If you’re looking to embark on a career in accounting, you’ll know that relevant experience is a requirement for most paid roles. But when you’re just starting out, it can seem impossible to get your foot in the door. So where do you start?
If you’re at the very beginning of your journey towards professional accountancy, you may be able get some experience shadowing staff at accounting firms, or within finance departments at organisations.
Start by researching and identifying firms or businesses you could get in touch with, and seeking relevant contacts. With smaller organisations, you could get in touch directly with heads of finance departments, while in larger organisations you might get a better response from human resources.
You can then email these contacts, stating that you’re looking to gain work experience in the sector, and explaining how this will contribute to your longer term ambitions.
Just as you would when applying for a job, take care to express a specific interest in the organisation, and don’t forget to sell yourself; after all, work experience is a two way street, and you are unlikely to be offered experience unless you have something to offer in return.
Think about the kinds of tasks you could help out with, and how your traits and abilities could help things run more smoothly for the department. For example, do you have excellent organisational skills, or a proven knack with numbers?
Follow up with phone calls after a few days, as some of your contacts might be willing to take up your offer, but have been too busy to respond.
What does it take to become an accountant?
Watch the webinar with AAT qualified accounting tutor Patricia Barlow
If you have worked in an accounting role before, perhaps you would like to gain experience with a broader range of responsibilities. If it’s difficult to do this within your current role, you can develop new skills through volunteering.
Many charitable organisations advertise voluntary roles in their finance departments, giving you the opportunity to take on new tasks and develop new knowledge. You can find volunteering opportunities on sites like do-it.org.
Entry level roles
If you have begun to develop relevant knowledge through a recognised qualification, you may be able to start gaining experience in an entry level job role. For example, you could apply to roles such as Accounts Assistant, Purchase Ledger Clerk, or Junior Bookkeeper.
You could even begin your accounting career through an apprenticeship. This allows you to work as part of an accounting team, while attending a learning centre one day a week to gain the AAT qualification. And this is all while earning an hourly wage!
Relevant experience from other roles
If you’re looking to make a career change into accounting, you may find you already have lots of relevant experience. Many of the skills required in accounting can be gained through roles that entail administrative and management duties, for example.
If you’ve held a senior role in a different sector, it’s likely you’ve been responsible for a budget, which is a bonus when applying for accounting roles.
Something you’re likely to have gained in other roles, and which is a requirement for most accounting jobs, is experience working to deadlines. Whether it’s running major time-constrained projects, or completing small tasks within given time frames, you can relate your organisational and time-keeping skills to your potential to excel in accounts.
Similarly, you probably already have experience with problem-solving. Perhaps you’ve gained this in a previous role that involved making sense of complex information, or resolving issues. Perhaps you have even solved problems as part of personal projects. This could impress potential employers, as accountants need to resolve financial challenges, as well as simply report on figures.
You will find it easier to gain work experience in accounting when you have started to gain relevant qualifications. The AAT qualification is ideal for those with little previous knowledge, as it takes you right from the basics at level 2, to advanced concepts at level 4. To find out more, get in touch below.