The accountancy and finance industry offers the opportunity for an individual to work across a variety of different sectors, which can create an exciting and wide-ranging career path. However, it seems as though sectors prefer individuals who have specific experience within the same sector as often revenue streams can vary. For instance, accounting for a wholesale business involves a lot of work with stock invoicing, whereas at a law firm, you must consider billing for time.
Traditionally, accountants will stay within their sector, not always by choice, but because it’s where the most relevant opportunities arise. In general, hiring managers tend to want people who will be familiar with the wider business model and how finance can be applied to this.
I’ve spoken to a number of hiring managers who say they try to keep an open mind, and in the past have had great success hiring outside of the sector in order to get a fresh pair of eyes and tap into a different talent pool - nonetheless, this is the exception; not the norm.
Considering the current competitive candidate climate, I would normally advise candidates within the financial services recruitment sector to focus on any particular niches that they may have; regardless, I am a strong advocate for championing accountancy and finance skills as transferable across industries and sectors.
Five Ways to Sell Your Skills:
1. Identify industry sectors with similar accounting processes
If you feel like your sector is hiring less, try to identify sectors where the accounting process is similar and find relevant keywords relating to that sector onto your CV, this will depict a cohesive understanding of that chosen sector, despite perhaps not having the desired experience. Referencing the earlier example, if you work in legal, obvious transferrable sectors could be management consultancies or media agencies. Equally, if you have experience in hospitality, but the structure of the organisation meant you were reporting for multiple sites, this could lead you into a commercial real estate, construction, or the housing business. The key here is to ensure all the finance ‘buzz’ words relating to the type of reporting or analysis you carry out, are clearly highlighted on your CV for hiring managers and/or recruiters to pick out.
2. Focus on systems
Something that is often agnostic to the sector, is accounting systems. If you feel you have excellent knowledge in a particular system, search for the system along with other keywords to find relevant job adverts. Often on interim assignments, having relevant system experience is extremely beneficial, particularly whilst training is remote, and can give you an edge in an application despite the sector background.
3. Sell your soft skills
Alongside technical experience, it is also very beneficial to demonstrate your ‘soft-skills’ such as:
- Problem-solving (in a study conducted by news outlet InTheBlack, they found that 41% of accountants reported that problem-solving was their favourite part of working in the accounting profession)
- Stakeholder Management
- Demonstrating extra responsibilities outside of your job description (e.g. CSR initiatives)
Skills such as these are easily transferable; if you combine these with a proven track record of technical delivery and you reach the right type of hiring manager, it could land you the job over someone with sector experience and leverage your credibility within the financial services recruitment landscape.
4. Have a positive mindset
It may seem obvious, but positivity and enthusiasm are contagious, and an active willingness to learn and develop within a different sector will not be wasted. If you’ve been able to take mini-courses or carried out some research on a sector online, it gives you an ability to discuss it in more depth on an interview or to add to your LinkedIn profile/CV.
5. Utilise recommendations
Recommendations are crucial when it comes to hiring now more than ever. Having an ex-manager or colleague vouch for you could be a deal-breaker in a process and, in my opinion, is unparalleled. Remember that ex-managers and colleagues who have moved may have moved sector, and could open doors for you in a new area. Being recommended into a business or to a new contact could even give you the edge over someone who has sector knowledge but hasn’t got a reference to back up their abilities or work ethic.
In a recent poll Broadgate Search carried out on LinkedIn, we found that 47% of accounting and finance professionals have moved industry sectors more than three times (not including Practice). This proves it can be done, you may just have to push a little harder in a tricky market.
If you would like any assistance with accounting and finance roles and opportunities, do get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org