We’ve all been there, career counselling sessions, introspection, decision time – who am I and what do I want to do with my life? This question first comes up in high school when you need to make subject selections, and then again when you’re heading to university/ college.
Most people still don’t have a clue what they want to do with their lives at this stage, so many settle for broad generic B.Comm degrees, with the plan to figure it out as they go along. If you we’re like me you also took a gap year after school to get to know yourself in the context of the real world, before getting serious with studies. Many people, have a clear idea of what they want to become from day one – whether it be a doctor, an engineer, an artist etc (like my sister – who studied medicine and became a doctor). For these lucky few their most likely career path is more clearly laid out from the start.
But this is not to say their careers won’t take them in various unplanned directions down the road, as we have to make clear that your career is an ever evolving animal, one that changes as you change and grow. Many engineers end up in banking, doctors end up doing their MBA and starting their own research practice etc. People are multi faceted with various talents and passions – I for example have a passion for music and the arts and is forever looking for ways to merge that interest with my professional career as a chartered accountant.
Getting back to accountants – deciding to study accounting (eg. B.Acc/Business Science) is one of those important life decisions that send you down a certain path. Whilst it is a strong broad business qualification, its strengths are in its focus on accounting, tax, audit and financial management, and these are the focus areas where most obvious opportunities lie down the road. This is an important point to be aware of.
If you were like me, you were sold on the idea that a CA qualification would be the strongest broad finance qualification that would open various doors and give you the competitive edge compared to the legions of generic B.comm candidates in the job market. It would give you a core skill set that is sought after and which you would be able to leverage into various areas of business and industry.
This is true, as being a CA does offer various challenging and rewarding career paths, both in SA and abroad. It is just that most of the opportunities, at least initially after qualifying, lie in the narrow focus areas of the qualification, i.e. audit, accounting, tax and financial management. For many this is great, because these are exactly their areas of interest and why they became a CA. And starting out in one of these areas does not mean you will be stuck there your whole career – as mentioned careers are fluid and ever-changing, and as you grow in your role and with a certain company many other interesting doors can and will open up, if you put yourself out there.
I however decided on becoming a CA not be an accountant or an auditor, but to use this “elite” qualification to leverage into more interesting areas of business. I see myself as an entrepreneur, a strategic and innovative business leader that wants to be a player in exciting and dynamic industries. I want to use my qualification and experience as an enabler to build a rewarding career aligned with my personal passions and interests. Quite a lofty goal I know, and a lot to put on a single qualification.
I quickly realised that if you do not, from the outset, have a clear plan in mind on how to achieve this goal, with specific pro active steps on how to get there, then merely relying on your CA qualification to open these doors will most likely fail. As the doors opened by a CA qualification are by default in the narrow paths outlined above (which is further compounded by your allocated industry exposure during your training contract), you need to make sure you know how you will use the qualification to your advantage, and not let it use you.
To give some guidance and help you figure out whether becoming an accountant is right for you, refer to our career paths section where we analyse the various traditional and alternative career paths available to accountants, as well as the steps needed to get there.
- The Value of A Black CA – A speech I made on in 2011 during an ABASA career day (bafedilemafologele.wordpress.com)
- How Do You Quantify Your Ideal Job? (gregljohnson.wordpress.com)
- A Content Strategy For Your Career (contentmarketinginstitute.com)
- Do you have a similar perspective on the challenge and nature of the CA qualification and the career possibilities it offers?
- Are you following a different path to those detailed in our career path section?
We would love to get your input and start a discussion on this topic.