Career Change From Accounting: What to Consider Before You Make The Leap
So, you’re considering making a career change from accounting, but you’re nervous. Is there such a thing as a job for an accountant who doesn’t want to be an accountant? And, is leaving such a reliable and necessary role even a good idea?
As you contemplate your second career after accounting, here are some things to consider.
What to Consider Before Leaving Your Accounting Career
You’ve spent hours, days, and perhaps years or even decades in accounting and now you’ve decided it’s time for a change. Before you jump ship on debits and credits once and for all, make sure you know where you want to land.
Are you tired of the accounting function itself? Is it your day-to-day responsibilities that are growing old, or is it the role that you play within an organization (or client) that you no longer enjoy?
Are you seeking career fulfillment and your role in accounting is not providing you with what you need?
Or, is it your boss, employer, or industry that has grown stale? You don’t mind accounting so much – it’s just the people you are preparing reports for, or the company or client that you are working with, that is getting you down.
It’s true: developing new skills in a different environment could re-energize you and prepare you for the next stage of your career. However, as you consider letting your CPA credential lapse, first gain clarity on what’s missing from your day-to-day professional role so that you can be sure that your next role has it.
Accountants Have Transferable Skills
Next, take stock of the skills you have developed as an accountant that will follow you to another industry.
1. Problem-Solving Skills
As an accountant, you are expected to analyze and solve problems for internal or external stakeholders every day. Moreover, you are accustomed to the pressure that comes along with working under time, money, and regulation constraints. No matter the role or field that you are moving into, your problem solving skills are incredibly valuable.
2. Attention to Detail
It is no secret that accountants are adept at managing details. In order for financial reports to be accurate and reliable for decision-making purposes, an accountant has ensured that every calculation is correct. The ability to detect errors will serve you well in any role in any field.
3. Technological Ability
Whether you are new to accounting or have been in the field for decades, you have had to adapt to the introduction of new technology into your workflow. Your ability to integrate and optimize new software is beneficial as the shortcuts offered by technology are often resisted and/or neglected in other functional areas. An accountant with the skills, confidence, and/or courage to embrace technology stands to play an important role in any business.
An accountant’s role is to present financial information in an accurate, objective, and impartial manner. An accountant cannot do her job if she is swayed by the pressures from internal and external stakeholders to present inaccurate information. Accordingly, accountants are presumed to have an ethical “north star” that is attractive to leaders and professionals in other fields.
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Alternative Careers for Accountants
While you may think of accounting as one-dimensional, it is actually multifaceted and dynamic. Your background in accounting has positioned you well to move into a variety of other roles and fields.
In-house accountants are accustomed to working closely with the human resources department on expenses such as payroll, benefits, and insurance. Meanwhile, the human resources department values the accountant’s attention to the bottom line that helps make decisions on benefits packages.
An accountant who is ready to take a more holistic view of the workforce that comprises the organization may be attracted to a role in human resources. Moreover, human resources departments tend to offer more opportunities for internal client-facing work.
If you are an accountant who is eager to spend more time working with people than with numbers, a role in human resources may suit you well.
Accountants are proficient at process management and have the tenacity to see projects through to completion. They know how to manage deadlines and understand how their work impacts the decisions that organizational leaders make.
Meanwhile, project managers have problem solving and time management skills that accountants have also honed. If you are seeking to further develop your interpersonal communication and management skills, a position in project management might suit you.
While project managers benefit from their backgrounds in specific functional areas (such as marketing or accounting), having a depth of experience in a particular industry or company is not a prerequisite for most project management positions. Just because you are unfamiliar with a particular industry or company does not mean that you are incapable of overseeing a project from concept to completion. Your job would be to manage the project, not to do the project, thus a lack of technical skills or subject matter expertise in a certain industry is not a barrier to entry.
Corporate bankers evaluate the credit quality of prospective borrowers. In order to do so, they must understand financial statements. Accountants are well-versed in financial statements and thus capable of making an argument to internal stakeholders as to why it does (or does not) make sense to extend credit to a borrower. Accountants have the technical knowledge to do so capably; if the accountant also possesses strong written and verbal persuasion skills, she will be all the more equipped to be a good corporate banker.
Additionally, corporate bankers need to be able to assess general market conditions. Accountants who have enjoyed the strategic financial planning aspects of their current roles will find enjoyment in this aspect of corporate banking.
Look for credit analyst roles within a corporate banking group or at a large non-bank lender. This role will provide you with exposure to various aspects of the deal structuring process, from loan origination to closing. You will get to witness how deals are monitored and evaluated as their financial performance fluctuates.
Successful credit analysts are able to verbalize important nuances in a company’s business. They can explain the impact that business conditions have on financial statements, thus building valuable connections to the relationship managers who originate new business. This is important because the next stop on a credit analyst’s career trajectory is oftentimes as a relationship manager or loan officer.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Agent
The FBI is more than field agents on undercover missions; in fact, successfully prosecuting criminals often entails complex financial analysis. Sometimes, agents are required to audit large amounts of business and financial records, and doing so requires a background in accounting.
This type of investigative work helps prevent and/or penalize people who are otherwise preying on innocent people. The fulfillment and pride resulting from working in this field can be immense.
If this role appeals to you, be prepared for a lengthy interviewing process and background check.
If the cause of your unhappiness with your role as an accountant has anything to do with working as an employee, self-employment as a financial planner may be the way to go. Making a career change to financial planning will involve some risk and likely a decrease in earnings in year 1 and 2, however, long-term, the benefits and increased earnings are likely to make up for any short-term stress.
Tax planning and tax preparation are both services that could serve as the foundation from which you build your client base as you consider whether or not you wish to expand your offering to include investment planning. You may choose to locate your practice within a large firm, thus benefiting from the branding, or to stay independent. Either way, if flexibility and autonomy are important to you, being a self-employed financial planner is likely to satisfy you.
If you are still passionate about accounting but are feeling burnt out on industry work, consider moving into teaching. There are plenty of aspiring accountants and finance professionals who could benefit from your experience in the field.
Keep in mind that there are now a variety of ways in which you could teach accounting to others, from traditional, synchronous, in-person classes to virtual a-synchronous distance learning.
How Do I Switch From Accounting to Something Else?
As discussed in this article, the first step is to gain clarity on what you are seeking. Next, you’ll want to gather and update your professional materials, such as your resume and LinkedIn profile. After that, you need to prepare a career change narrative that briefly explains where you’ve been, what you enjoy, and where you aspire to steer your career next. From there, it will be time to start having meaningful, impactful conversations with people in your network who can connect you to the opportunities you are seeking.
I cover how to execute these steps in detail in my signature course, “Jumpstart Your Career Change”. Open for sale just twice a year, this course will help you build a bridge to your new career that is sturdier than you ever thought possible.
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Jumpstart Your Career Change
In this course, you will go from feeling unfulfilled in your career & uncertain about how to make a change to feeling confident in your career change strategy. This 4-step, 4-week program will teach you how to build a bridge to a new career that is sturdier than you ever thought possible.
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