Careers

Sustainability

The accountants of tomorrow are facing very different prospects than those of the past. Here is where the profession is likely to take you in the years after qualification. Lots of things are going to change when it comes to the future of work, but there are three areas, in particular, that are going to have an incredible impact on the careers of accountants over the coming decade. Automation Automation is here, and it’s a game-changer. Big 4 consulting teams in the areas of business process transformation are ramping up globally as companies, big and small, begin to heavily invest in automaton. In the not-too-distant future, it’s not going to be good enough to be able to just do the debits and credits. It’s going to become more about using the numbers to help the business make better decisions.  As a result, the accounting profession will be filtered into one of two routes: project/change management roles overseeing the implementation and development of automations and finance business partnering roles, as the numbers that come out the other end of the automations will still need to be interpreted and explained to the business. Sustainability Everyone knows that climate change is going to take centre stage once the pandemic subsides. It will likely become the number one strategic priority for most product-based businesses (and many service-based ones, too!). From redesigning supply chains to transforming from shareholder to stakeholder value orientations, companies will need finance professionals to play a key role in developing the financial models to achieve these new strategic priorities while ensuring the long-term viability of the businesses themselves. Accountants will play a key business partnering role in this evolution. Did someone say data?   Over the coming decade, accountants will be faced with the reality that it’s not just about financial numbers anymore – it’s about both financial and non-financial numerical data and how they interact and impact each other.  For the accountants of tomorrow, it is going to be about occupying this new space, where Excel ends and where Power BI, Tableau and other tools begin. It’s going to be about making sense of large data sets, gleaning information from them, using that information to derive insights and using those insights to inform strategic and tactical decisions. Data runs through sustainability and is wed to automation. The accountants that invest in their analytics skills and make it their business to get experience in some of the emerging tools will be the ones that end up having the greatest impact. If you’re going to qualify as an accountant in the coming years, then your future is going to look very different to that of the last generation. It will be more about business and less about accruals; more about how financial and non-financial numerical data interact and less about statutory reporting; more about soft skills and less about consolidations.  For some, this will be exciting. For others, it will be intimidating. But, for all, it’s a reality. And, for everyone, it’s an opportunity.   Ed Heffernan is the Managing Partner of Barden.

