Careers

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
AI Extra

We all like to feel valued at work and know that what we are doing matters. Showing appreciation is a great way to convey this to others. Often, people will be unaware of how to best express appreciation to their colleagues. Charlotte Keating provides some simple ways of how you can enhance your connection with the team, even when you can’t physically be in the office.Stephen Covey said in his bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival; to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.”Sometimes, a simple ‘thank you’ is not enough.It’s good to be aware that we all have different ways of receiving appreciation. What makes one member of the team feel appreciated may not necessarily make another feel valued in the same way. According to research by Dr Gary Chapman and Dr Paul White in their book The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, we all have a primary language of appreciation. Even though we can accept appreciation in other ways, we will not feel fully valued at work unless it is communicated in our primary language. This means that the intended message may get lost in translation and not have the result the sender anticipated.The five languages of appreciationKnowledge of these five languages can make you aware of your own appreciation preference while also helping you advise which methods of appreciation your colleagues may respond to best.1. Words of affirmationThis is verbal praise which makes others feel validated. It is the most common primary language of appreciation in the workplace.Ways to express words of affirmation to a colleagueSometimes, a quick “thank you” in person or by email is sufficient; however, it’s best to be specific and to use the person’s name, e.g.: “Sarah, I just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate you being such an organised person. It’s been especially helpful during this crisis knowing that there is a structure in place.” It’s worth remembering that some prefer to be acknowledged in private (in person or via a call/email or a handwritten card), while others like public praise (which could be done from a distance though cc’ing relevant individuals or thanking them on a group video call).2. Quality timeHere you are spending time with your colleagues and giving them your undivided attention – even just a few minutes during the day to discuss their progress on a project, allow them to vent frustrations or seek advice. It is possible to spend quality time remotely – and it is important for one's mental health to do so when physically working away from others.How to spend quality time with a colleagueSchedule a video call with them, even if it is just to have a quick, non-work related chat to catch-up. Avoid distractions during the call. Keep all of the team appraised of relevant matters, particularly when the casual interactions of a shared work environment are not possible. Organise a video quiz with the team, or online after-work drinks Using the “breakout room” function provided by some video conferencing platforms like Zoom is a great way to split up a larger group, making it easier to have more manageable conversations that everyone can participate in.Have a virtual check-in during the day, just as you might stop by their desk to say a quick hello.3. Acts of serviceWhile we all have our own roles and tasks to complete, working collaboratively and helping out colleagues is a great way to show that we value them.How you can show appreciation by helping out a colleagueOne of the main requests in an office is for support with technology, and you may still be able to provide remote assistance to colleagues having technical issues, e.g. helping with video call accessibility.Simply ask, “is there anything I can help with?” and reassure them that you can spare the time if you have it.Clarify what area they need help in and how to go about the task before starting it.Schedule calls at a time of day that works best for them.4. Tangible giftsGive a thoughtful gift to a colleague. The material value is not important, only the thought that goes into the gift.How to give gifts to show appreciation Personalise it – gift them a voucher for their favourite restaurant.Keep it simple – arrange for nice coffee beans to be delivered to their door or, if you’re in the office, drop a cup of coffee to their desk.Send a “certificate of appreciation” via email or post. There are various templates available online.5. Physical touchThis relates to appropriate, professional physical contact. Personal boundaries are incredibly important here. Naturally, this is the least common language of appreciation in the workplace.Ways to use physical touch to show appreciationA firm handshake, a high-five to celebrate a win or an appropriate hug.It is clearly impossible to handshake when social distancing. Virtual high-fives through screens or using appropriate emojis can get the same message of respect, appreciation, support and encouragement across to team members. Determining your colleagues’ appreciation languageBefore you move forward with applying any of these appreciation languages, you should figure out a colleague’s preference first.Observe how they show appreciation to others. Often how a person expresses appreciation reflects their preferred way of receiving it; andListen to their main concerns, complaints and requests, which can provide clues as to what feedback or assistance they require. Contributing to others’ wellbeingAnyone can make a positive contribution to the team through expressing appreciation, no matter what their role is. While it’s great to get encouraging feedback from a supervisor, peer support is so important, now more than ever, to keep motivation levels up. It’s not just about recognising results, it’s about recognising people and what we value about them. Feeling genuinely appreciated boosts morale and well-being. It’s not our job to make others happy, but it’s important to remember that when we show regular, authentic appreciation, it raises not only the self-esteem of others but also our own.Charlotte Keating FCA is a qualified life and business coach and founder of Act On It Coaching.

