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GP or Specialist?

July 11, 2013

We had a departmental away day last Friday, and a colleague asked me in the bar afterwards whether I liked my job. The question was more about her, and she was seeking guidance about possible directions in which to pursue her career.

The joy of tax as a career is that it can take numerous directions. The subject is ever changing; was different thirty years ago when I started to what it is now; was different three years ago; and will be different again in three or thirty years time.

But some things stay the same, and I framed our subsequent discussion with the diagram below (alas, people who know me, know that I think in diagrams, think visually, think in chessboards and family trees….).

It's not a brilliant diagram (even if it were legible) and neither is it original: it stems from David Maister's 2*2 model of professionals- nurses, GPs, consultants, specialists- but I was basically giving the message 'what type of work do you like' 'what type of client do you like to work with'. The categorisation of client type is crude, but the skills needed, career challenges, interest and rewards are different when dealing with business owners or families from when providing services to fellow tax professionals. Neither is better, they are just different.

Some years back, whilst driving home on Upper Brook Street, I saw a billboard advert 'I —e my job', with a note below giving a phone number to call. Maybe it was the end of a long day and I was tired, because it took me a while to work out that it was a poster for a recruitment firm, and the missing letters were meant to be H-A-T; my instant reaction on seeing the advert had been L-O-V; being able to help owners and families address difficult matters has been a career long delight.


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