Mar 01, 2021
AI Extra

There are changes coming to the CA Diary and Nicola Sullivan explains what you need to know before it goes live. As I am sure all students are aware, it is necessary to pass the FAE and to have a completed and approved online CA Diary record before you become eligible to apply to become a member of Chartered Accountants Ireland. That means you need to regularly upload all obtained relevant work experience to the online CA Diary and have this approved twice-yearly by an approved mentor. This aspect of your training is subject to regular monitoring. Regular recording (and approval) of experience is an invaluable reflective learning tool that allows you and your mentor to measure your progress towards meeting the professional development requirements. However, the way in which you create and modify CA Diary entries will be changing soon.  Get ready for change There will be new features in the CA Diary soon. The forthcoming features will provide a streamlined way of selecting competencies and recording a corresponding narrative. It will also allow all trainees who are engaged in audit assignments to include specifics about the engagements.  Once the changes have been implemented, you won’t have to figure out what content to include, as is the case with the current description text box. Rather, you will include character-limited text against each competency element selected. You will also be able to record a brief description under the new ‘reflection’ field. Don’t worry, the Training Support Unit in Chartered Accountants Ireland will be updating the CA Diary guidance to explain how the new features work and students will be able to access onscreen recordings to help them understand the new functionality. How will this impact you? If you have been maintaining CA Diary entries offline (such as in a Word or Pages document) with the intention of uploading them later, you should act now. The current description box will not be available to you after the new features go live. This will mean that you would have to reconstruct any entries before you can save or submit them when using the updated CA Diary.  To avoid having to re-work your entries after go-live,  you should upload all entries into the system and submit them to your mentor for approval as soon as possible. Once the new system goes live, you won’t lose any of your existing diary entries and will still be able to modify and submit any entries that originated in the current functionality. Your mentor will still be able to review, lock (and unlock) entries in the normal way. Only new entries created after the go-live date will be recorded using the new functionality.  Before attempting any changes or updates to your CA Diary record, we strongly recommend that you review the latest trainee guides, including the Sample Entries and Professional Development Requirements guides. These are available for viewing/download on the CA Diary resources page.  Additionally, a series of short, online tutorials are available for trainees and mentors. These tutorials supplement, rather than replace, the PDF documents that are available on the CA Diary Resource page. There are a number of webinar recordings that answer commonly asked questions and advise on common CA Diary errors. When will the new changes come into effect? It is anticipated that the streamlined CA Diary will be available to all students in late March. When the Training Support Unit have a confirmed date, they will contact all trainees and training firms/organisations. Becoming a Chartered Accountant If you are nearing the completion of your training period, you may be wondering about the Chartered Accountants Ireland membership application process. Even if you are just starting out on your trainee journey, this is valuable information. Before becoming eligible to apply, you need to have demonstrated that you have met the professional development requirements through the CA Diary. If you have passed the FAE and have a completed CA Diary, you will be given the opportunity to complete your online application for membership. In order to access the online application to membership, you will first need to become eligible for a final mentor review. For information on the eligibility requirements for the final mentor review and how to obtain one, refer to the CA Diary Guide for trainees.  Once you have access to the online application for membership, you will submit a summary of your training experience along with a completed application form signed off by your training partner/member of the Institute.   When an application is submitted to the Chartered Accountants Ireland Admissions team, it is scheduled for an Oversight Board review. Students should receive communication from Admissions approximately 7-10 days after each deadline. Deadline dates are published here. As always, the Institute is here to help. Please do get in touch with any CA Diary questions you may have at trainingsupport@charteredaccountants.ie. Nicola Sullivan is a Student Support Executive in the Training Support Unit at Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Mar 01, 2021
Careers

As a soon-to-be newly qualified accountant, you might not fully understand how you go about taking the next step in your career. Sinead Smith guides you through the most asked-about aspects of job hunting. Every year, I speak with hundreds of newly qualified Chartered Accountants who are trying to figure out what their next step looks like. The rare few know exactly what they want to do, but the majority are unsure, and many are looking for answers to help them figure it out. In my experience, most lines of questioning will be varied and largely influenced by individual interests but, within all conversations, some topics prove universal: contracts, companies and counteroffers. Contract work 2020 was a year like no other and it follows that the current job market is not like anything we’ve seen before. While signs are very positive, it is worth remembering that the market is evolving and, in a time of great flux, there is a marked increase in the volume of contract roles to take advantage of. Where traditionally contracts were largely considered inferior to getting a permanent role, they are now regarded as highly dynamic career opportunities that can offer a wider breadth of experience across some unique fields of interest. For instance, hard-to-find skills like systems implementation, commercial accounting, business intelligence tools and financial modelling are currently among the most requested in the market and contracts can provide the opportunity to quickly develop this experience, adding long term value to your CV. It is also a misconception that contracts automatically mean that you are counting down the clock to being unemployed. Some companies, particularly larger PLCs and multinationals, have set a strong precedence for hiring ACAs to cover specified purpose contracts (projects, maternity leave, etc) and then keeping them on. Ultimately, by the end of 9 to 12 months, you will know the business inside and out, and will be a valued team member. It is a no-brainer for them to ask you to stay if they can. Company size We tend to gravitate towards what we know. Those who trained in large firms may find it hard to imagine themselves in a smaller environment whereas the opposite is often true for those who are used to being part of close-knit team.  However, it is important to understand that company size often determines the scope of a role and that is why it is important to identify what you want from your new role, rather than basing it solely on what you think you know. For instance, if you want to work “close to the business” by having a hand in everything, being privy to decision-making and seeing where you add value, you will likely only find this in small and mid-sized companies. Conversely, larger companies offer the security of knowing that you are one part of a process, that you have a wide network of support at your disposal and a clearly defined progression path. Counteroffers You have identified that you want to leave your current company. You have gone through multiple rounds of interviews and, at the end of it all, you find yourself with an offer that you are excited to accept. Happy days!  But, when you go to hand your notice in, your employer throws you a curveball. They offer you more money to stay. Or perhaps a promotion. Or maybe they let you know that they have shortlisted you for an upcoming secondment. Your head is spinning and you don’t know what to do. Counteroffers are exceedingly common in a market where it is hard to get good staff but, it is important to remember that 50% of those who accept counteroffers leave within 12 months. Why? Because they were leaving for a reason and, likely, those reasons have not changed.  While there is no right or wrong way to respond to a counteroffer, it is worthwhile being prepared for the upsell on staying and knowing how to handle it.  It is important to hear them out. Likely what they are offering won’t have changed your motivations for leaving and you can politely explain to them that you are keen to pursue options outside your current firm. They will probably wish you well – you won’t be the first person to leave, nor will you be the last – and accept your notice letter. However, if it is something you wish to consider, thank them for the offer and tell them you will discuss it at home and revert by a certain date. This gives you space to think. It can be hard, after working with someone for so long, to set loyalties aside but, it is advisable to ensure that the decision you make is motivated by your own preferences and not theirs (a good old pros and cons list can help!). Remove everything but the facts and figures and make the decision that feels right for you, rather than the one that feels easy. Sinead Smith is Director of Newly Qualified Accountants at ACCPRO.  

