Career planning articles

Having a realistic career plan in place is an essential part of your personal growth and development. Having a career plan helps you maximize your true potential.

Author: Gill Thackray – CABA coach, business psychologist and Guardian contributor “I just don’t know what I want to do!” It’s a common statement when you’re thinking about changing direction, whether it’s a new career you’re considering or simply changing your daily routine. Change takes us out of our comfort zone and sometimes there’s so much choice, we’re paralysed because we just don’t know where to begin. The perfect starting point is to look at your own values. What is truly important to you? Our values are our personal GPS for life. Once you’ve got these defined, you have a roadmap to guide your choices and potential next steps and a way to identify if they are a good fit with what you want from life. Ask yourself, “Where do I want to be in five years’ time?” and after that, “What do I want to learn in the next five years?” When you have the answers, write them down and think about how you are going to move yourself towards your goals, one step at a time. Break your larger goals down into manageable, achievable, smaller goals. Consider ‘Branching Projects’. You don’t have to walk into the office and hand in your notice tomorrow. Make a list of all the possibilities that you are considering and then choose one that you can work on part-time. Perhaps you are considering being a yoga teacher? Research what you need to do, shadow an established teacher for a day and find out more about that particular area - it’s a way of dipping your toe in the water and finding out more without committing yourself fully. This way you can try out a number of possibilities to find out if they’re a good ‘fit’ for you. Pay attention to what makes your heart sing. Take notice of your enthusiasm, motivation and energy levels when you’re considering ‘where next’? This will provide you with a huge clue as to what might be a ‘good fit’ for your skills and abilities. Examine your assumptions about the ‘type’ of person you think you are, how much you think you ‘need’ to earn, where you ‘need’ to live or who others think you ‘should be’ and challenge your thinking. Complete an audit. Recognise where you are now, identify what you’ve achieved and how you got there. All of your existing strengths will help you on the road to moving on to the next challenge. And finally, don’t forget to enjoy the journey! Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 13, 2019

While we’ve all had good and bad experiences at interviews, most would agree that being prepared is the difference between a painful rejection and a positive offer. So here we go back to basics with Richard Jenkins, a behavioural psychologist with a particular interest in stress and performance management, to explore how adapting our behaviours before and during interview can make us even stronger candidates. Interviews Interviews are among some of the most stressful situations we experience. It’s easy to see why. There’s a huge amount of pressure to make a good impression. And there’s often a lot at stake. So how can we stay calm and make that critical positive first impression? Overcoming interview nerves Research the company - Many people arrive at an interview unprepared and with little knowledge about the business they’re looking to join. It’s easy to become flustered and unable to answer questions. Before you go make sure you’ve researched as much as you can about the company. Preparing answers to potential questions - Look at the job specification in detail. This gives you a good idea of the potential questions you may be asked. Draft some potential questions and prepare your responses. For each question it’s a good idea to have at least 3 concrete examples you can refer to - rather than simply providing generic information. The next step is to rehearse your answers, either in front of a mirror so you can hear how you sound, or with someone you trust. It might feel a little silly, but it will increase your confidence on the day. Appearance - It might be obvious, but it’s surprising how many people can get this wrong. Research indicates that people make quick judgements based on a person’s appearance, and that they’ll try to gather evidence about the person based on these judgements. Therefore it’s very important to dress appropriately. When you aren’t sure of the dress code, it’s always better to be cautious and over-dress than run the risk of looking ‘scruffy’. Take care of the little things - The practicalities of an interview can often be the most stressful part. Before your interview plan your journey, travel to the company and get to know the route. Find out about the available parking and take a little time to see who comes in and out of the building to get a feel for the dress code. If it’s a large company go inside to the reception and take a look around. Don’t be afraid to speak to the receptionist and explain that you’re coming for an interview here and wanted to have a look round. Make sure you’ve eaten before your interview - a high carbohydrate or sugary snack is perfect for giving your brain a lift. Stay away from caffeine and keep yourself hydrated. Don’t be worried about taking a sip of water if your mouth becomes dry in an interview. Dehydration causes your body to produce stress hormones which contribute to panic. Go to the toilet just before. Again, an obvious point, but it’s a good time to make a final check on your appearance. While you’re waiting to be called in sit down. If there isn’t anywhere to sit, stand still and look out of the window and practice some breathing exercises. Pacing up and down sends a signal to your brain that there’s something to worry about. This makes your ‘fight or flight’ reflex kick in and your short term memory can suffer as a result. Doing all of these things before the interview will contribute to you showing up in a calm and controlled state of mind - looking confident and competent. Making a good first impression Research indicates that you have about 3-7 seconds to create an impression and potentially win or lose the interview. Creating and maintaining a positive demeanour throughout the interview is very important to coming across well. When the interviewers first come in make sure you smile and say ‘good morning/afternoon’. If they haven’t mentioned your name, say it as you shake their hand, this personalises the interaction and immediately helps to build a relationship. Questions are a major concern at interviews and knowing how to respond in advance is important. You should have prepared answers to potential questions beforehand, but if the interviewer asks a question that you aren’t sure about don’t be afraid to explain that it’s an interesting question and you need a couple of seconds to think of the answer. Similarly, if you don’t understand the question ask them to re-phrase it. And if you genuinely don’t know the answer to the question be honest and say. This creates a much better impression that getting flustered or answering incorrectly. If you have gaps in your experience try and turn the negative into a positive - focusing on your transferable skills that can be applied. For example, refer to your qualifications and show that you’re a fast learner who can easily apply yourself to gain the skills necessary for the role. At the end of an interview avoid questions relating to holiday and salary. And finish on a positive note. If you haven’t got any questions explain that your research and the interview have been very informative and you have all the information you need. If you’re not successful If you haven’t been successful in an interview try to get feedback. Typically candidates are informed 48-72 hours after an interview. If you haven’t heard anything after this time then contact them. If, after 14 days you still haven’t heard anything then contact them again. If they don’t respond to email then it’s a good idea to phone, or even go and see them.  Sometimes the first person they offer the job to turns it down. By remaining visible you stand a better chance of being offered the position. Do’s and don’ts in an interview Don’t argue with the interviewer Don’t criticise previous employers Do stay focused and don’t get caught looking out of the window Do stay positive Don’t slouch Do maintain good eye contact Do have examples to back up your answers Do be enthusiastic Don’t gesture too heavily Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 11, 2019

