Researching employers and considering which ones you would be best suited to are some of the best ways to impress recruiters and set yourself up for a successful career. Finding the right fit can take a bit of time but it will give you a much better chance of getting a job you’ll really enjoy.
‘Students often spend too much time thinking about whether they are right for the employer rather than whether the employer is right for them,’ says Richard Irwin, head of student recruitment at PwC. ‘You’ll have a huge advantage in the selection process if you can demonstrate the firm is genuinely right for you.’ We explore some of the main issues you need to think about before making your choice.
The majority of trainee accountants are employed by accountancy firms or practices. The most well known employers in the sector are the Big Four: Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC, the four largest international professional services firms, but there are also plenty of medium-sized (eg BDO and Grant Thornton) and smaller firms (eg Dixon Wilson) to take into consideration. Different sized firms can offer different benefits; for example, a small firm might offer a wider range of experience whereas a large global firm might offer more opportunity to travel overseas.
The public sector is not an area to be overlooked either. There are also graduate positions in the private sector (sometimes known as industry and commerce). This type of employer might appeal to you if you’re looking for exposure to a particular industry. Pick your firm carefully. Make sure you like the people you will be working with, and don’t just assume that bigger is better.
London offers many opportunities for a career in accountancy and areas such as the ‘square mile’ and Canary Wharf are well known hubs for professional services firms. However, accountants are needed up and down the country so there are plenty of opportunities to find a job in the profession wherever you want to live.
Many accountants choose to work in the nearby counties of London such as Middlesex, Berkshire and Surrey or, if you’re still keen to live in a city but not necessarily drawn to London life, there are plenty of opportunities in places such as Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Outside of the UK, the global demand for accountancy skills means you could end up working anywhere in the world.
Gaining a professional qualification will play a key part in your first years of working as an accountant, so training and development should be a factor in your choice of employer. Some employers will pay all your exam and tuition fees as well as allowing significant study leave but not all can or will offer such full support. Many larger employers have attractive training packages but in return there could be high expectations around exam passes and time taken to qualify. Smaller organisations may offer less in terms of study benefits but more in terms of flexibility and wider experience.
Research is the best preparation you can do when choosing an employer, but it’s not just to impress recruiters – you can find out whether you genuinely want to work at an organisation. There are plenty of ways to find out more about employers. Speaking to people from different firms at careers fairs and employer presentations will help you understand what their working life is really like. You could also draw up a list of areas that are most important to you, such as size, qualification or travel opportunities, and use employer websites and publications to find out which match your preferences. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and find out everything you want to know before you make your decision.
Questions to ask yourself
- What sort of work do I want to do?
- What sort of clients do I want to work with?
- Do I want to specialise yet?
- Where do I want to work?
- Do I want to travel overseas?
- Does the culture feel like a ‘good fit’?
- What do I really want out of my career?