of hard work and earning your stripes. Consider the person you are and where you envisage yourself working and what types of role may suit you. Finance can be an exciting career choice and a transferable skill across industries.”
"Work your way through the department, Purchase Ledger, Sales Ledger, General Ledger, etc. Get experience in as many areas as possible which will make you realize which area you want to progress in. Also, once in a Controllers/FD position, you will know what each member of your team do!”
"Think about what you want to get out of it, finance will only be a glamorous career if you’re willing to commit to it and work your way up. Research the different avenues as there are so many different aspects that people aren’t aware of…. Credit control, payroll, actuary, analyst, tax and not just the pure finance based work, corporate finance for example.”
"I would say be prepared to work hard but remember to enjoy what you do. Get as much experience as you can and keep in touch with other accountants as it’s always good to have someone you can run something past, particularly if you’re working in industry as you’ll often be the only accountant there. Be adaptable and see where your career takes you, since you never know what the next opportunity will be!”
We hope the above viewpoints from individuals who’ve ‘been there and done that’ will provide some helpful reading. If you’d like to discuss the topic further or fire any of your own questions at our network then please get in touch!
Georgina Trudgill is an Associate Director in the Accountancy Division at Harvey John.
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