If you want a change in your career this year, it’s best to first take stock of where you are before you can figure out where you want to go. According to recent figures from survey of registered attendees to a November Jobs Expo, 45% of respondents are employed but unhappy and looking to change roles. If you are currently questioning if your current position is right for you long term, it may be worthwhile performing a personal career audit. There are particular areas which you should take into consideration when performing an audit like this, and we have established some of these to guide you in the right direction.  Take stock of your current position One of the main sources of discontent for a lot of people is their specific role in the organisation. Is your current role and company providing you with the development and challenges you are looking for? What could be done differently to ensure you feel more satisfied and happier within your role? One common error is to presume all positions are set in stone with no further scope. Instead, you could explore the possibilities of expanding or adjusting your role to suit your requirements if your employer deems fit. Accountancy professionals often cite ’lack of growth opportunities’ as a major reason they move on to their next role outside of the company. You have to ask yourself: is my role providing the correct career opportunities that align with my future goals and do I derive career satisfaction from it? You should also discuss your concerns with your manager and colleagues to ensure you are exploring all avenues available before deciding to move on.  Define a potential career path The way we work is changing. Today’s modern workforce is frequently jumping jobs and roles. Gone are the days of sticking in one job within the same company for all of your working life. Young professionals, in particular, will now change roles within just a year or two of starting a position. It is more important than ever to have a planned career path in mind alongside clear career goals. Ask yourself regularly if you are enjoying what you are doing and where you are going in your career. With 51% of accountants admitting, according to Morgan McKinley’s Workplace Survey, that they intend to leave their current job in 2019, seeking some career advice from a qualified professional within your field may also be a good idea. Above all, it’s key to only move on to the next challenge when you feel that you have gained everything you can from your current one.  Evaluate your status and create goals Regularly evaluating where you are along your career path and your career status should be a topic of key importance for anyone who is conducting an audit of their current career. Your goals for 2019 should be focused yet flexible as things can change which are outside of your control. Ensuring your goals are consistent and that you regularly evaluate where you are in terms of achieving them is also important. The most popular career goal among accountancy professionals in the Morgan McKinley’s Workplace Survey  was to improve their work-life balance, with 38% citing this as their main focus.  You should consider testing these goals and to see how realistic they are, along with measuring your desire/the importance of these goals in conjunction with your overall career objectives. Ranking these goals in order of personal importance can also help you in terms of the prioritisation of tasks.  Think compensation and benefits Money isn’t the be all and end all in terms of satisfaction you get from a role but the reality is that when you are underpaid, you feel undervalued and probably less motivated to work to your full potential. Reviewing your compensation package should be a regular occurrence and one that should become more of a priority than optional. Benchmarking your compensation and benefits package against similar level positions and competitor companies is a good way of sussing out if you are being adequately paid.  Think about what training you need and are receiving Making a list of the types of training you would like to receive in 2019 can help you identify ways in which your training regime could be improved. It also allows you to identify areas of training which you found unhelpful and shouldn’t continue in 2019. Thinking critically about the training you have received helps determine if the training actually aligns with the objectives of the business.  Review your working arrangements People often overlook their working arrangements when conducting their audit. This includes your commute, which can cause unnecessary stress if too long. When not looked into, these arrangements can cause physical and mental health issues, increased financial expenses, as well as opportunity costs,  meaning time engaging in other important activities  like exercise and family time are sacrificed. There could be some solutions to this problem and it may be as simple as having a chat with your manager about working from home or more flexible working hours to accommodate your commute.  Give yourself a health audit Stress is a factor that costs the economy an unprecedented amount every year. The impact of work challenges on your physical and mental health can be astounding. It can affect job performance and productivity. If you feel your physical, mental and/or emotional health needs a reboot, then a health assessment is paramount. Easy ways to improve your well-being could be as simple as healthy eating, regular exercise, practising mindfulness and managing stress. If you feel that your work is having an negative impact on these simple solutions, then it may be worthwhile making this a key area of focus for your audit and discussing your options with someone confidentially to see what can be done to improve this. The impact taking care of yourself can have on your professional performance can be significant.  How is your financial well-being? Financial well-being includes having control over your finances, being on track to meet your financial goals and being able to afford to live a relatively comfortable lifestyle without experiencing significant money woes. A focus on improving your financial well-being will lead to financial security. Listing your current debt and loans will allow you to establish areas of outgoings and assist you in figuring out if your current income is covering your expenditure.  According to Morgan McKinley’s survey, 55% of accountants believe that they should be paid more. It is more important than ever to take stock of whether or not your finances are looking healthy and what can be done to achieve this in 2019.  Conclusion Like everything to do with careers and professional performance, a successful career audit will not come around without the correct intentions. You need to ensure you’re performing an audit for the right reasons, both personally and professionally, and that you take note of the outcomes of your findings to turn them into positive changes to enhance and benefit your career. The start of any career audit  is asking the right questions about current situation and role and going from there.    James Gallagher is the Associate Director of Accounting, Finance & Legal at Morgan McKinley.

