Gone are the days when workers stayed at the same, stable jobs and companies until retirement. Somewhere along the way, shifting gears became a positive and changing careers the new normal.
Today, employees have another impetus to move on — the candidate-driven accounting and finance market. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Unemployment Rates by Occupation shows many of these roles have unemployment rates that have risen from 2016 but are still well below the overall national rate, which is already lower than it’s been since 2007.
Statistics like these demonstrate how job seekers have the upper hand in today’s job market. See infographic, below.
With all the options that skilled professionals have, along with the demand for skilled talent, you might be asking whether it’s time for you to consider changing careers. Would you like to break into the accounting and financial industry? Are you already there but you'd like to move around — or up — and experience a different career path?
Here are five tips to help you prepare to take the wheel and drive your own career changes:
1. Assess your skills, interests and abilities
A good first step is to identify and evaluate your occupational strengths and weaknesses. Consider your soft skills, systems abilities, tax knowledge and business experience.
What tasks do you perform well, and which ones aren’t as strong? What work do you enjoy most? Do you like problem solving? Working with numbers? Data mining? Surveys show that for accountants, numbers crunching is not the only thing to love about the job.
2. Research what you need before taking on a new role
Are there classes you should take to prepare for the work you want to do? College degrees to work toward? Do you have your your CPA license? Are there any other accounting and financial certifications that could be a prerequisite to the job you want, such as Certified Management Accountant, Chartered Global Management Accountant or Chartered Financial Analyst? How about brushing up on software that’s useful in this industry such as advanced Excel, Microsoft Dynamics or QuickBooks?
3. Reach out to make new connections
Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Not only should you talk to people you know — former classmates, colleagues and accounting and finance professionals — but you should also engage in networking at seminars and conferences. You might even find someone who has made a similar career change.
Also, you can join groups on social media platforms and become a member of industry-related organizations, such as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), American Payroll Association (APA) and other financial organizations.
4. Develop an action plan
Now you can begin to develop an action plan for your career. What are the milestones you want to reach — skills you’d like to acquire, people you need to meet, companies you’d like to research? Determine what you need to accomplish in your personal life to pursue your goal of a career change.
Finally, consider how much money you want to make at your job. Accounting salaries for skilled professionals are expected to expand at 3.7 percent this year, as firms of all sizes and industries increase pay and bonuses to stay competitive, according to Robert Half's latest Salary Guide.
Here is a sampling of the year's best of the best by title, organization size, starting salary ranges and percent increases from the previous year.
- Accounting manager
Corporate accounting, small company (less than $25 million revenue)
$73,000 to $97,000
- Business analyst, manager
Corporate accounting, midsize company ($25 million-$250 million in revenue)
$98,250 to $133,500
- Compliance manager
Financial services, large firm
$94,500 to $124,250
- Financial analyst
$60,250 to $87,000
- Senior accountant
Corporate accounting, small company
$63,250 to $76,250
- Staff accountant, 3 to 5 years’ experience
$64,750 to $79,750
For these and other positions, you can make you 5 to 15 percent more in base accounting salaries if you have a graduate degree or professional .
5. Ask for a recruiter’s help
Specialized recruiters offer an array of services when you’re looking for a new finance position. They can be your “eyes and ears” to the job market, help manage the job search process and match your career objectives with their client companies.
Even in today’s candidate-friendly labor market, changing careers can take you out of your comfort zone, and nothing about that is easy. But if you’ve ever thought of making the leap, now might be just the right time for you.