Realistic advice for a career changer at 31?

I'm 31 and after much soul searching, have decided I would like to pursue a career in accounting. My previous career was in the public sector working for the emergency services in a front line role. I have no previous finance or accounting experience, and only general admin experience from occasional office work in my previous job.

I have no qualifications beyond GCSE (9 at A to C). I didn't attend university, and have no other professional certificates or qualifications. I feel I have a good proficiency with numbers. I have a good basic understanding of accounting principles and bookkeeping, and feel it is something I would excel at.

Reading a lot of the threads on here, is a little soul destroying.

I want to know, honestly whether there is any reasonable chance that I could find employment and successfully transition to an accounting career, especially considering my age and lack of experience/qualifications.

My intention, was to complete the L2 Foundation Certificate via home study/distance learning, then progress to L3/L4 as quickly as possible and apply for entry-level roles when studying L3/L4. Is this a typical way to go? I will be completely self funded to begin with.

A few of my concerns/questions are:
  • Am I too old, at 31, to make a career change to accounting, given that I have no experience/qualifications at all?
  • Is completing L2, followed by L3 and L4 the typical way to go with AAT, or are there other necessary/suitable qualifications/certificates to complete alongside them?
  • Am I going to find it impossible to find entry-level employment given that I have no experience?
  • When is the best time to start looking for entry-level roles? When I start L3? L4? Would I stand a better chance if I complete L4?
  • Given that I have no experience or any finance-related qualifications/certificates, how am I going to make my CV look appealing?
  • Am I wasting my time?
Any input/advice on any of those points, I'd be very grateful.

I know this industry is competitive, but I have a genuine enthusiasm and interest in it, and am a quick learner who will likely progress quickly through each qualification. I am mostly concerned that I won't be able to find an entry-level role due to lack of prior experience and qualifications.

Thanks.

Comments

  • cghv1985
    cghv1985 AAT Student Posts: 8
    I'm practically the same age as you and also considering moving into accountancy (having just completed AAT Level 2), with only around a year and a half of prior experience in Credit Control (only a junior role).

    So I'm not really qualified to offer advice, only an opinion. I'd say if you've worked in a front line role in the emergency services, you must have a TON of transferable skills. Working under pressure? Working in a team? Dealing with people / communicative skills? Even basic admin skills are relevant, e.g. keeping on top of paperwork. I'd argue from the above that your written skills are very good. Also there are employment websites that can help to remind you of skills you don't realise you have (per profession). They're worth a look.

    Could you consider doing an internship for 2/3 days a week whilst studying Level 2? Usually looks good on the CV and with the right approach should be possible to secure (although admittedly I've not attempted this yet). Don't be put off if your first round of applications aren't successful and don't underestimate the experience you've gained from other employment and life in general (giving you an edge over younger candidates). Good luck!












    ddrys
  • ddrys
    ddrys Registered Posts: 3
    cghv1985 said:

    I'm practically the same age as you and also considering moving into accountancy (having just completed AAT Level 2), with only around a year and a half of prior experience in Credit Control (only a junior role).

    So I'm not really qualified to offer advice, only an opinion. I'd say if you've worked in a front line role in the emergency services, you must have a TON of transferable skills. Working under pressure? Working in a team? Dealing with people / communicative skills? Even basic admin skills are relevant, e.g. keeping on top of paperwork. I'd argue from the above that your written skills are very good. Also there are employment websites that can help to remind you of skills you don't realise you have (per profession). They're worth a look.

    Could you consider doing an internship for 2/3 days a week whilst studying Level 2? Usually looks good on the CV and with the right approach should be possible to secure (although admittedly I've not attempted this yet). Don't be put off if your first round of applications aren't successful and don't underestimate the experience you've gained from other employment and life in general (giving you an edge over younger candidates). Good luck!

    Thanks for the reply and assurance. Phoning and emailing around looking for volunteering and internship opportunities with small local firms is definitely on my 'to do' list.

