Pathways into accountancy are more diverse than ever, so we’ve collated a series of articles following those who have joined the profession from slightly less traditional backgrounds. Here we’re sharing the first story, of Simon Fairweather, a former doctor, now retraining to be an accountant with PKF Francis Clark.
As a child, Simon wanted to be a vet when he grew up. But upon discovering an allergy to cats, he changed course slightly to medicine. Coming from a family of doctors this seemed like an accessible and sensible transfer to make best use of his skills and interests.
“I really enjoyed medical school, and found the process incredibly rewarding.”
However, as much as he enjoyed life on the front line as an A&E specialist, the long shifts, weekends, and emotional strain of the job slowly began to take their toll.
While working in hospital, Simon showed an aptitude for ongoing learning by completing an Advanced Paediatric Life Support course, and subsequently the Generic Instructor Course. He continued to work hard, but was getting to the stage where he needed to make a change.
“I’d been in practice for a few years, and noticed it was having a bit of an effect on me – something like burnout, that sounded similar to what some former colleagues had suffered from. I always knew it was going to be tough, but I didn’t want that for rest of my life.”
Simon’s next step was to go back to university, where he undertook a Masters degree in Exercise Physiology. This helped him understand more about adult learning and gave him confidence in analysing and presenting complex data in a comprehensible manner.
Research, research, research
Knowing that whatever new pathway he chose would probably be his lifetime profession, Simon took a lot of time to research different options – thinking carefully about what he enjoyed, what he was good at, and what his future life might look like. He also spoke with several friends and family members in different careers to work out what would be the best fit for him.
“Having always had an aptitude for numeracy, my enjoyment for data analysis and applied meaning, and being able to extract the ‘So what?’ amongst vast data sets was something I wanted to be central to my new career. Having researched and spoken to friends who are further down the line in their accountancy career, I believed this pathway would afford me the opportunity to effect real change on a large scale that would match my ambitions and values as a person.”
Simon also had half an eye moving overseas, so wanted something transferable that could enable him to work ‘down under’ should he choose to.
Finding the right firm
Many people new to or outside of the profession might not fully grasp the differences between firms – from their values, sizes and working practices. Simon wanted to find a firm that had similar values to his own, so once again undertook a lengthy research process, and came across PKF Francis Clark.
“I’d recommend really researching firms you’d like to apply to, to make sure they fit with your ethos, and that their values meet yours to make sure you’re happy in the workplace and that it’s sustainable for you. I’d heard that PKF Francis Clark was very supportive and nurturing, taking on a lot of people who had moved from other careers, so I knew that would be a good environment for me to learn and progress in.”
Starting again from the bottom
Simon admits it’s always going to be tough starting again at the bottom, especially having to learn a whole lot of new things.
“I’m a year in, and it’s been a huge leap of learning so far, but I’m really enjoying it. In my role I’m focusing on Tax, and I like applying what I’ve learnt to solve problems, but I’m just very keen to learn as much as possible.”
He’s also been supported by his wife and family with the emotional and financial burden of starting again.
“We’ve had to make some sacrifices, but my wife completely understood that I needed to make this change, so was very happy to support me in this journey.”
Advice to others
Simon believes that there’s no one rule or path for people who want to make career changes.
“It completely depends where you are in your life – your interests, your passions, your financial situation.”
However, he does believe that research and giving yourself time are key.
“The main thing for me was talking to people already doing the job I wanted to do, to find out what life would be like in the short term, as well as life after that. I didn’t want any surprises.”
Would you like to find out more?
Click here Courses – Reed Business School for Reed course information
And here Chartered Accountants & Business Advisers | PKF Francis Clark (pkf-francisclark.co.uk for more information on PKF Francis Clark .