Becoming a chartered accountant generally assures one of landing an attractive package at a prestigious corporation but without the "right experience and attitude, the path to the top can be bumpy.
Debbie Goodman, MD of Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters who places many of the top executives in SAs leading corporations, says some are under the impression that the CA qualification alone immediately puts them on the road to wealth and success. However, without careful career management, many CAs struggle to get the top jobs they desire.
"Before taking articles, budding CAs should be aware of the impact of their choice of audit firm and audit specialization (if they are lucky enough to have a choice). They should know that some organizations only employ CA grads from the "Big Four, whereas other companies will have a preference for those who come from smaller firms.
"Smaller audit firms may allow for quicker exposure and earlier responsibility as well as varied experience which, in certain circumstances, makes a CV that much more eye-catching when it lands on the hiring managers desk. However, the flip side is that some smaller firms may have a limited client base within one sector, a potential disadvantage which graduates need to be aware of.'
And even when CAs land their ideal job in the "right company, they need to be vigilant about taking charge of their career progression. Goodman notes that young professionals who have sprinted up the corporate ladder have usually had a mentor in a key decision-making role within the organization.
"A top priority of every ambitious CA should be to identify and work with a mentor who will make them aware of opportunities, give them support and guidance along the way, and champion them in their ascent.'
Goodman says that although good qualifications may get you in the door, continued advancement is up to the individual - and CAs need to be as pro-active as their less qualified colleagues to get to the top.
"BEE requirements, as well as the trend of many CAs to be returning to South Africa as the rand gets stronger and the SA economy remains attractive, have made it necessary for those with their eyes on the boardroom seats to up their game.