Should you stay or should you go?

You’ve just finished your articles, exams are a thing of the past, and you can finally start your professional career. There’s just one problem: you don’t know if you should stay at the firm where you’ve just completed your training contract or take the plunge and start afresh at a new company altogether.

This is one of the most important decisions a newly qualified chartered accountant has to make – given that it can literally make or break your career – so it’s no surprise it’s accompanied by a fair amount of trepidation.

There’s a perception that staying with the firm is a privilege, as only a small percentage of audit clerks make the cut and are offered permanent employment at the end of their contract, usually managing an audit team.

But research shows many companies are less likely to employ accountants who remained at their audit firms compared to their peers who immediately took up employment in accounting positions following their articles.

The reason? These corporates believed accounting experience in commerce was more valuable than additional external audit experience in a senior position. A major factor was the lack of experience in the former accountants’ ability to successfully manage a process from end to end, such as month-end reporting or the consolidation of a company’s financials.

Companies also don’t have much confidence in the management experience offered in these senior positions at audit firms, largely because many audit seniors or managers do not recruit their own team, do not oversee team members’ performance reviews and are not directly accountable for the team’s performance.

This has led many corporates to specifically exclude these audit firm managerial tenures from the years of management experience required by candidates when applying for management posts within their organisations.

Staying with the same firm also has an impact on your salary. If you leave the firm after your articles, you’re likely to earn an annual cost to company of R450 000 to R550 000 per annum, depending on the sector you’re in. As an auditor, you’ll earn considerably less. Add another two years to your time at the firm, and you may never make up the R100 000 per annum head start your peers have secured in commerce.

CAs with their heart set on becoming financial managers or ultimately, CFOs, are better off honing their accounting skills than their managerial skills.

That’s not to say remaining with your initial audit firm is a mistake; it suits many people, especially those who want to make a career out of auditing and those with their eye on the coveted partner title. In such instances, remaining in one firm for as long as possible is not a nice-to-have, it’s a prerequisite.

So, should you stay or should you go? Why not seek out the services of an industry professional to help you make that all-important choice?

Partnering with an experienced recruitment consultant who specialises in the financial services sector will give you access to all the information you need to make an informed decision.

These specialists are uniquely positioned to provide insights into industry trends and the preferences of their corporate clients, enabling them to assist you in making the right moves today for the long-term success of your career tomorrow.

Graham Paulsen is an executive recruitment consultant with a focus on banking, insurance and asset management at Network Finance, a leading recruitment company in the local IT; finance and engineering sectors. The company has offered optimum recruitment solutions to both clients and candidates for 28 years based on its credo: ‘developing relationships, delivering results’.

By Graham Paulsen

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