Feb 11, 2019
Careers Development

Every year, at around this time I begin to receive calls and mails from members coming to the end of their contracts.  The sentiment usually swings between anxiety, fear or eagerness to move on and make that 'first professional move'. The fear and anxiety usually stem from influences including friends/colleagues and family etc. to help alleviate some of these worries I would suggest that you start at beginning - and ask yourself - What do I know? What do I know about? my values my personal beliefs job motivators job de-motivators my own levels of ambition my own circumstances short term career plans and objectives long term career ambitions and goals Reflect on your past experience – including: client base level of workload responsibilities and functions of the role size of the company size and scope of the finance team What did you like? What didn’t you like?  Spend time reflecting on your experiences with an open mind and critically review what you would include in future job specs There is no right or wrong time to move and no reason to feel pressurised by your peers to make a move that you are not feeling just at this time. We see from experience that those that take their time assessing what they'd like from a potential move, focus more on the prep than the application/ interview, and subsequently find it easier to recognise that dream job than those who apply for everything with little to no thought or reflection put into the prep.  It's an exhausting process so give yourself the benefit of hindsight, focus, reflection and an 'auditi' of your career to date and experiences gained. If you are lucky enough to enjoy what it is you are doing and are still being challenged, and stretched by your company and role then take stock of what you have achieved; how far you have come and assess what you need to add to your skills set.  It’s important to keep an eye on the market place, be familiar with changes, new opportunities, new companies, new roles and also where roles no longer exist - empower yourself to respond to changes in demand in terms of skills set and changing environments and markets.  This is where you focus on the 'end goal' asking yourself where you see yourself on retirement day? With this in mind - work backwards!  This helps you to clarify the skills, qualifications, experience and responsibilities that you need, to ensure that when this dream-role materialises you are best equipped to respond to it with confidence. If you are to take one piece from this article I would encourage you to take your time, we meet members who come to us having jumped in with both feet to an opportunity that wasn't right for them because someone else told them it was a good idea - they face the challenge of trying to get out again and back on the road that is better suited to them.  To avoid this mistake think seriously before you leap and don't be afraid to say 'no thank you' -  your career will thank you in the long run! 

Jan 15, 2018