Jan 13, 2021
Careers

Rachel Power, D&I Senior Manager at PwC Ireland, outlines how a robust diversity and inclusion strategy can help organisations cultivate a sense of calm and control amid the uncertainty. With over 60 nationalities and a 3,000 strong intergenerational workforce, PwC has long focused on diversity and inclusion. It undoubtedly features on the agenda of many organisations as employees, customers, and investors increasingly demand that the organisations they do business with model the values of equity and inclusion. Benefits are being seen, now more than ever, in terms of higher employee engagement, increased productivity, better problem solving, innovation, creativity, reputation and competitive advantage. The list goes on. COVID-19 has challenged us all to be more inclusive, even though most office-based employees will operate from a home office for the foreseeable future. While this makes inclusion challenging in one sense, it has also accelerated the need for organisations to think differently about diversity and inclusion, forcing us all to find new ways to connect. The core elements of PwC’s people strategy remain the same around inclusion, wellness and flexibility, although our delivery vehicles may differ. In fact, our longstanding diversity and inclusion values have helped us navigate this crisis. And we are not alone. COVID-19 and the overwhelming global response to Black Lives Matter earlier this year have certainly elevated the need for organisations to do better. In a recent PwC Global Survey across 40 countries with over 3,000 responses, we found that organisations are investing at unprecedented rates in diversity and inclusion programmes with 76% now citing it is a value or priority. More important than ever Several things already high on PwC Ireland’s strategic agenda have helped us transition relatively seamlessly to the remote working world, where building on our culture of inclusion and belonging is vital. Our focus for diversity and inclusion before COVID-19 was on three areas, and they will persist into the future: Nurturing an environment of inclusion and belonging; Living our values, putting wellness and flexibility at the core; and Leveraging tools and training for the future. We set these objectives before the pandemic, but they remain relevant. Why? Transforming workforces and the way we work requires diverse, talented people from different backgrounds; people who have different experiences and who bring innovation, creativity and fresh perspectives. But having these people is only half the battle, it is inclusion and giving our people a voice and a sense of belonging that brings the true benefits to the fore. Connection and belonging are areas of focus right now, not least because we know that a sense of belonging can reduce stress levels. When we feel that we have support and are not alone, we often cope more effectively with difficult times in our lives – something we want to support our people with as we navigate these uncertain times. While many worked flexibly before the crisis, the approach to flexibility has been taken to a new level. It’s all about balance and finding ways to make it work. Again, this comes back to having inclusive and values-based leaders, who ensure that the right conversations are had to find ways to make it work for everyone. There is undoubtedly more to do, and the end to this pandemic is far from sight. But values, strategic direction and technology will guide us through the uncertainty and continue to strengthen diversity and inclusion in organisations throughout the world.

