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Posted by Aonghus Cody

What’s the difference? 6 factors when choosing your career path

11 Sep 2020

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference. 

Robert Frost 1916


One of the few lines of poetry I remember is the last line of the “Road not taken” by Robert Frost. When deciding what courses to apply for in college the opportunity cost weighed heavily on my mind – “if I do x does this mean I can never do y” “what would life be like if I chose y and not x”

This time of year, with students embarking on their college experience – albeit a different one, I think about how relevant the opportunity cost is for a Newly Qualified Accountant.


From chatting with candidates and colleagues alike it is well known that there are multiple factors that contribute to a successful move. Making the decision to move after qualifying is similar to entering college – it’s important to understand what you want and if that is too difficult, maybe think about what you don’t want.


Once qualified the opportunities are endless, to pursue whatever you wish. If you consider the factors that matter from a high-level you can’t go wrong;

  • Balance – am I happy with the hours expected?
  • Learning & Development – will I get the opportunity to learn?
  • Progression – is there visibility for my progression?
  • Location – is the commute something I will enjoy?
  • Culture – am I a fit for this company?
  • Benefits – do I feel valued?


In no particular order we will break down the 6 factors that need to be considered when making a career change.



One of the most common things we hear is the desire for improved “work/life balance”. Particularly after a long and arduous “busy season” burn out is a massive factor. The reality of the working world is that a candidate needs to attain as much information on the company they are interviewing with to understand how they operate.

If the long hours aren’t for you it’s important to factor this in when joining a company. As a recruiter we can only advise on the information we have. Similarly, if you don’t mind working longer hours in something that has your passion this factor will have less weighting in the greater scheme of things.

Balance is flexibility.

It means a company understands if you need to run an errand or if you want to jump back online to complete something when you get home. With everything that has gone on in the last 6 months and the increase in working remotely that has allowed increased flexibility.

It’s important for anyone moving job to establish terms of engagement –

  • Will it be a 9-5.30 role with some late hours around year end?
  • Will it be busy 3 days of the month and quiet the rest?
  • Are you going to work 9-9 with the odd weekend on top?

The answers to the above questions and where this lies in your priorities will determine what weighting you give to it.


Learning & Development

After completing your training contract on top of 3-4 years in college it would be understandable to think that learning stage of your career is over. The opposite is true. The first move post qualification has the potential to launch your career in numerous trajectories.

  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” the age-old question is not as archaic as it might seem.
  • Do you have the ambition to progress through a company or to get to where you want to go? If so learning and development opportunities in the next role are crucial.

In this case it’s important to get an understanding of who you could be working with and whether they will give you the time to learn and develop. Yes, there is a learning curve coming out of practice so it’s important to accept this and see the bigger picture. If you can do your job on the first day, it’s not going to challenge you long term.



 Very closely linked to Learning and Development – Progression tends to line up with your level of ambition or long-term plans. This is where we would advise candidates to think carefully about what they want from their next role.

  • Is this something that will bring you closer to where you want to go?
  • Are you happy to sit in a role where you learn lot without a defined progression path?

From experience the people who’s careers progress and flourish tend to see the opportunity in the role they take. Where can they get exposure to the right type of people? Where can they be given new tasks that they can master and add to their resumé? Finding the right environment and opportunities will make progression easier.

For example; lots of candidates come out of practice looking for an FP&A or an Analyst role. In general, roles like this tend not to be as widely available at a Newly Qualified level. The opportunity within a broad accounting role is that candidates get to understand the numbers they’re looking at. This is most important for any company when looking to hire into their FP&A team – it goes without saying that you have to understand information to analyse it. The opportunity is there for a candidate to join a company, learn the finer details before looking at trends and understanding what has impacted changes over time.

Candidates need to make a judgement call on the person they are reporting to and whether they want to develop and progress to their level – if they do then this is the right job for them!



This one is something that can be very personal. How much time of your day do you wish to commute?

At present with the prevalence of remote working, candidates are more open on location and the commute aspect. There are multiple trails of thought on this and understanding the weighting you give this will help identify what locations you are willing to commute to.

Ultimately when you interview over Teams, Zoom or Skype you might ignore location or not get a full understanding of the commute.

If all the other factors are right the location should have less weighting. It is imperative to understand that if you are getting the right role for you which ticks all the boxes – make the effort and you won’t regret it. What’s right for you might not be right for others so its important to know yourself and what interests you.



Culture comes from the top down”

Something we hear constantly from experts and peers. I think it can be simplified further.

Culture is fit.

Culture is working in an environment where you feel comfortable and at ease.

Culture is identifying or engaging with colleagues who have similar trails of thought.

Newly Qualified Accountants emerge from a practice after a period of time surrounded with people who are similar in age profile reporting to people who are slightly older. Industry can be quite different. It’s important to understand this before making a career move. This is where interviews can give an insight. Whilst interviews can sometimes be seen as a test for the candidate, really they should be identified as an opportunity to gauge their fit with the interviewers and company.

Some candidates don’t give culture much thought and give the aforementioned factors more weighting. For others it’s paramount they fit into an organisation. The respective beliefs around culture tends to be based on past/current experience.

When the fit is right – work, life, everything becomes easier.



Base, bonus, pension, health, perks, travel scheme, dental, canteen;

What makes you happy?

Everybody wants more. In Western Society we live in a world where more is better or the perception of having more means you’re happier. I am not one for moral pontifications so I won’t tell you how much you should or shouldn’t want. When making a career move it’s important to understand benefits and the marginal utilities they provide.

Breaking this down – would you work in a job you hated for €10,000 more?

There tends to be a major focus on base salary for candidates making their first move post qualification. Chinese whispers can lead to an inflation in expectations.

It’s crucial that candidates see the bigger picture when it comes to a role. It feeds into the other 5 factors above. Will you have your balance, location, progression, learning and the right culture for less or more benefits? Ultimately if the other factors are important you will reap the rewards in the long term if you learn and develop right now.

Taking a step back what you’ll see is that the most important benefit is intangible. It’s coming home from work happy/proud/enthusiastic feeling a sense of accomplishment.


Final thoughts on the above factors its most important that the career move you make is to make you happy. It doesn’t mean because your friend likes it that you have to like it or because your friend dislikes something you have to dislike something.

At Darwin Hawkins we have a range of post qualification experience in practice and in industry.

It’s important to take advice from people who have walked the path already.

We’re here to help and point you in the right direction to ensure the path you choose is the one that makes the difference!!

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