Calling all Chartered Accountants - have you had a career break? Was it difficult to get back into work?

(15 Posts)
skibeck32 Tue 29-Oct-13 20:50:16

Hi all

I'm a long time lurker on MN but am taking the plunge in terms of posting and I'd really appreciate any help.

I'm currently on maternity leave and due to go back to work next year. I work in practice and have a long commute to work, over three hours. I'll go back part time 3/4 days a week so I'll probably have the right balance in terms of days/working hours, although I'll have a very long day.

I'm not sure I actually want to go back to work at all while the baby is so young. Really feel that I might not get this time again etc. I'm fortunate enough to be able to live on my husbands salary so any extra money from my salary is a bonus.

My question is really to anyone who took a few years out. Did you feel you could get back into work easily enough? Have you gone back to the same role? Did your confidence go?

I'd love to have a few years out but worry that I'll forget everything and I feel like I might regret giving up my job having worked so hard to qualify and progress within the firm.

Thanks for your help!

RicStar Tue 29-Oct-13 21:02:04

Im a CA didnt take a career break but do now work 2 days a week as fd for a tech business as I thought I would find it hard to keepup/ catchup / get back in (& i love my office days). a ca friend works for a local business school hrs with v.short commute (her dc are older than my dd). i think the great thing about ca is the range of options i think some of the big4 run getting back in courses.

skibeck32 Tue 29-Oct-13 21:51:58

Thanks RicStar. Yes, I think I'd be worried about losing touch with all the work. I guess I need to keep an eye out for local roles but it's often harder to find something part time. I'm not sure what I'll do once my ds is at school age??? I don't think the commute and my hours will be sustainable.

MirandaWest Tue 29-Oct-13 22:01:24

I am a chartered accountant who used to work in practice but stopped when child care fell through. That was 5 years ago and since then I have begun (and managed to increase my workload) marking exams. I began through the accountancy college I trained with and through that do some home marking as well as some at one of their offices, and also mark for one of the actual exams. Plus points are that it is only at certain times of year and fairly well paid (although nothing compared to accountancy practice of course) and it keeps my brain busy and is quite good fun. Much of it I can do at home as well. Am able to generally take and pick up the DC from school.
However as my DC are getting older and it is never completely certain that exams will continue in the same way, I am wondering whether I should try and get a "proper" job. Having been out of accountancy practice for over 5 years I'm not sure I could get back in and not sure I'd want to. So any thoughts from more experienced accountants would be welcomed grin

Kewcumber Tue 29-Oct-13 22:09:08

Yes and yes.

Not a deliberate career break - I went back to work after DS and worked back up to 4 days a week so pretty much full time. Then I became very ill, rushed back to work (as you do) didn't really recover properly as I hadn't realised that there were other undiagnosed problems and I also underestimated the side effects of the drugs I was on.

The fact that I was a single parent complicated things.

Eventually I stopped working because it was just too hard and I needed more surgery and I intended to take a 6-12month break with DS starting school. When I was ready to go back to work after about 12 months I really really struggled to find part-time work at a half way decent salary. And when I could find them, the competition was fierce - not only from mothers who wanted to work part-time but also men who had been made redundant and would consider anything just to get back into the workforce. I've been interviewed for full time 6 figure salary Euro-FD roles with less competition.

If you break is shortish ie 1 year or less and you're going back to work full time then I doubt you'd have a significant problem. Longer break or wanting part-time then I'd say you are looking at a much reduced salary.

Kewcumber Tue 29-Oct-13 22:09:55

I eventually set up in business on my own 6 months ago - not making a living wage yet but probably about half way there.

Hi ski - I think one of the great things about accountancy is how flexible and transferable it is.

