During my series of blogs I will tap into what first rime movers from the Chartered market should consider when they look to make that first leap into the commercial world, typical questions to look out for an interview for a first mover, what factors candidates should consider in order to separate themselves from their peers and I will interview impressive candidates roughly 4-5 years post qualified experience to discuss what challenges they faced and tips to be successful in that competitive corporate world.
Following those three plus years of the audit slog, late night studying, late night year end audits for that matter with difficult clients has finally landed you with the prized CA qualification. You should be proud of yourself, this is no mean feat and the CA qualification is a good grounding for a successful career.
Unfortunately this does not mean it is smooth sailing from here on out, what is does mean is you have displayed to potential employers that you are an intelligent, (Hard Working) young professional ready to be moulded! This leads on nicely to the first point I will cover in my series: Key aspects to consider when deciding on your first opportunity in 'commercial':
1) Find a mentor: This is something you should look to gain as early as possible in your career. A career counsellor is someone that can provide you an objective opinion and someone you can lean on when you are looking to achieve specific career goals in your career. This mentor should be someone who is a high performer themselves who you would aspire to be and it would be more beneficial if they were not your direct hiring manager. They often come in the shape of your first hiring manager is the commercial environment.
2) Learning & Development opportunities: I appreciate you have completed your CA but you cannot conquer the world... Yet!!! It is imperative that you realise there is still much to learn and you need to find an environment that promotes development. You will need to apply the skills that you have learnt whilst in professional services and be comfortable that your manager and the team around you will be able to dedicate time to your development. See if your potential employer runs workshops on ERP or any other form of development workshops.
3) Don't be fixed on industry sectors: Often newly qualified CA’s are reluctant to interview for a business (in an industry sector), they have not audited. Be confident, you are clearly bright and intelligent and you will pick things up so if a client wishes to interview you go interview.
4) Be Realistic: Many candidates coming out of Audit are keen to pursue opportunities as a Financial or Commercial Analyst. Whilst it is not impossible, be realistic about what you are looking for. Auditing experience goes hand in hand with Financial Accounting, so if an employer is looking for someone who has modelling, analysis, budgeting and forecasting; candidates from a Transaction Services style background are better suited initially. Play to your strengths to get into an attractive ASX company or large corporate, kick some goals in that reporting role, develop those technical skills and then signal your desire to move into that FP&A Analyst role you are excited about. Big businesses promote internal moves and typically allow internal candidates the opportunity before search the external market.
5) Interview your potential employer: It is sometimes a tough situation recruiter’s find themselves in looking to find the best candidate for an employer and the best role for a candidate and trying to marry the two. It is your responsibility as a candidate to interview your potential employer. If you have come from a highly sought after Big 4 trained background, make sure if you are going to commit to an employer for the next 2+ years of your career that you interview your boss and/or employer. Think about what matters to you in your decision making and whether that business and/or boss ticks those boxes. You will then have all the relevant information about the role itself and what future prospects maybe available to you if you are offered the role to make an informed decision.
In summary, whilst the first move is a big decision, consider broader factors. The first role is not what is of paramount importance, it is critical to look to where you want to be in 5 years and beyond. This is the first, not the last move and laying a solid foundation to build you career and your personal brand is what needs to be front of mind. As a result I would strongly encourage you to focus on choosing the following: -
- The right business / brand – Get a strong brand that will stand you in good stead when looking for an external move at some stage – Listed can be helpful from a controls perspective but will usually limit you visibility to the wider business. This is why the 5 year plan is important – ASX listed experience is non-negotiable in some instances and broad finance exposure essential on other paths. Typically ASX business will allow you to move from a Financial Accountant role to an Analyst style role based on good performance, this is certainly an important point.
- Boss – this is to a degree the most important piece of the puzzle, a strong boss will recognise talent; know how to nurture it and how to progress it in the wider organisation. The right manager is the key to that internal move to a commercial role when you prove yourself – the voice at the management meeting that will back you for the transition. As such, you need to be as good at spotting their potential as they will be at spotting and utilising yours! 80% of people move on due to their manager – make this choice carefully as if you get this right many of the other parts of your career will fall into place.
If you are looking to make that first step or would be interested to hear more about what it looks like and the sorts of opportunities available, please get in touch via the details below.