As an accountant working for a large organisation or in a private practice, you probably enjoy a lucrative career with many interesting challenges. But if you are starting to feel restless and unfulfilled at work, perhaps it’s time to consider a career change.
With today’s easy access to online learning resources and the increasing flexibility of today’s employers, it’s more viable than ever to switch from one path to another, mid-career. Success today isn’t about rigid career paths – it’s about lifelong learning and taking a multidisciplinary view of the world.
Accountants are fortunate in that their discipline is a solid foundation for a range of career paths in management, technology or entrepreneurship. Your attention to detail, understanding of numbers, and insight into the business are valuable in most parts of a modern organisation, offering several valid career paths to follow.
Before you make the switch
We all go through rough patches at work – it is especially in these times when running away to start a scuba diving school seems tempting. Before you take the drastic step of resigning from your job and embarking on a whole new career, ask yourself some questions and be brutally honest when you answer them:
Why am I discontent?
Look at the factors in your daily working life to understand why you want a switch. Would a change of employer, or a change of roles within your current employer’s finance department be enough to make you feel happier? If you are in private practice, are you getting along with your partners or is there a difficult client that drains your energy, and is there something you can do about it?
How risk-tolerant am I, and how much money do I need to earn?
As an accountant in an established organisation or private practice, you are a high-income earner with a predictable revenue stream. Changing careers might mean a temporary fall in income while you skill yourself up in a new field, or it could mean making a high-risk, high-reward bet on an entrepreneurial venture.
Is what I want to do realistic?
Speak to people in the fields that interest you to understand the skills you will require, the money you will earn, and the personal attributes you will need to succeed in a new role. Making a switch will often demand patience, humility and a good sense of humour as you acclimatise yourself to a new role and working environment.
Some career pivots to consider if you’re looking to make a move away from the formal finance industry
Strike out on your own
Tired of being an auditor for one of the big four or an accountant at a large organisation? Why not consider becoming a freelance accountant, for small businesses or private individuals? The freelance accountant performs a very different role to that of an accountant in a large firm – they need to learn how to acquire clients, how to be the leading voice in their client’s financial direction, and how to organise their own work schedule.
Jump into the world of entrepreneurship
As an accountant, you’re perfectly qualified to act as a head of finance for a start-up or to establish a venture of your own. Being a part of a newly-minted business is a risk – but as an accountant, you are better qualified than most to calculate that risk. You may have your own business idea but need a partner to implement it, or you may have found a small team that shows promise that you could help succeed. Start-ups will test your ability to work within a team, and how to work through instability in order to achieve business growth.
Delve into technology or data science
Accounting today is about data and technology – if these are the factors that attracted you to your profession, you may find a new lease of life pursuing a career as a data scientist, information systems auditor, or business analyst. You may need to learn new skills such as programming, but a combination of IT and accounting skills will make you highly employable.
Find a new role within your current employer
If you love the organisation you work for, speak to your HR director or CEO about the possibility of making a switch from finance to a different department such as procurement, investor relationships, sales or operations. Many of these roles need a sound financial background while offering more human interaction or the opportunity to get hands-on with the business.
The world is your oyster
As an accountant, you are fluent in the language of the business and have skills that are highly transferable between countries, organisations and business disciplines. The sky is the limit – provided you are a lifelong learner with a keen interest in business and the world around you.
The accounting profession offers some diverse opportunities, if you want to make a change without making a complete break from your profession.
In the recent #NextGenAccounting podcast, Vangelis Kyriazis, qualified Chartered Accountant (CA) and Co-founder of Syft Analytics, discussed this topic in more detail.
After qualifying as a CA, he opened his own accounting practice that eventually evolved from providing financial advisory to small businesses, to a company that took a technology-empowered approach to help businesses by leveraging the cloud and AI.
Here are a few other career paths that you can take, like Vangelis, to diversify within your career:
- Forensic accountant: Like a mixture of detective and accountant, a forensic accountant analyses and interprets financial evidence to uncover or provide evidence of fraud and other financial crimes.
- Auditor: As an auditor, you will monitor and assess financial discipline and risks within an organisation and make recommendations to improve financial management. External auditors are independent from the company, while internal auditors work for the organisation.
- Management accountants: Here you will analyse and prepare financial reports for internal management use.
- Tax accountants: Your speciality will be in taxation matters.