Careers advice

Real work stories: what's it like to work in accounting?

Here’s an insight into the world of accounting in NZ.

You can’t test-drive a career before you take your first job. So we’ve done the next best thing – spoken to someone who’s living and breathing the field you’re interested in.

Today, that person is Rebecca Clark. Rebecca is a Chartered Accountant who works as a Field Manager in Assurance and Advisory for Deloitte Auckland. Having graduated from University of Auckland in 2016, Rebecca has worked for Deloitte ever since, and has some great advice for those eyeing a role in accountancy.

1. What does a typical day at work look like?

My primary responsibilities are conducting and managing statutory audits. I'm always working with a team ranging from two to five people, dependent on the size and complexity of the client.

While this may sound like I spend my day sitting in the office, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Most days I’m out and about visiting client sites. My work with them includes understanding how their business works, coaching teams, developing recommendations on best practices, as well as getting deep into their financial statements and accounting records.

The great thing about this is that I’m constantly learning and challenged by new accounting issues, and no two days are the same. My portfolio ranges from investment property, to logistics, to tourism and more.

2. What hard and soft skills are needed to succeed in your role?

I’d say any good accountant needs:

  • Basic data skills, in particular proficiency with Excel.
  • An analytical and forward thinking mindset.
  • The ability to adapt to change.
  • To be a team player.
  • Great communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Time management.
  • The ability to learn and apply new information.

3. What are the best things about working in accounting?

I think the main thing for me is the ability to work flexibly. I can work from home, a client’s site or from the office. Particularly at the moment, I’m grateful that my ability to work has been largely undisturbed during the lockdown period, due to the fact that we’re set up to work remotely.

Under normal circumstances, a career in accounting also opens you up to jobs not only in New Zealand but across the globe. I recently was lucky enough to be seconded to the Deloitte London office for three months. My job there was virtually the same, with of course some cultural and regulation differences.

4. ...and the not so good things?

Our line of work is fairly seasonal, so there tends to be a few late nights around July, August, January and February.

Also, accounting standards are constantly evolving, meaning we need to keep up with the latest accounting issues and new incoming standards. I personally find this interesting, but I could see that others could see it as a burden.

5. How would you describe your work/life balance?

I think it’s always important to be disciplined in enforcing a healthy work/life balance, and this comes from you.

Although sometimes it may not feel like it, there are always tasks that can wait until tomorrow. I enjoy playing social netball, therefore I always make a point of leaving work on-time at least once a week so that I can do that. We can work flexibly so I have the ability to change my hours around my social life.

6. What do hiring managers/recruiters like to see in terms of qualifications and experience?

Recruiters usually like to see a Bachelor of Commerce degree with an accounting major, and you need to satisfy the CAANZ Chartered Accountants study requirements.

It’s worth knowing that the majority of businesses will allow you to obtain your Chartered Accountant qualification whilst working in your role as a junior analyst or consultant.

7. Accounting regulations and tech are constantly developing, what advice would you have for job seekers to help them keep on top of this?

I think the most important thing is not to be afraid of it. As technology evolves, we’re able to do things differently, more effectively and give more insight to our clients. Data analytics and visualisation techniques are changing the way that we approach and conduct our audits.

8. What does the career path look like in your position/field?

The general progression path is to either continue to stay in my field of expertise and become a partner in the firm, or to work as part of the accounting function of a business where you can have the ability to become more industry specific.