I worked in London as an accountant for six-and-a-half years. I’d deliberately chosen to work in the capital to be able to use my French; which I successfully did eventually in both London and France. I worked at Moore Stephens International and, on the whole, enjoyed my time there. But in the last few years I started to reevaluate my position. I worked with a coach and found this process incredibly useful in helping me decide what to do next.
Whether you are an accountant in London or just starting out in a rural practice in Shropshire, a mentor could help you decide the steps you need to take for a successful and fulfilling career.
What is mentoring?
Basically, mentoring is working with someone independent from you who has done/achieved what you want to do. They are there to guide and support you. You still make the decisions about your next steps.
How can mentoring help me?
Over the years as an accountant mentor, I have mentored many accountants
and have helped them to move their lives forward. I’ve worked with
people in practice, those who work in industry, people working for themselves and accountancy students. In fact, you name it, I’ve worked with someone from that sector!
Just some of the things a mentor could do to help you are:
- improve your annual appraisal experience
- a change in direction
- setting up in practice
- day to day practice enquiries
Each time I’ve worked with someone, I gained so much from being the mentor too.
Using a mentor to improve your annual appraisal experience
Using a mentor to improve your annual appraisal experience
This has come up several times in my mentoring sessions. People not feeling confident about asking for what they want – a promotion, a pay rise or whatever they are looking for at that stage in their life. Mentoring can help give you the confidence to prepare for your annual appraisal so that you have a better chance of getting what you want out of it.
I remember when I worked in London and used to make notes for my review, I never really believed anything would change. As you prepare for your appraisal and during the session itself you need to know, at a deep level, that you can have what you want.
What I would say is, remember that it’s not easy to find good staff. Value who you are and what you can bring to an organisation.
Preparation is key to being successful at your appraisal so this is what I recommend
to the people I mentor:
- Consider what you want to achieve in the next year, the next 5 years.
- Make notes before the session.
- Think about whether there are any gaps in your knowledge or experience that you may need to fill to achieve your goals. Is there specific training you require or could you ask to shadow someone who already does a certain role?
- Review last year’s appraisal; note anything you want to comment on.
- List your achievements and your role in them in the last 12 months.
- Keep a log of any praise or thanks you have received from colleagues or clients in the previous 12 months.
- Brainstorm with someone independent to you if there are any points you want to get across that you may struggle with. This is so effective!
- Make sure you read through any notes or reports following your appraisal to check that they are an accurate representation of what was discussed.
The big plus about being an accountant is that you have transferable skills. Don’t just continue to do what you’re doing if you’re not happy. You can make a change. A mentor can help you to decide on your new direction. Maybe:
- You’re working long hours and you want a better work life balance. Maybe
you saw what was possible during the pandemic when they were working at home and want this flexibility back.
- You feel that you have more to offer and are bored. Maybe you haven’t been
- You are happy working where you are but want and need a change of
direction otherwise you’ll get stale!
The interesting observation I’ve made when I’ve mentored accountants for a few sessions is that the whole process can make them see their current role differently. Some decide to stay where they are but with the additional tools of being able to speak up and get the changes put in place to enjoy their role. For others, the whole mentoring experience confirms that they do want to leave and the mentoring gives them the confidence to do it.
The 4 questions to ask yourself
Whatever is making you dissatisfied, don’t despair. You’ll feel better if you start by
making a plan. Think about these four questions and jot down your answers:
- Where are you now?
- Where do you want to be?
- What is important to you?
- Who can help you?
Your answers will help you focus on the opportunities that are open to you and decide what you need to do next. Also, I have free resources on my website, such as my Future Planning mind map that can be a big help. You can take time to complete the mind map and consider what will help you to get the best from your accountancy career.
Setting up your own practice
You may have come to the stage in your career where you want to start working for yourself. I’ve been doing it now for 19 years and find it again, on the whole, enjoyable and fulfilling. However, it can also be a lonely business. I remember when I set up it was a shock having so many questions and no one to ask!
Being mentored by an accountant who’d already done this successfully would have been a massive bonus; instead I had to learn by trial and error. But you don’t have to do the same as I did – I can help you move from employment to self-employment with ease.
Here are some questions you may need answered:
- How do I set up?
- What status should I be?
- What services do I want to provide?
- Who is my target market? Do I want to have a niche?
- Which training provider do I use?
- Which software do I use?
- How do I set up a website?
- What are some tips for juggling the transition from employment to self-employment?
And many more…
You can also see my tips on running your own successful practice here.
Day to day practice queries
Often when working in practice, either for yourself or as an employee, there are gaps in your knowledge. This is not your fault. A lot of accountancy training takes place on the job, and you may be struggling with the person who is training you or there may not be enough time in the day for others around you to help. Again, this is an ideal opportunity to involve a mentor to help you improve your skill set.
I have helped people update their knowledge and ask their questions in a safe place.
The questions could cover:
- Completion of self-assessment returns
- Organisation of your practice
- Double entry revision
- Control accounts
- Preparing a folder for review
- Calculating accounting ratios
- Preparing management accounts
- Director’s loan accounts and how they work
- Calculating capital allowances
By working on these areas with an experienced mentor, you will gain confidence in your ability and feel better and more in control at work.
Good luck with taking your next steps in your career. Know you’re not alone and ask for help when you need it. It will make the transition a lot smoother!
Anna Goodwin @2023 All Rights Reserved.