Students are understandably concerned about the threat of redundancy. Fortunately, there is plenty of support and guidance available if it happens to you, helping you with your next career opportunity.
Given the current economic uncertainty, you wouldn’t be human if you weren’t a little concerned about your own job security.
Many employers will remember the last recession, when the scale of redundancies left them with severe skills gaps down the line and anecdotal evidence suggests a far more cautious approach to reducing headcount.
Even so, if redundancy does loom, there are plenty of ways that you can soften the blow. ACA students have access to lots of useful support materials, guidance and practical services provided by us and wellbeing charity CABA, including helplines and counselling.
Making the most of these resources will help to give you the best chance of securing a new role.
1. Log your experience
Before you leave your current employer, make sure your practical work experience days, professional development and ethics and professional scepticism sections of your online training file are up to date and where relevant signed off by your employer.
You will then need to request that your employer cancels your training agreement online. It may be a good idea to ask your current employer to act as a referee.
Once you find a new employer, you can re-register as a student using the re-registration form, here.
If your employer isn’t already an ICAEW Authorised Training Employer, it is straightforward for them to apply to become one. There must be somebody at the organisation who is qualified with a recognised professional body and who is willing to act as Qualified Person Responsible for Training (QPRT). That person can apply here.
2. Help the jobs find you
For most people, the first thing on your mind following a redundancy will be to find a new job.
You can look for your next role on our ACA training vacancies website, set up job alerts and upload your CV to make it searchable by employers.
If you have completed more than four ACA exams, you can add your name to our Available Student Register. This is a register that is accessed by employers who are looking to recruit students with part of the ACA already completed.
Until a replacement training agreement is sorted, you can continue your studies and are able to sit your exams.
Nick Dudaniec, a chartered accountant who was made redundant in 2013, says it’s important to think long term about your next role. “It may not be 100% what you’re looking for but once you’re in your new job you can seek out opportunities within the role or organisation that better suit your career aspirations.”
Tim Potter, an ACA student who was made redundant from his last job at the start of lockdown, says getting in touch with local agencies can pay off. “Don’t dismiss the smaller recruiters,” he says. He now works for an accountancy firm in Dewsbury, near Leeds.
3. Stand out from the crowd
In a competitive market, it’s more important than ever to make sure you stand out from the crowd – whether that’s making sure your CV ends up on the shortlist pile, or providing a killer answer to an interview question.
CABA provides an extensive range of free career services to ACA students including careers coaching, CV and interview advice.
Potter admits that his redundancy was an opportunity to evaluate his career options. “In the end, the more interviews I had, the more picky I got about the kind of job I wanted. I found that interviewers want to focus on skills and hobbies, so make sure you include them on your CV – it’s a good talking point. And remember the interview is a dialogue – don’t be frightened to ask them questions.”
You should also check out ICAEW Careers+ for useful tips to develop your career - from CV writing to presenting yourself as a great candidate. More resources are added all the time to Careers+ so make sure you visit it regularly.
“A hard-work ethic is the single common defining characteristic of every successful person I’ve met,” Dudaniec says. “One size does not fit all. Be prepared to accept that each opportunity will require a different CV, so tailor it accordingly.” And with many organisations turning to automation to sift through applications, use relevant keywords and phrases to ensure yours ends up in the shortlist pile.
4. Do your homework
Securing an interview for a new job is a great foot in the door. Make sure you capitalise on the opportunity with solid preparation to wow any prospective employer. You can access useful resources via ICAEW’s eLibrary, including company profiles and industry intelligence, relevant e-books and trade journals. There’s also a dedicated section on psychometric testing, personality testing, aptitude tests and assessment centres.
“Try and get a sense for any change agenda they are looking to embark upon – because all-companies have one,” Dudaniec advises.
5. Time to upskill
Brush up on a specific area of practice or learn about a new one; as an ACA student, you have access to a dedicated student support team; access to past exams and examiner feedback, plus a range of free resources such as Finance in a Digital World as part of our student benefits. You can also stay up-to-date with our regular Business Confidence Monitor and our worldwide Economic Insights.
You are also eligible for a free subscription to ICAEW’s online technical content service, Faculties Online, across all seven of our Faculties including Corporate Finance, Tech, Financial Reporting and Tax. The service gives you access to in-depth, subject specific content to help you in your area of work including magazines, guides, helpsheets, technical updates and webinars.
6. Build your network
Social networks such as LinkedIn make it easier than ever to stay in touch with existing contacts and forge new ones. Our own ICAEW groups also offer great opportunities to develop professional relationships with other ICAEW Chartered Accountants, share views and gain insight into other areas of the profession to support your career development.
You can join any of our eight Communities across areas as diverse as Charity Finance, Entertainment and Forensic & Expert Witness for free until December 2021.
Student societies are also a great way to meet other students in your area and many organise dedicated student networking events. Check out our extensive programme of events and guidance on networks and networking.
7. Financial support
As an ACA student, you and your family can apply to CABA for financial support in times of need. If you are worried about meeting financial commitments then you may benefit from talking to CABA about debt management and financial support. Visit the website at caba.org.uk.
CABA is offering a first-come, first-served support package to 30 ACA students made redundant from their training agreement , which includes a £1,000 grant towards exam and tuition fees and learning materials and two hours of 1-2-1 coaching and telephone counselling sessions, available until April 2021. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to apply.
8. Stay positive
Even if you have seen it coming, redundancy is often a shock, warns Kelly Feehan, Service Director at CABA. “Work is often more than just an income. It offers status, a daily routine and a sense of purpose. For some people, their work environment is also where a lot of their friendships are formed. This is a lot to lose.”
Dudaniec says trying to stay positive during the redundancy process is key. “It’s OK to say you’re finding it tough but always maintain composure and professionalism. Do the best possible job you can do until your last day because burning your bridges is never a good idea.”
Whatever your concerns, you can access independent and impartial advice using CABA’s free, confidential counselling service via webchat at caba.org.uk/letstalk or telephone on +44 (0) 800 107 6163.
Dudaniec admits he took being made redundant quite hard but says in hindsight it was undoubtedly the best thing for him personally. “There’s no such thing as a job for life and we need to be comfortable with that. It forced me out of my comfort zone, but as a result of redundancy I’m doing a job I love and I’ve managed to carve out a much better work life balance.”
9. Know your legal rights
Sometimes the need for specialist advice is unavoidable. CABA offers free legal advice to ICAEW members and students. Get in touch with CABA to arrange to talk to a legal adviser over the telephone. You can email email@example.com, visit caba.org.uk/letstalk or call +44 (0)1788 556 366.