I’m an Accountant, but I want to be a Financial Analyst
Our nation’s third president once was quoted as saying, ”If you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done”. This quote is something I always think about when I speak with accounting candidates that don’t want to be accountants anymore. Most of the time I am told that these candidates would like to be a financial analyst instead.
The title of financial analyst can hold many different responsibilities but typically accounting candidates are looking for a role with the responsibilities of an FP&A analyst or equity research analyst. In my professional experience, I have seen moves made to both types of roles outside of an accounting background, but it typically does not happen with just one job change or without hard work in between. Getting into an equity research role is hard enough for even finance people to find jobs in so for that reason I am going to focus on how it may be possible to get onto the FP&A side of things with a background in accounting.
Most companies are looking for candidates to work in a similar capacity as to the role that they are currently working in. Although accounting and finance roles do have their similarities, they definitely have their differences as well. Think about it, just because a plumber and an electrician are both working on the final product of building or improving a home it doesn’t mean that the electrician can do the plumbers job.
The biggest piece of advice that I can give to an accounting candidate that wants to get into a finance role is to keep an open mind and be patient. The most success I have seen in candidates making this move is from one thing; getting into a company as an accountant that allows for internal movement and growth. I have seen many accountants make the move into a company within a corporate accounting role and work in the accounting department alongside the finance department for a few years. After working with the companies numbers in an intimate way and getting to know the financials of the organization a company is typically more open to putting an internal accountant on the financial analysis side of the numbers.
I know that this can be a frustrating process but as Mr. Thomas Jefferson said, “if you want to do something you have never done (In this case become a financial analyst) you must be willing to do something you have never done before.” It is very rare to go straight into an FP&A role when you are currently a staff accountant or an associate at a big 4 accounting firm. In most cases you have to put yourself into another accounting role within the right situation that will allow for you to make that move internally once you understand the numbers of the company internally.