Monday, November 24, 2008

Career Tips for Accountants

· Carefully consider whether you want to progress within your own organisation or make an external career move. In doing so, visualise the role you wish to occupy in five years and then work backwards to determine the skills, experience and personal attributes that you need to achieve your aim. Establish an action plan.
· If you are currently in practice and want to assume a senior business role, think about taking a six month secondment to one of your clients to gain some line accountancy/finance experience. This means that you will have practical experience of being in a finance function coupled with your technical knowledge which will make your CV much more attractive to external organisations.
· Ascertain whether you want to be a senior finance generalist (eg Chief Finance Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Executive) or a technical specialist (eg Corporate Financier, Venture Capitalist, Tax or Structured Finance Specialist). It can be just as rewarding in career and cash terms to be an expert as it is to be a senior manager.
· What type of organisation best suits your personal values and interests? Think about finance roles in a sector suited to you such as charities, entertainment, financial institutions, pharmaceuticals, and then become acquainted with the accounting principles in your chosen sector.
· Fed up with being an accountant? Leverage these skills in other occupations such as School Bursar, Consumer Market Research Analyst, Business Advisor or Commercial Director.
· Reached the top and want to stop, but still want to be remunerated and intellectually active? How about part-time roles including Non Executive Directorships, Senior Consultant at a smaller practice, Business Coaching or Interim Finance role. Perhaps a more noble role might be suitable such as finance director of a small charity, help with fundraising or becoming a JP or Magistrate
There are two different types of CV in the main. The chronological CV and the functional CV (skills based). The chronological is the most suitable type to choose if you are aiming to obtain interviews for a job similar to previous ones.
The functional format is applied if you are looking to change direction in your career and want to emphasise achievements and skills above employment details. With this type of CV, you can even include experience you have gained outside the working environment. For instance, you may not have any committee representation experience in the office, but may have Parish council or specialist committee experience in the community

CV Do's and Don'ts

· Clearly state all your contact details at the top of the page, including telephone and e-mail
· Include your qualifications, with the highest level attained first. No need to list all your 'O' levels or GCSEs. Include membership of professional institutes
· Use bold to highlight different sections. Leave white space around each item to make it easy to read
· Use bullet points. They break up information and make it easier for the reader to find key information
· Use quality paper if you are sending the CV by post and put it in an A4 enevelope so you don't have to fold it
· Start bullet points with "action" verbs, write in the third person and past tense. Eg, Instigated, developed, improved, managed, co-ordinated
· For chronological CV's, make sure you start with the most recent position and work backwards.
· The CV should be no longer than two pages.
· Don't forget additional skills you may have, for instance language skills or IT skills Include any training courses you have attended that are relevant
· Check the CV carefully for spelling, grammar, punctuation and typographical errors
· Write the heading Curriculum Vitae at the top - recruiters will know what it is
· Use "I". It's a CV not a story
· Include information on religion or political affiliation. The person reading it may have a different view and you don't want to end up on the reject pile for the wrong reason
· Make up your interests! You may be asked to talk about them
· Mention salary on the CV – keep this for the covering letter if you have been asked or preferably for discussion when an offer is on the table
· Attach a photograph.

CV Content

Start by thinking about the different sections you will need and the order in which they should come. The recruiter wants to know what you have done that would be useful to them, so a useful order might be:
· Name, address, contact details at the top of the page
· Profile statement – a great way to add impact to the CV. This is a 30ish word statement that summarises your particular strengths, how you see yourself and what you have to offer. You may find it easier to write when you have completed the rest of the CV.
· Career History – start with the most recent job and work backwards, bulletpointing your skills and achievements in each job
· Education and Training Courses – again go backwards, and don't forget to include professional qualifications or memberships as well.
· Personal Details – typically a recruiter would expect to see Date of Birth (unless they or you are American, in which case leave it out), nationality (if you are not British but have residency make this clear) and interests if you want to put them. Don't put marital status, its not relevant to your ability to do the job.
· Our CV thesaurus gives you an idea of the types of action words you can use effectively in your CV.
When you have written your CV, apply the "so what?" test. Do this by reading over each skill and achievement to ask yourself "so what?" after each one. This is to make sure that each point has a tangible and obvious benefit to the organisation - i.e. can you quote a % increase in new business won?

Applying for a Job

You've decided which career options are suitable for you and you have a great CV. All you need to do now is apply for the right jobs. Choosing the right job can be an art form in itself. Think about the following:
· Is the recruiting company reputable and solvent?
· Can I use my broad base of skills within the role?
· Is it in the right location?
· Is the package suitable?
· Are the prospects good?
· Will I be any less or more employable if I take it?
· Is the industry sector of interest to me?
If you can answer 'yes' to all or some of these questions then you will want to make sure your application gets seen. Depending on the type of role, you may need to modify your approach to ensure the greatest impact. This section explores:
· How to write a covering letter that will complement your CV in the right way
· Types of Recruiter
· Hints and Tips on application form completion

Covering Letters

A customised, one page cover letter should go with each CV you send out. The letter should consist of three paragraphs:
· State the reason for your application
· Sell yourself by linking your strengths and skills to the job
· Include any relevant personal attributes or information relating to the role
End by requesting an interview or meeting. The covering letter is the first thing an employer will see, so taking time now with presentation and content, will pay dividends later on.

Types of Recruiters

A major area of confusion for job-seekers is the difference between the types of recruitment consultancies in the market place. In general an easy way of finding out is to establish the method of how candidates are generated:
Search/Headhunting They are working on a specific assignment from an employer. They approach you and present a potential job opportunity - even though you may not have heard of or met the person before.
Selection The organisation advertise a vacancy on behalf of a company - you respond.
Recruitment Agency You make the first approach by registering with them - you may be placed on a database and may be contacted for specific opportunities.

Application Forms

Even at the most senior level, there are still an number of occasions which require the completion of an application form, particularly for positions in the Public Sector and Financial Services. Before you complete your application form, bear in mind some of the most common mistakes identified in a recent survey:
· Never simply substitute with your CV - it is acceptable to include your CV when you return the form unless specifically asked not to. Never respond to a question on the application form with the phrase "see attached CV".
· Always read the whole form carefully before filling it in
· Always photocopy the blank form
· Always ask someone else to check what you have written
· Jot down your initial thoughts on a rough page - often it can be useful to do this over a few hours, coming back to the page each time you think of something else.
· Allow plenty of time for completion of the form Never leave blanks - always respond in some way, even if it's with a dash or "not applicable"
· Honesty is the best policy - if you lie or exaggerate you are certain to be found out. This does not do your relationship with a prospective employer any good at all
· Transfer to the original form neatly and carefully using black ink. Take a photocopy of the completed form
· Send the original with a cover letter
· Regard 'other information' sections as an opportunity to sell yourself - emphasise your achievements, skills and strengths
Please be aware that a number of application forms are now competency based which will require you to match experiences you have had with a competency criteria quoted.