Chris Aukland is the managing director of specialist recruitment agency Ambition and is responsible for the growth and management of the Hong Kong business. He has 15 years’ consulting experience in the UK and Asia.
Will a job-hop be taxing on your accounting career?
I’m a tax accountant in the public sector with about eight years of experience behind me. Over the last two to three years I’ve seen several senior managers move into the private sector, where I’ve heard the pay can be much higher and things like international assignments are more common. I’m wondering whether it would be useful to do the same, with an aim to switching over in the next three to four years. How do I best prepare? And is it worth making the switch in terms of salary and career progression?
The potential reward for your job switch depends largely on your area of expertise and current experience. The number of opportunities available to you will also depend on whether you are an experienced tax accountant focus purely on the Hong Kong market, or if you have experience internationally – particularly in mainland China.
Typically, there are some excellent career opportunities for experienced and qualified tax professionals in Hong Kong, but it is a competitive market and there are a finite number of senior tax positions.
Many local tax professionals work in the “big four” or a tax consulting and professional services firm as opposed to in-house tax roles with a commercial multinational or a financial institution. This may be a good option for you, depending on your skill set, as there are more opportunities in this area.
Bear in mind that the working hours and professional expectations in the private sector, especially in the big four, are typically higher. For big four tax professionals who move to an in-house role, work-life balance is often a key driver.
There are, however, upsides, such as higher salaries, faster pay rises and bigger bonuses. As well as the financial rewards, there are other benefits, such as the opportunity to gain in-depth experience, regional or international coverage, and a faster route up the career ladder.
Before moving out of the public sector, I would suggest you do some research to find out what someone with your level of experience and skill set should earn in the private sector and whether your skills are in demand. Look at salary and market-trend surveys to pinpoint the exact range for the role or sector and level of experience. There are also online resources, such as job boards, recruitment websites and social media sites. You should also attend networking events, seminars and conferences to get advice from professionals in your industry on potential earnings in similar positions.
If you decide to make the switch, plan your career carefully, but don’t wait too long. Make sure you set your priorities, research the market and make informed decisions.
Should you take an opportunity to move into the private sector, focus on the bigger picture – if the salary on offer is not ideal, but the role offers you a fantastic opportunity, you may want to be flexible.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Will a job-hop be taxing on my accounting career?