Nov 02, 2020
AI Extra

No one can escape the odd career stumble, but there is no reason to allow it to affect your job prospects forever. Here are three tips on how to turn a hiccup into a highlight on your CV. WORDS BY SINEAD SMITH, Director for Newly Qualified Accountants at ACCPRO Writing a CV, attending interviews and applying for promotions are all very easy when you have enjoyed a perfectly linear career with no gaps, no stumbles, no fumbles and no fails to account for. However, in reality, careers are rarely linear.  Much like in life, most of us will be faced with the odd hiccup that we must overcome. Some of these will be small blemishes on a largely perfect canvas, whereas others may be a glaringly obvious series of unfortunate events that are out of our control.  Big or small, it is likely that you will have to address these inconsistencies at many stages throughout your career and it is crucial to determine the right language, messaging and tone to ensure that an oddity doesn’t have an excessive impact on your professional path. Accept the negatives and move on! No one likes to revisit old wounds. It is contrary to every single one of our self-preservation responses to stare in the face the thing that hurt you and acknowledge it. However, whether you failed an exam, fell foul of redundancy or made a few ill-advised career moves, you must accept those things for what they are and be prepared to discuss them without allowing emotion to negatively influence your message. You can’t un-fail the exam and you can’t un-accept that terrible job, but you can own that it happened and look for ways to present it to prospective employers in a way that ensures they understand that it was an anomaly and not indicative of you as a person or as an employee. It is what it is.  Don’t lie, don’t overshare As tempting as it may be to obfuscate the truth by extending a date here or erasing a role there, do not do it. It will catch up with you, and will instantly cast doubt on your trustworthiness and intentions. Be honest, but do not overshare. For instance, if you had to re-sit your FAEs or did poorly in your Leaving Certificate, you don’t need to draw undue attention to it on your CV. Be prepared to answer questions about exams and results during the interview, but there is nothing to gain by explicitly highlighting less than amazing outcomes unless asked. Reframe the narrative The language we use influences how the message is received. If you present a career blip or a failed exam as an out-and-out negative, you permit other people to view it that way. With this in mind, it is important to learn to control the narrative and reframe it in a way that reflects positively, or at least neutrally, on you. On a CV, this can be as simple as addressing any gaps in education or employment rather than leaving a tranche of time unaccounted for.  For example, if there was an unusual or unexpected break in your training due to illness or bereavement, make a note of this rather than leave it open to interpretation. Addressing the gap removes the question mark and ensures that no unfair assumptions will be made about why you have taken longer than usual to complete your training contract. It can be presented as clearly and as simply as the below: ABC & Co., Dublin April 2018 – June 2019: Audit Trainee June 2019 – December 2019: Career break due to illness  December 2019 – Date: Audit Senior You can also control the messaging in an interview setting by using language that frames the situation in a way that gives a negative experience a positive outcome. For instance, in the example above, you could say “I fell ill during my first year with ABC & Co and had to take a career break to receive treatment. I have been back at work since December 2019 and still passed all of my exams on schedule.” This response acknowledges the negative experience without divulging too much, demonstrates tenacity and ends on a hugely positive note. Sometimes, people will leave a role due to an untenable work environment, which can prompt questions that are hard to answer diplomatically. However, a response like, “unfortunately, the role didn’t transpire as was promised in the interview and, after exploring all options internally, I felt it was better for my career to look for a role more suited to my experience...” communicates that: you were merely unlucky in the role that you chose;  you didn’t make a rash decision;  and you took control of the situation to protect your career.  Crucially, what it doesn’t do is smear a previous employer, speak negatively about the workplace or suggest flippant decision-making.  Regardless of the situation, there are always ways to say what needs to be said while still leaving a positive impression. For a CV review and templates, contact Sinead on LinkedIn.

