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  • Jeremy Hodgkiss

Top tips for changing to a career in finance

Over the last 6 months or so during the global pandemic we have seen an increasing number of good candidates who have either been displaced from their previous jobs through no fault of their own or are currently on furlough. Being locked down during the pandemic has given us all time to think a bit more and many of these candidates are re-assessing their future career paths. One of the signs of a good career is that during lifechanging events such as Covid-19 job security remains strong and demand for your services remains high - this is what the majority of those who work as accountants are experiencing so it's no surprise that people looking for a new career are choosing the accountancy path.

So, if you've been previously been in an unrelated career to accountancy and want to change what should you do? If you're 25 and over then you're immediately at a disadvantage to younger candidates - why? because the national minimum wage dictates that your salary has to be at least £17,004 compared to someone aged 18-20 who would earn £12,578 or an apprentice who would earn £8,093. This isn't an opinion its a fact. But don't despair, those aged 25 and over tend to have additional skills (learnt through experience of life and work) that younger people don't. So what can you do? For those changing career the challenge is generally that you can't get an opportunity because you don't have the experience but you can't get the experience unless you're given an opportunity - the old "vicious circle". Here's our top tips to give you the edge when trying to find an opportunity to change to a career in accountancy :

- Make sure you have good maths O-levels (grade C and above) , GCSE's (grade 5 and above) or A-levels (grade C and above). If you don't, then consider re-sitting them;

- Start home studying for the AAT level 2 qualification as soon as possible and try to work yourself through the Level 4 at which point you will be AAT qualified. The AAT qualification is the foundation on which many accountancy careers are made including ACA, ACCA, CIMA and so on;

- There are lots of free accounting software tutorials available on the internet for the popular software packages such as Sage, Kashflow, Quickbooks, Xero etc. Do as many of these as you can and if possible obtain accreditations as specialist users of the software;

- Try volunteering to act as a treasurer or similar to give you basic level experience of handling financial transactions. If it's your local village hall then it's likely to be on excel which is a start but if it's your local sports club then it's likely to be on a recognised accounting software package such as Sage, Kashflow, Quickbooks, Xero etc;

- Try helping out a friend with his or her books. We all have friends who are self employed or have their own businesses. They probably hate doing the books themselves and so might jump at the chance of an offer of help;

- Contact local businesses with finance functions or accountancy practices and see if you can get some work experience, the more the merrier and you'll be surprised how many businesses are willing to help;

- With some of the above skills under your belt see if you can get some temporary work for sickness cover or similar.

All the above points add to your CV and make the move to a new career in accountancy a more realistic one. One final tip is that if you really want a career in accountancy don't give up! Accountancy is a great career choice so keep working through the above points until you get your opportunity - and you will.

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