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Simple ways to boost your career


Published: 09 Dec 2022

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Interested in pursuing a career in accountancy, business and finance? Strengthening your CV and upping your employability will put you ahead of the game.

The transition from education to work can seem daunting - but it needn’t be. Whether you’re at school or university, or in-between, there’s never a bad time to start thinking about your career - and a few simple strategies can ensure you’re best prepared to enter the world of work. There are plenty of ways to arm yourself with the skills and experience that will allow you to step into your career journey with confidence.

Studying and gaining qualifications is a big achievement, but to really stand out from the crowd you need to build your skill set and experience beyond the classroom. Learning about the skills you need to work in finance, and finding internship and work experience programmes that hone these skills, will boost your career options. It all rests on planning ahead and setting goals for your self-development.

Fill the gaps in your CV

There is a recipe to writing a great CV: including active verbs, avoiding spelling or grammatical mistakes and tailoring the contents for particular job roles with real life examples that demonstrate your skills. However, at the start of your career journey, it may be that there are gaps in your skills and experience, particularly as the pandemic disrupted studies, internships and volunteering opportunities.

Critically assess your CV by considering the skills and experience you will need for a career in accountancy (more on that below) and being proactive in achieving them. Consider including experiences beyond formal education, such as voluntary courses you’ve completed or events that you’ve attended, if they’re a good fit with the roles you’re applying to. Highlight the skills you’ve acquired that demonstrate your self-motivation and achievement. Charity work and hobbies help demonstrate your broader interests and can also be relevant to future job roles.

If you’re finding that you have little to draw on when revising your CV, proactively look up courses, volunteering opportunities and relevant activities to take up that will demonstrate the range of your talents. Having a part-time job can also boost your skills and experience and demonstrate your self-motivation.

Find internships and work experience

Making contacts, learning skills and gaining experience of the workplace is essential for your career journey and will boost your confidence for when you start a full-time role. Even shadowing someone at work can show you what a day in the life of a working professional feels like. And any type of work experience will boost your chances of getting a full time role.

In particular, practical work experience is one of the four key elements of the ACA qualification. So, demonstrating that you have been proactive in seeking out office placements will not only help you develop vital skills for your future career, but also demonstrate your proactive spirit in pursuing relevant experience to the accountancy sector. If you can’t access any in-person opportunities, many firms offer virtual work experience programmes, too.

ICAEW partners with top employers across the UK to offer work experience and internships programmes. School students can take part in a week’s virtual work experience that introduces you to the world of chartered accountancy. All you need is to be curious about the world of business. Those in their penultimate year of university can experience a four-week, paid internship from across a range of organisations, also.

Many of the big accountancy firms offer early careers programmes that include work experience and internships. The Big Four firms - Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC - have well established programmes for those at the beginning of their careers. Smaller firms will also offer work experience and internships, too. You might land a placement by sending speculative applications to local firms in the financial sector. It’s always worth simply ringing or emailing companies that catch your interest.

Work placement sites offer a chance to research opportunities in accountancy and beyond. ICAEW has a Training Vacancies portal you might find useful. As well as finding placements to boost your career prospects, looking at job boards and setting up email alerts will help you see the kind of skills and experience that companies in your chosen sector are looking for.

Identify the skills you need

Accountancy is not just about understanding numbers - the profession offers a huge variety of roles and different projects to get involved with. That means accountants need broad problem-solving skills to analyse and distil complex issues, as well as generating new ideas and coming up with solutions. Planning and organisational skills are needed for completing challenging tasks on time and to a high standard.

So, hiring managers at accounting firms are looking for strong communication, analytical and interpretive skills. They want candidates to be able to adapt to fast-moving markets and business disruption. Commercial awareness is crucial, too. Think about how you can demonstrate that you are committed to achieving the goals of the business. Companies want to know why you are interested in them and the opportunities they offer!

Ignore the myths

When going about building your skills and improving your CV, try to avoid getting tripped up by common job myths and misconceptions. For example, internships and work experience placements aren’t simply there to cover the tasks that others don’t want - they offer varied experiences and valuable introductions to the world of work. And, contrary to the rumours, work experience placements are frequently paid, meaning they don’t need to be a drain on your bank account. It’s also important to remember that all work experience is helpful in guiding your career choices - even if it means discovering what you don’t like!

Finding opportunities in accountancy and professional services will also help dispel some of the myths surrounding the sectors. Accountancy isn’t just about taxes and timesheets - the profession offers a huge variety of roles for all interests. And going on to train with ICAEW will give you the opportunity to work with clients of all sectors and sizes - and really hone in on the areas of finance and business that interest you most.

Whatever stage you’re at, the ICAEW Careers+ hub is here to help you carve out a path to your future career. Discover the full range of articles and resources to learn more.