Rebecca Chan is a director at Michael Page Hong Kong. Her team specialises in recruiting accounting and sales professionals.
Sharpen up your transferable skills before making an extreme career move
I’ve been working sedentary jobs in offices for 15 years now, staring at a computer all day and, thanks to a combination of boredom and back pain, I’ve had enough. I’d love to have a stimulating job that keeps me on the move every day and, preferably, even gets me outdoors – but what could possibly be available for a 40-year-old accountant who’s only worked in offices? I’m not physically cut out for hard labour and, while I can accept earning less than I am now, I wouldn’t be able to survive on HK$15,000 a month–no matter how much fun the job was. Do you have any ideas?
Shifting your career into a completely different area at age 40, though achievable, may come with some difficulty. The gap between your current job and your desired role may be too wide to bridge in one go. What you could do is to find a job that meets you halfway – one in which your accounting expertise is relevant, and will prepare you for the new role.
Have you considered setting up your own CPA firm or consultancy business? This will allow you more time to get out of the office and interact with clients. You will be able to put 15 years of experience to good use, while enjoying the variety of handling diverse clients and projects.
Alternatively, you could use your knowledge to guide others in the field by becoming a lecturer or speaker for CPA or accounting programmes.
Shifting your role but remaining in the accounting field provides a more interactive, and less risky, way of getting on the move. It allows you to continue developing your career and guarantees a sustainable income.
If you want to leave your field, it’s best to take small steps to gauge whether the move is sustainable. Draw up a list of your skills, expertise, interests and experience to see which could be useful in the jobs you are considering. For example, your intimate knowledge of bookkeeping could be valuable if you are looking for a role in financial fraud investigation.
If, however, you discover that your transferable skills are not enough to convince potential employers that you’d be a good fit, you may need to reinvent yourself. For example, if you want to become a writer, you may need to look for relevant volunteer opportunities to develop your skills and portfolio.
Throughout your long career, you have likely met people from all walks of life. Consider leveraging your contacts to find your next role. Think you haven’t got enough contacts? Attend more networking events and get acquainted with people who might offer valuable advice or further contacts.
This legwork can help you make an informed decision, enabling you to find a job that best suits your interests and capabilities. Remember, even if the going gets tough, a job that allows you the flexibility and diversity you seek is possible – if you work towards it.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Am I destined for desk jobs forever?