Should I stay or should I go.

Deciding whether or not to make a move from professional practice.

Prior to the recent downturn in the oil and gas industry and the problems we are all facing due to Covid-19, moving from a role in practice was a relatively straight forward decision to make.

A few years ago, things looked a little like this:

Accountants from newly qualified up to Senior Manager level would regularly contact us with a pretty simple remit – to find a company who could provide first class career development opportunities, interesting work, and a stimulating environment. Somewhere they could, all going to plan, be promoted every couple of years whilst significantly increasing their earning potential.

In addition, people tended to look for a better work life balance (perhaps throw in a nine day fortnight or flexible working), large bonus targets, higher pension contributions, LTIPs (Long Term Incentive Plans) and a variety of add on benefits including gym memberships, shopping vouchers and even creche facilities.

And let us not forget commanding a monthly pay cheque anywhere from 5-30% more than their current role in practice.

Fast forward to the present day and things looks a little different...

The landscape in Aberdeen for accountants considering moving into industry has changed significantly, so let us examine where we currently are:

Job security: During the boom years this was never really a consideration. Industry was seen as safe as the accountancy profession, and if the worst did happen, there were always other companies looking to hire. With the changing landscape of the oil industry and the increasing need for cost reduction, this is no longer the case. That being said, if a company has gone to the effort to sign off an increase in headcount to hire a new member of staff, you can be pretty sure it's deemed an essential requirement. In the current landscape and with the pace at which the world changes, there's not such thing as guaranteed job security anywhere.

Progression: Overall, the size of most finance departments in Aberdeen has shrunk since 2014. Gone are the days where we see 40-50 Accounts Payable Assistants or large finance business partnering teams. These have all gone East to lower cost countries. This can have a knock on effect of limiting future scope for progression within each company. If you're looking for significant career progression and have your eye set on becoming a Controller, Director or CFO, it's really important to look at the structure of any organisation you're considering joining.

Life balance: In our experience, next to salary, this has been the most common reason for accountants to look for a move out of the profession. The dream of leaving the office at 5:30pm rather than routinely working late into the night on client assignments only to start again the following day at 7am. And it was true, to a point. But that has changed. Let's face it, accountants always get the rough end of the stick in industry. There's always an expectation to work longer hours at month end and year end, and quite often those 9-day fortnights will never be achieved. But with companies continuing to look for cost reductions, most finance teams haven't fully recovered since 2014 and are still under resourced. This means that working in excess of 50 hours per week has become the standard for many accountants.

Salaries: Accountancy firms in Aberdeen now pay far closer to industry rates than they did previously. Some even pay more. And just because you can get a hike in salary moving to industry as a newly qualified accountant, you'll find a few years down the line that your salary runs in line with your counterparts who stayed in the profession.

Benefits package: It’s wrong to think that all the fantastic benefits offered in industry, in particular with E&P, have disappeared. Compared to other sectors, remuneration packages are very competitive. However, there has been a distinct sharpening of the pencil across the sector. Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the way employers remunerate their employees. Think about what's important to you personally, at this stage in your life and make a decision from there.

Generational mindset: This is definitely a new phenomenon which I only really started to see from 2014 onwards. Millennials and Gen-Z generally want more from their careers than a paycheque at the end of the month. They want a sense of purpose and a deeper social responsibility. It can be argued that the oil industry hasn’t been the biggest proponent of these to date, but the tide is definitely turning.

Factor in the above, and it becomes apparent that in 2021, it’s not as clear cut as moving into industry for more money, better benefits and a healthier life balance. In the main, firms offer unrivalled training, linear career development, regular salary reviews, and competitive salaries and benefits.

Industry roles offer the following benefits:

Ownership of work: Instead of managing several clients at the same time all your attention will be focused towards the company you’re working for. This can significantly increase feelings of ownership and job satisfaction.

Strong financial packages: Let’s not be mistaken - jobs in industry still generally pay very well and benefits packages in some sectors remain very attractive

Far more stable and secure than you might think: In our experience, very few recently qualified accountants in Aberdeen who move into industry are put at risk. Generally, if a company is going to the effort of signing off on a new permanent hire, you can be sure it's deemed as an essential hire by senior management.

Ability to progress faster: Although progression may not be as linear, this has the added advantage that it can be far quicker. Can you become a Finance Director five years after leaving practice? With the right attitude, absolutely.

However, it’s important to put everything into context and perspective. Salaries in Aberdeen are significantly above the mean average for the UK and unemployment rates remain low, although there will be pain ahead over the coming months as furlough is withdrawn.

And let's not overlook peer pressure...significant others, parents and colleagues drip-feeding "it would be nice if you could leave the office a little earlier" or "we could think about getting a bigger house if we both earned more" or "I'm off to the pub this afternoon, I can't believe you're still in the office". It's something we hear regularly from people just like you, weighing everything up and feeling more confused.

You will never be a 100% certain if it’s right to leave or to stay so my advice is always this:

Make sure you are asking all of the right questions and doing all your due diligence before committing to a move. If it doesn't feel right, don't do it. And remember no decision is ever terminal.

In summary, there is no right or wrong thing to do – it’s a deeply personal choice that needs to be weighed up after factoring in the above, and more.

The key is to take your time, ask the right questions and do your necessary diligence. And work with the right recruiter...

Over the last 15 years, we've helped over 1300 accountants in Aberdeen to realise their ambitions. We take a holistic approach, and offer unrivalled levels of unbiased advice, guidance and coaching, whether or not you're actively looking to make a move.

Our recent case study focusses on a recently qualified CA who secured her first move into industry through Vero in 2020.

But don't just take our word for it...hear what others have to say about their experience of working with us on our testimonials page.