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Career guidance if you are newly qualified

Ian Riley, Director of Longman Tax Recruitment and former tax professional, answers some of the key questions facing newly and recently qualified ATT and CTA's.

What's the first thing you typically say to someone who is newly qualified?

First and foremost, it must be a massive congratulations! Everyone in the tax profession knows how tough the exams are and how much hard work is required to get though them – so enjoy the moment. Then the key thing, I believe, is to make sure you take stock and start having a think about what you would like to achieve over the next few years, the direction you'd like your career to go in the long term and how you can use your qualification to best effect.

Why is this such a crucial time?

The career decisions you make as a newly qualified are probably amongst the most important you will ever make. At this stage of your career you will have more options open to you than at any other point which can be quite overwhelming especially in light of the amount of messages and calls you will no doubt receive from recruiters. However, it is important to take time to consider your longer-term career aspirations to make sure that you are in a role that is going to help you achieve your goals. For example, during my tax career I worked in M&A tax from starting as a graduate through to newly qualified and then on to manager grade in the following years. Had I wanted to move into another area of tax at this point it would have been very difficult, given 6 years in a specialist area and the higher earnings as a manager. Some thought and advice when I qualified about my long-term goals could have avoided this situation.

So, what's your overall advice?

We recommend to candidates that they take some time out review their situation and consider their options. We certainly don't advocate rushing into any decisions but it is a good idea to think about what you like about your current role, what other areas of tax appeal to you, how ambitious you are and what your longer term aspirations are both in terms of career satisfaction and earnings potential.

How can I get more specific personal advice?

I think the key here is to find a recruitment consultant who knows the tax market and who you feel you can trust, someone who wants to work with you over the long term and build a relationship with you. A good consultant will provide you with balanced advice over the course of your career, act as a sounding board for your own thoughts and be able to tell you about the full range of  career opportunities right across the market so if and when you do move you can make an informed decision. In addition, sometimes it is necessary to think strategically and plan a move to get more of the right type of experience to help you end up in the job you aspire to – again a good consultant can help you here. Rather than simply scanning the job boards or responding to messages on social media, I would strongly recommend taking a proactive approach and seek out a recruitment consultant who you can build a good long term relationship with.

What is the current tax job market like in the North?

The market for newly and recently qualified CTAs and ATTs is very buoyant with demand exceeding supply (due to demographic changes and a lack of trainees joining the profession a few years ago).  So, if you choose to look for a new role may well get the chance to have several meetings with organisations of different sizes and in different disciplines.