    I'm just a little concerned that even with voluntary experience, my C.V and covering letter is barely going to get a glance from a recruiter due to the obvious lack of experience.

    Part of my thinks that to give myself the best chance possible, if I can't find meaningful professional experience then to obtain as many qualifications as possible at my own expense/in my own time - at least I can then present them to employers and say "I might not have the experience you want, but I've shown I have the discipline and enthusiasm for this role through achieving all of these qualifications in my own time".

    I agree that life experience should count for something. I'm only 31 and still have 40+ years of working life ahead. It's a shame that it's even a consideration. People change, and have different priorities and outlooks on life. I'm a completely different person to who I was a decade ago, and have a better understanding of life and the world having worked in my previous role. Now I'm looking to go into a career I have a genuine interest in that could last a lifetime.

    Good to see someone in a similar position with the same objective, hope things work out.

















  • KoopaCooper
    KoopaCooper London, UKMAAT, AATQB Posts: 226
    Okay, first off - 31 is not old for a change of career. I only started studying AAT three years ago, and got my current job about a year later. I was a year older than you are now when I went back to college to start AAT.

    Granted, I did have 3 A-Levels and a degree (in Mathematics) - but to be quite honest, those qualifications had never helped me to get a job anyway.

    Secondly - what job exactly you'd like to go into should determine what course you take. For bookkeeping, you might want to do level 2 (and perhaps level 3) and become AATQB, or take a different course entirely with for instance the IAB or ICB.

    If you want to try to become an accountant, you may want to do levels 2-4 and gain MAAT status, or even continue on to ACCA. If you're interested in payroll for instance, you might want to take payroll courses instead of bookkeeping or accounts. It's all up to you.

    Thirdly - I won't lie, getting entry-level employment in accounts with no prior experience in the field is hard. That's how it was for me. I studied level 2 and level 3 in a year, during which I was applying non-stop (literally) for every bookkeeper and accounts assistant vacancy I could find (typically about 4-5 per day). Admittedly I did get quite a few interviews, but no real interest in most cases. Finally, after slightly more than a year, I got offered a job as an accounts assistant (also doing bookkeeping and VAT) in a practice. So from experience, it is possible, but you need to throw a LOT of applications at the wall before any will stick. And probably be towards the end of level 3 before they start to take your applications seriously, too.

    Fourthly - like I said, I started applying when I started level 2. Most employers didn't take me seriously though, and only started to one I'd already moved on to level 3. It was only after completing level 3 (and in fact a week before I started level 4) that I got a place.

    Fifthly - ahhhh, making your CV look good. Like you, I had no experience in finance or any related qualifications (a degree in a non-finance field is actually ignored). You want to show that you're a team player and such (without saying "I'm a team player") , and have other skills - experience using computers, ability to quickly learn new computer software, prioritising workload, etc.

    Lastly - no, you're really not wasting your time. I got in. Loads of others have. And I'm sure you can too, if you put your heart into it, which it seems you're very willing to do. :D

    Best of luck! ^^
    Accounts Executive, ғɪᴀʙ ᴍᴀᴀᴛ
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  • ddrys
    ddrys Registered Posts: 3
    @KoopaCooper - I won't quote your entire post, but what a fantastic reply and encouraging. Looking at your timescales for achieving L2->L3->L4 as well as finding a relevant entry-level role shows how much work you've put in, and I hope to follow a similar work ethic.

    I'm expecting an extremely tough uphill battle to get my foot in the door anywhere, but as you point out, persistence should pay off. For someone like myself with no relevant prior experience, 90% of my applications are going to be focused on a great/persuasive covering letter.

    Thanks.
  • richf
    richf Just Joined Registered Posts: 86
    I started studying AAT same age as you whilst working in un-related job. Now 36, working in a finance department and just finished my final operational level exam for CIMA.

    It's definitely not too late, you'll have lots of transferable skills that younger people won't have, but it won't be easy either.

    Study every knock back and try and refine your applications, particularly with those transferable skills. Applying direct was the only way I got a foot in the door.

    Regards

    Rich.
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