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Rising Stars: Getting Ahead in International Accounting

By Lucas Laursen

Barney leveraged student accounting internships into a travel-heavy position right out of college. After a couple years on the road and in the office, he now thinks he will use his skills to move into banking.

Name: Barney Dunlop
School: University of Exeter
Major: Economics
Years Out of College: 2-5
Title: Financial Accountant
Company: Royal Bank of Scotland

First Steps

Barney knew during college that he wanted to get involved in accounting or banking. He had some work experience at a small accounting firm, so he decided to apply for internships at larger firms. Barney has no doubt that his work experience strengthened his internship application, which in turn helped land him his first job at a top accounting firm. "Internships in the UK are relatively few and far between and are highly sought-after by students who realize that they almost certainly lead to a job offer."

Barney learned the hard way that a little background research may be in order before accepting a job offer. "Although I put a great deal of effort into getting this job, I didn't really have a clear idea of exactly what it entailed or the sorts of hours that were required."

His first role involved a lot of travel, and he found it difficult to reconcile his professional and social lives. "I soon realized that I wanted a job with a bit more consistency."

Once he completed his training program, he jumped ship and found an accounting job with a more suitable schedule at a large commercial bank.

My Experience

Routine and opportunities for creativity co-exist in Barney's daily schedule. "I will typically spend much of the day liasing with several European Heads of Finance to obtain financial information and field any queries they may have. Once established procedures have been completed and any queries dealt with, there may be time to work on ad-hoc projects. These typically involve improving existing systems and information by establishing exactly what the end user wants from our information sources."

Accounting does not have to be a single-track career. As Barney points out, he will have a chance to explore many sides of accounting as he progresses through his firm's ranks. "Accountancy is rarely considered exciting but my role involves an element of variety and exposure to relatively interesting accounting issues. The most exciting part about my job is that I am expected to move roles every 12-18 months which means that I am likely to move roles before I get too bored."

Next Steps

It is possible to acquire more responsibilities as an accountant, but the experience with financial systems and data mean that a well-trained accountant can also consider other financial careers. Barney "would like to move away from an accountancy role into a more exciting area within banking."

Banking won't require Barney to go to graduate school. "Grad school never really featured in my choice after starting work in the real world because it would be very difficult to give up a decent wage to go back to being a student and I don't think that it would actually be beneficial in my career." If he wanted to stay in accounting, though, Barney might consider earning additional certifications on the job or on his own time, to allow him to assume more responsibilities.

Did I Ever Think I'd End Up Here?

Barney didn't plan it, but his interest in economics and finance has landed him in accounting. "No one dreams of being an accountant and I certainly did not think that I would end up as one. That said, however, this is not an unnatural career choice for someone who studies economics."

Advice for Others

Work experience during college played a major role in Barney's initial career steps, and he emphasizes the importance of gaining early experience. "Aim high and never consider a job unobtainable. However in order to obtain your ideal job, you must put the effort into getting a CV which stands out."

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