Inspiring ACCA career stories plus career advice to start and grow your career in finance from three top industry experts. Here goes.
Studying for your ACCA exams can feel like a long slog. Everyone has moments where they feel overwhelmed, stressed and wonder if they’ll ever qualify.
The best way to get back on track is to remind yourself why you’re doing all this. Because once you complete ACCA, you unlock a whole world of exciting, diverse and lucrative careers.
ACCA-qualified jobs help you grow professionally, build a more affluent lifestyle and work with companies you find incredibly fulfilling. And your career path can be massively diverse, from the high-pressure, fast-paced world of public accounting to the endlessly varied world of industry.
So, don’t let the ACCA blues get you down.
Instead, remind yourself how many amazing opportunities you’ll enjoy once you complete the ACCA.
Read on for three inspiring real-life ACCA careers in part I, then in part II we share some career advice to help you grow your own post-qualification accounting career.
Part I: Get Inspired By These 3 Incredible ACCA Careers
#1 – Laila Giwa, Head of Finance, Skullcandy International GmbH
When non-accounting people think of an accountancy career, they likely imagine someone locked away in a boring office ticking boxes and crunching numbers. Accounting professionals know that’s rarely the case – but Laila proves exactly how wrong that vision can be.
Laila began her accounting career on the 3-year BDO graduate scheme, as a public practice Financial Auditor. After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, she decided to move into professional accounting education. There she helped train students for professional accounting papers including ACA, CA, ACCA and CIMA.
Then, a few years ago, Laila moved to Switzerland and joined Deloitte in a Client Services role before deciding to look for a totally new opportunity.
She joined the exciting SME Skullcandy as Head of Finance for EMEA and India, becoming part of a vibrant, fast-paced and cutting-edge company where every day brings something different.
Definitely not what you imagine when you talk about accounting jobs, Laila proves that post-ACCA careers can be whatever you want them to be.
#2 – Emmet Malone, Director of Financial and Regulatory Reporting, Mitsubishi UFJ Fund Services
You might not know much about fund administration, which just proves how many different post-qualification careers you can choose. Emmet is a fantastic example of someone with an atypical but very fulfilling and exciting career path.
Emmet started his accounting career with a postgraduate course, then studied for his professional qualifications with a large fund administrator.
Fund administration is a very niche accounting career, and one that offers many varied opportunities. As Director of Financial reporting for Mitsubishi UFJ Fund Services, Emmet has exposure to a broad range of clients across various industries, and his role is incredibly client-facing.
Emmet proves that qualified accountants can seize many diverse career opportunities – some you might never have considered.
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#3 – Nikki Murray, Financial Director, HRBR
We’re inspired by Nikki Murray because her career proves how the ACCA and other qualifications aren’t just relevant to straight finance careers. Completing ACCA can be an incredible launch pad for a broader, more strategic business role too.
Nikki started her finance career with a Masters of Accountancy, before enrolling on the KPMG Graduate Program working in Tax.
Once she qualified, she knew she wanted to move on from public accounting so she became an accountant for Google. (Not bad, as ACCA qualified jobs go!)
She loved Google, but knew she wanted a more diverse business role so she became Financial Director of an SME called HRBR.
Nikki proves that professional qualifications give you an amazing platform for your career – in finance or in business.. Not everyone who qualifies through the ACCA wants to become a public accountant – and that’s absolutely fine. In fact, around 80% of accountants leave public accounting right after qualifying!
You certainly should be, because ACCA careers are hugely varied.
As a qualified accountant, you prove you’re an asset to employers all over the globe – the sky’s the limit when it comes to your career.
But, what if you don’t know how to get started, and give yourself the best chance of success?
Read on for some career advice to help you build, grow and succeed as an accounting and finance professional.
Part II: ACCA Career Advice From the Pros
We asked Laila, Emmet and Nikki – plus experienced finance and accounting recruiter, Becky to narrow down the top tips to build your post-ACCA career.
#1 – Make sure your CV does you justice
Most accountants tend to be better with numbers than words. Which normally isn’t a huge issue, but there’s one thing where your writing skills really do matter: your CV.
"The biggest issue is a CV that doesn’t set you apart from the crowd," says Becky.
Many accountants have the same qualifications, same education and same experience, so you have to go above and beyond to prove your unique value. She sees too many vague, indistinct CVs that ignore soft skills altogether, and don’t give enough specific detail about hard skills.
#2 – Ace your interviews
"You’d be shocked how many people I interview who haven’t done enough research for the role", Becky says – and Emmet, Nikki and Laila’s experience all concurs.
It might seem obvious, but you need to show why you want an accounting career – backed up with comprehensive research about this specific company and position.
Your qualifications are a fantastic platform for ACCA careers, but they’re not the only thing you need. You’ll be much closer to securing the finance and accounting job you want if you make that extra effort at interview.
#3 – Build your interpersonal skills
There’s a theme emerging here: finance skills aren’t the only thing you need to excel in finance and accounting.
You need to work effectively across departments, with all types of different people with different personalities.
Prove you have strong interpersonal skills and you’ll be more likely to land, and succeed in, an accounting job you love.
#4 – Grow your network
Laila, Emmet, Nikki and Becky all agree: network is absolutely vital. Accounting is, like every industry, at least partially about who you know.
The most important ACCA careers advice you’ll get is to build your network, because you never know when you’ll need to leverage it.
Especially if you start your accounting career in public accounting then move into industry after qualification. “Often a client you work with when you’re a public accountant will become your employer later down the line”, says Laila.
#5 – Always keep learning
This is a hugely important piece of ACCA careers advice. Your professional qualifications are fantastic, but they should be the start – not the end – of your learning journey.
ACCA membership isn’t the only requirement for ACCA accounting jobs, remember. Instead, take every opportunity to broaden your skills (hard and soft), work on different projects and grow.
#6 – Think strategically
The most desirable ACCA accountants today aren’t back-office dwellers whose only remit is the numbers. Try to move away from the mentality you just ‘do the accounts’.
Instead, embrace a more strategic understanding of your role. This strategic outlook will help you secure the ACCA accounting job you’re going for – and it will also help your career grow once you’re there.
Hopefully, this article has reminded you why you signed up for the ACCA in the first place.
Sometimes it’s difficult, stressful and hugely time-consuming, but you’ve taken the first step on a journey towards a more exciting, more varied and more lucrative career.
As Laila, Emmet and Nikki prove, ACCA career opportunities are endless. Your career path could be well-trodden – like working towards partner in the Big 4 – or you could tread a completely new path doing anything you imagine.
Whatever you choose, you can’t afford to rest on your laurels. This idea of ‘journey’ is important – because it applies beyond the ACCA to your entire career. ACCA opens up a world of opportunity, but you’re responsible for seizing it.
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