Let yourself shine in accounting

All set for auditing efficiency

You’re a rising star and you know it. So why should this be a secret? In the world of accounting it pays not only to maintain your career status but actively encourage progression.

It’s true not everyone will have the same zeal and positive attitude as you do – so advocate for yourself and push hard at the doors of opportunity.

Someone who knows more than most about the self-empowerment of seeking new challenges – and the rewards – is Denise Lavelle.

Denise was in the banking sector for 28 years, latterly as an assistant manager, having come up through the ranks from a junior then employed in various branches, departments and projects.

“Due to changes in the department I found it didn’t challenge me mentally. If I’m honest, it hadn’t for some time, so I started to look at other options,” says Denise. “I had completed the banking exams years before and decided to get in touch with the local college. They were fantastic and I signed up initially for an HNC, which resulted in an honours degree four years later.”

During her studies, Denise worked three days for the bank and attended college and university as a full-time student around this. She obtained a position a year later as a trainee accountant with a small firm and completed all of her ACCA exams, with exemptions from her degree.

Such was her drive and determination, she was fully qualified within three and a half years and, within that time, had become a practice manager and accountant.

Now, after more than five years with her first firm, she has become accounts and audit manager for a practice that specialises in raising funds for companies developing new products.

“The job is very varied,” says Denise. “Although most of the general public think accountants are quite a homogenous bunch, there are in fact a huge variety of roles: management accountants, auditors, forensic accountants, tax and VAT Accountants, to name just a few.

“It’s also true every client is different. Therefore, every set of accounts is different and larger clients bring larger and more complex challenges – so you are always experiencing new environments and continually expanding your knowledge.”

As Denise deals with such a wide range of clients, there’s really no such thing as a typical day.

“Every day is a combination of the many different tasks I’m responsible for,” she says. “I can be involved in preparing more complex accounts and tax returns from trial balance to completion, contacting clients to ask for them to forward information, taking care of the distribution and monitoring of workflow to other members of the team, checking other team members’ work prior to it being passed to the director, training, recruitment, meetings with clients . . . this covers a large chunk of my tasks but not all!”

As well as tacking the day job, Denise sees one of the biggest challenges in the industry right is recruiting staff. She believes this is because many young people go from school to university then into a career with little or no actual accounting experience.

She says: “The job they expect to do is very different from their textbook learning. Along with this, to become a fully qualified accountant they have to complete further professional exams. Many will leave after a year or two, realising it’s not for them.

“When I’ve recruited in the past, I’ve looked for someone who is articulate and presentable. Attention to detail is important, too, along with using your own initiative, having good organisational skills and you must be enthusiastic about the job,” says Denise.

“The person I’ve just recruited has no accounting degree and very basic accounting experience but he has real drive and ambition, which set him apart from the other candidates.

“My advice for anyone looking for a new accountancy role  would be to get experience, ideally in an accounting practice, but also anywhere you can gain skills that may be transferrable – such as customer service skills, which are directly transferable to accounting.

“I work in a practice I enjoy, as I like to meet clients. Starting with a role in a small firm is ideal as you get to do all the tasks – bookkeeping, VAT returns, payroll, accounts preparation and tax – which means you have a good grounding.”

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Posted on December 4, 2019