Nov 02, 2020
AI Extra

Sometimes being brilliant at your job isn't enough. You have to make yourself stand out in a different way, but how?WORDS BY SINEAD SMITH, Director for Newly Qualified Accountants at ACCPROIn the April 2020 issue of Extra, I broke down the three Ps that contribute to the perfect CV: presentation, prediction and personalisation. Now, with exam season just behind us and thoughts turning to life beyond the training contract, there is merit in expanding upon that third P –  personalization – and how it can be leveraged to elevate your job application and set you apart from the 1400+ other Chartered Accountants Ireland students who will receive FAE results this year. Distinguish yourselfThink about your office, your team, your intake. How many of those other soon-to-be qualified ACAs share your professional story and have a CV that will mirror yours? I would hazard a guess that it is a vast majority. Taking that realisation and further building on the sentiment posited in the April issue that your CV serves as a first introduction to you, it stands to reason that you would want to differentiate yourself as much as possible from your peers.When you sit down to write your CV, you should ask yourself two questions: “Who am I?” and “What is the story I want to tell?”.  That story can be professionally oriented but, it should also be personal in a way that sparks the interest of a hiring manager or recruiter and gives them a full picture of who you are and what you bring to the table.Achievements and awardsIn Ireland, we are conditioned to value our academic achievements above almost any others. This even extends to some employers who will ask, at interview, about Leaving Cert points despite the fact that you have achieved so much more academically and professionally since you were 18. By all means, note your Leaving Cert points if they were particularly good and definitely note any results and impressive rankings for your degree, masters or postgrad but, don’t forget about professional achievements either. Professional achievements aren't always exam-based and it is those that aren’t that will add interest to your CV. These can include a strong internal rating from your firm’s assessment system, any in-house awards you have received or being selected for a big secondment or project. However, it is worth remembering that most people reading your CV, won’t understand the significance of a “1 rating” or the Star Award so, do briefly qualify what that means and why it is noteworthy e.g. “Achieved a consistent 1 out of 5 rating, with 1 being the highest possible rating. This is only awarded to a small number each year.” ExtracurricularsCompanies aren’t interested in simply hiring number-crunching robots when they need an accountant. They are usually looking for a diversity of professional experience and personal interests that will enrich the existing team and add value to the company. Consider this a, within reason, carte blanche opportunity to put a unique spin on the story your application tells.Think about what you do in your spare time. Perhaps you volunteer every weekend with Dogs Trust or provide tutoring to students at your old school. Maybe you are an advocate for a cause and chair meetings or organise events. These are all relevant points of interest and show you to be dynamic and multi-faceted.However, your extracurricular interests don’t have to be altruistic. Your hobbies can convey a message so, think about how you like to unwind. Sports are a great way to demonstrate commitment, teamwork and drive. Yoga, meditation and mindfulness all suggest that you actively try to manage stress levels. Podcasting, blogging or freelance journalism show that you put effort in to becoming a subject matter expert. Toastmasters or debate suggests strong communication and presentation skills.Unique hobbies can also be endearing. In the April article, I mentioned jigsaw puzzles, mid-80s British sitcoms and agility training and I can now add calligraphy, geocaching, foraging and fermentation to the list of hobbies that sparked conversation in the office! Similarly, if you have hobbies that are relevant to the company you are applying for, detail them e.g. playing video games (gaming company), cooking (restaurant chain), coding (software company).In-person Personalisation can extend to your in-person interaction also. When preparing for an interview, check out the LinkedIn profiles of those you are meeting and don’t be afraid to reference it in conversation. Saying something like “Mary, I noticed on LinkedIn that you recently joined the company, how have you found the transition from practice to industry?” will show a huge amount of diligence and thoughtfulness and will instantly make your interview memorable. The takeaway here is that, when writing your CV and preparing for interviews, put some thought into it before you put pen to paper. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you are more than your exam results and that recruiters and companies want to speak with people who are multi-dimensional. 

Sep 01, 2020