During the #WWYAB series, ‘Developing a specialism’ hit home with me more than the other pieces of advice. This is because I have recently been thinking about my own future that little bit more, especially after turning the big two-one earlier this month.
I am currently half-way through the ACCA qualification, having completed seven out of 14 exams, and after the next sitting, will be part-qualified (fingers crossed!). This has made me increasingly think about what I want to do when I ‘grow up’ and finally become a qualified accountant. So far, I have only thought about the short term – completing the qualification. I think many people, as well as myself are guilty of jumping over the next hurdle but not thinking about the finishing line.
I have been with Grant Thornton for just over two years now, starting in August 2011. I am now working with my audit clients for the third year running. It scares me to think how time has flown by, although I do enjoy returning each year to see what’s new with the client and their business. Also, as I progress as a trainee I receive additional responsibility, allowing me to take ownership and understand the business from a different perspective every time.
Clients that I am involved with annually include; charities, motor retailers and farming businesses (to name a few). Even though I would not say I am an expert in any way, shape or form, I would admit to having gained a fair deal of knowledge about these industries from the work I have performed in the past and am continuing to learn through my current assignments. This shows that I have picked up certain specialities without even meaning to or knowing; it’s been part of my normal day to day job which I have enjoyed learning about. Looking at the wider picture that I now realise I have gained a speciality.
From speaking to various different people, including friends coming out of university in the summer, it is easy to see that it’s believed by some that once you get a job, you are stuck in the same role for a very long time (or even forever!). People are scared that they’ll start to specialise too early in their career, and therefore won’t be able to benefit from other opportunities available. From my experience, this is not the case. I follow the “Accelerate” school leaver programme and am developing into an effective business advisor in the audit field. This means I will be know more about audit, than say, a tax trainee, however doesn’t mean that if an opportunity came up within the tax department, I wouldn’t be able to try my hand. A great positive of working for such a large and diverse firm as Grant Thornton is that you pick up transferrable key skills that can be used within any occupation. We also offer a wide range of secondments to other departments, offices and even internationally, so I know that even though I am becoming good at what I do, I can still try something new once I qualify.
For Grant Thornton to provide a great client service, it does mean that the firm needs to have a variety of experts working in their relevant field, yet it doesn’t mean that everybody is ring-fenced into the original job that they applied for. I think it’s a really exciting opportunity to be able to become a specialist in your chosen field, but then add some variety and new experiences to your portfolio by working in other departments. If, unlike me you have always known exactly which route you want to follow you can quickly become an expert by working alongside experienced specialists with the skills to teach you how to be the best in that field.
I believe developing a specialism is one of the key steps to a successful career. It will help you become knowledgeable, efficient and effective at your job. Having said that, my advice would be not to feel pressured into thinking which particular specialism you would prefer right now. Think about your career as a whole and let yourself naturally develop, following what you enjoy and what you are good at and this will lead to the opportunities to achieving both personal and professional goals.