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Guidance to an undergraduate considering a career in an accountancy firm

December 19, 2015


It is a factor of my age: my children are now late teens/early 20s, and so are those of many of our friends. As a result, during the last year or so I have had several discussions trying to guide undergraduates and graduates on choosing firms, choosing departments.

Often, I say similar things to each; I do try to tailor to their background, understanding and preferences, but there are common themes. This short series of  blog postings  is an attempt to record several such thoughts. For ease of expression, I will refer to the people I am trying to help as undergraduates.

Which department is best?

Impossible to say, in the same way that it is impossible to say which university is best, or which course is best. There are numerous good careers.

To my mind, there is a big element of luck. A graduate, even one from a broadly relevant degree, won’t really appreciate what working in a particular field is like. Plus, a big factor is which colleagues you get to work with, both as peers (do you happen to join a group of very friendly, like minded people, or are you unlucky to join with people who you don’t feel an affinity to? And, equally, the managers and partners you get to work with, and the client experience….such things can be important determinants of happiness and success at the start of a career.

It is, I think, much like the first days of university. Who you happen to meet, how things start of, can have long lasting importance.

“not audit?”

This seems to be a trend: most, and I think nearly all, of the undergraduates I have guided in 2015 have decided not to apply to audit, thinking it is “boring” and “uninteresting”. I think this is a wrong misconception, and, to my mind, training in audit can be an excellent start for a career in accountancy. Yes, at junior level there is much tedious checking; yes, at more senior level there is still tedium and checklists. But a good manager, senior manager and beyond should be able to find plenty of interest, be able to advise clients;  and the role of external auditor is something important to society. Moreover, the vast majority of people entering the profession will leave, with many leaving on, or in the years after qualification.

Training in audit provided me with an excellent foundation in business; I saw a variety of industries; had many interesting assignments; plus, being on clients’ sites developed my personal skills considerably (not hard: at school and university I was in a shell).

So, personally, unless someone had a clear understanding and preference, audit would be my first choice. And I write this as someone who has loved, and still love, my career in taxation.


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