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Making the switch from practice to industry: what you need to know

With five decades of work stretching out in front of many newly and part qualified accountants, Chilufya Mulenga, co-chair of the Chartered Accountants Student Society in London, sets out her top tips for those looking to switch from practice to industry.

August 2019

It is expected that 20 year olds who are starting to work now will be retiring, on average, at the age of 70. With your professional life possibly spanning five decades, this gives plenty of time to work in different sectors, I have noticed that many of my peers are already looking to make the transition from practice to industry. So here are my top tips on what you should be focusing on when making this change: 

1.What sector do you want to be in? 

Look at the clients you’ve worked with. Ask yourself if you have found any particular clients interesting? Given that you will be working in a specific industry, it is important to look for roles in sectors that you like. 

Having a deep understanding of your sector is vital in industry as knowing your sector allows you to understand the risks and challenges that the company might face and therefore will aid you to understand finances of the company.

2.What role do you want to do? 

In terms of role, what area of finance do you want to be in? Many newly qualified or part qualified candidates moving into industry pick financial accounting or control roles first. 

However, don’t forget that there are lots of roles in industry including strategy, financial planning and analysis (FP&A), and tax. I would recommend speaking to someone who has made the transition already.

3.One size doesn’t fit all… 

Company size matters. Consider if you want to be in a FTSE 100, an SME or a start-up. Also, appreciate that a start-up will have very different challenges to FTSE 100. 

4.Culture fit

What kind of company do want to be part of? What values are important to you? Do you prefer a more professional culture or more relaxed culture? These are all questions that you need to ask yourself when making this transition. 

Again, speak to other accountants that are working in a variety of industries to get a feel for what might suit you. 

Most importantly, make sure you look in advance. There are many people looking to move that are at varied stages of their career, so don’t come to the party late.

Chilufya Mulenga is co-chair of the Chartered Accountants Student Society in London

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