Sep 01, 2020
Careers

The pandemic has changed how we work, meet up with friends and see family. It has also changed the recruitment process. Here is all you need to know about remote job interviews. Words by Sinead Smith, Director for Newly Qualified Accountants at ACCPRO The new normal? The now normal? Whatever it is that we are calling it, there isn't one area of our lives that has remained untouched by COVID-19. We have been asked to bend but not break, pivot but not fall and nothing has required more reactivity, proactivity and creativity than our approach to work.  Technology made it possible for businesses to respond quickly and effectively when the call to batten down the hatches came through in mid-March. Zoom, the popular video conferencing software, reported a 50% growth to 500 million users in April 2020 while Microsoft Teams experienced a 70% jump to 75 million daily users in the same month. These apps have allowed our businesses to stay open, our clients to feel engaged and our teams to remain collaborative. Crucially, they have also made it possible for companies to continue to interview, hire and onboard talent remotely.  The setup Technology is great until it’s not. How many times has your WiFi dropped during a Netflix binge or your phone died mid-call? Now imagine those things happening during a remote interview – stressful, to say the least! However, there are some things that you can do before your interview to futureproof yourself against the frustration of frozen video or patchy audio.  Make sure that you have access to a strong WiFi connection. You can test your WiFi capabilities using a tool like Ookla. If it suggests a problem, reboot your router and try again. Sit as close to the router as is reasonable while ensuring that your background is appropriate (more on this below). If your house historically has poor phone signal, don’t hope for the best at this important moment. Get out in the car and drive to somewhere that will allow you to take the call uninterrupted or use a landline if you have one. Test the software or app beforehand with a friend – make sure you know how to access the video, that your webcam is working and that you have any dial-in information to-hand. Place your phone on silent and turn off any notifications that may have audible alerts.  Setting up for a remote interview is also about the aesthetics of the space around you. Consider what is in the background of your picture. Ideally, sit against a blank wall but, if that is not possible, ensure that what is behind you is neat and orderly. You should sit facing a window or suitable light source – don't allow yourself to be backlit as it will cast you in shadow. Try to avoid echoey rooms and make sure that anyone else in the house understands to stay quiet.  The conduct  A common refrain from both candidates and clients has been that video interviews have dismantled some of the more uptight elements of the traditional interview process. Gone is the stock artwork, the straight-backed chairs and vast boardroom tables. In their stead are squishy sofas, fridge magnets, family photographs and a more relaxed atmosphere. Getting that glimpse into the humanity, the personality and the identity of whom you are speaking with engenders a sense of ease and relatability. Having that visual reminder of this shared experience – the very reason you are interviewing from your home – can bypass some of the more conventional interview speak and lead to more open, fruitful conversations.  However, be warned: don’t allow a shared taste in IKEA armchairs to blind you to the fact that you are still interviewing. You are still being assessed. You are still expected to perform and to sell your experience. Likewise, the client is still expected to properly inform you about the company, the culture and the role.  Be professional but, don’t be afraid to be friendly – you already know at least one thing you have in common with your interviewer so don’t be afraid to ask after them and how they’ve found the transition from work to home. It will help break the ice. Dress professionally – don't be tempted to be all “business on the top, pyjamas on the bottom” just because you are sitting down. Dress as you would for any interview. Give good listening cues and posture – nod, smile, sit up straight and try to maintain eye contact. Speak clearly and be aware of any delays, static or patchy connections that may impact communication. The follow-up As with any interview, the follow-up is key so, don’t allow yourself to be lulled into a different mindset just because it wasn’t an in-person meeting. If you are represented by a recruitment consultant, provide feedback on how you felt it went and your interest levels. This will allow them to revert to the client for reciprocal feedback and keep the process moving. If you have applied directly for a role, it is a nice touch to drop a polite email the next day to HR or the Hiring Manager and thank them for their time, reiterate your interest and ask for feedback. 

Jun 30, 2020