Taking some time out is definitely do-able but it will obviously set you back more than if you don't take the time! I worked for one of the Big 4 Big 6 at the time, shows you how old I am in public practice for a stretch, then went into industry, then moved countries with DP (now DH), then took a long stretch off work, first with the kids and then dealing with some health issues. I was off work for almost 7 years in total. I decided going back into private practice was not for me so now have a fairly high level job (think finance director for a charity). I'm very happy with my work-life balance... But I do sometimes wonder what it would have been like to be the Senior Partner for Audit & Advisory for the UK or whatever....

If you want to be a partner in a City firm, probably best not to take too much time off. And you must have a very supportive partner. And get rid of that killer commute.

StrictlySazz Tue 29-Oct-13 22:14:02

I had a year off for each ML and then was made redundant from Practice. Freelanced for 2.5 years and then got a local PT role.

I would be cautious about taking more than a year out as Kew says, BUT there are other options to continuing in Practice (not family friendly IME) with a long commute.

Good luck smile

Also just beware of the part time syndrome of doing 5 days' work in 4 days - and only getting paid for 4!

outtolunchagain Tue 29-Oct-13 22:20:28

I am a ACA, ds1 (nearly 20 years ago now) had the max 6 months off and went back doing 4 days ,we moved whilst I was pregnant with ds2 so I had 6 months off before he was born and then a former partner with my original firm (big6 as was) called and effectively offered me a job in a regional office ,doing 3 days a week.

With ds3 i had two years career break, was just about to go back when applied for and got job with large local charity ,have never looked back.Total change of specialism ,started doing 20 hours a week ,then full time in senior position have now moved sideways and work on average .66 of full time .always have too much to do ,but its interesting and not many people are able to earn what I do ,part time and only 10 minutes from home!

I do think the great thing about accountancy is that there are always jobs,sometimes you just have to think a bit laterally.

Kewcumber Tue 29-Oct-13 22:48:51

yes hearts but 5 days worked in four still means one day off!

skibeck32 Wed 30-Oct-13 07:12:59

Thanks everyone for your help. Kew - I hope everything healthwise is ok now.

It does seem like a year out is the time limit and that I just need to lower my expectations. I think my problem is acknowledging that it just isn't possible to carry on as before. Rightly so of course as I now have a ds to consider. I think I feel a bit hard done by in the sense that I was on track for promotions, felt all the long hours were worth it, and now I don't.

I know this dilemma is what every working mother faces but it's still hard to accept!

I think a local part time role would be the ideal and I need to get over having a London salary! Technically we can afford for me not to work but, if I am going to work I'd like it to cover more than just Childcare costs and it's always nice to have "nice things" etc etc...

Ah well, thanks again everyone!

outtolunchagain Wed 30-Oct-13 08:09:47

don't lower your expectations , just change them.I earn a lot less than I would if I had stayed in practice in the niche specialism I was in , however and it is a big however ,I have no commute to speak of which saves both time and money ,I get to take dc to school and go to school events ,I am senior enough to pretty much manage my own time and I earn a salary which is pretty good considering.I have time for a social life (most of the time ,maybe not at yearend!),we can have a dog and chickens etc and i have an intellectually stimulating job.

It sounds perfect, its not it can get pretty stressful at times because it is a fairly senior job but the compromises are worth it.Draw up a list of what you want in a role, including the non work based aspects , and go looking , the jobs are out there but sometimes they are not in the obvious places

StrictlySazz Wed 30-Oct-13 18:36:14

I agree, don't necessarily lower your expectations - I am on a comparable salary (PT pro rata) and seniority having left practice after DC. My compromise is the Industry I am working in which doesn't completely float my boat but the rest of the role is great, and local. I have also managed to continue working in the specialist area I was in in Practice, so overall i'm very happy and loving working in the 'real world'.

RicStar Wed 30-Oct-13 21:01:58

I also love my role (have actually done 2 one contract &now perm both part time) & although earn a bit less than before still good deal for me (i set my workload / hours) & company gets more quality than could otherwise afford. I found I went a bit mad without work but if you love ml then I wouldnt say rule out longer gap than a year. good luck

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