Accountancy jobs would appear to be the most fulfilling profession in the UK according to a survey of financial services employees carried out by specialist recruiter, Randstad Financial & Professional.

When asked which industry they thought they would have the highest job satisfaction, 32% of people working in financial services (including those working in banking and fund management) said professional services – including accountancy and law.  Only 9% said they thought financial services was, in fact, the most fulfilling career.

The results stood in stark contrast to those of the general population who were surveyed as part of the 2014 Randstad Fulfilment@Work Report.  By far the largest portion of the general population (23%) said a career in health or care would be the most professionally fulfilling.  Just 4% of the British public said financial services would be the most fulfilling career – although 7% said professional services.

What do you think is the most fulfilling sector to work in?

  • Health and Care (including: Doctors, Nurses, + Social Workers): [a] 23%, [b] 18%
  • Arts, Entertainment and Publishing: [a] 12%, [b] 8%
  • Education: [a] 11%, [b] 13%
  • Public Sector – other (excluding: Health, Care, and Education): [a] 10%, [b] 7%
  • Professional services (Accountancy, Law etc.): [a] 7%, [b] 32%
  • Engineering and Manufacturing: [a] 6%, [b] 0%
  • Telecoms, Media, and Technology: [a] 5%, [b] 1%
  • Hospitality, Leisure and Hotels: [a] 5%, [b] 1%
  • Financial Services, Banking, Investment + Fund Management (excluding accountancy): [a] 4%, [b] 9%
  • Support Services and Administration : [a] 4%, [b] 4%
  • Fashion, Retail and Wholesale: [a] 4%, [b] 1%
  • Construction, Building and Property: [a] 3%, [b] 1%
  • Transport: [a] 2%, [b] 3%
  • Utilities, Water, Mining, Oil and Gas: [a] 2%, [b] 0%
  • Food and FMCG: [a] 2%, [b] 2%
  • Tobacco: [a] 0%, [b] 0%

 [a] General population, [b] Financial Services employees

Tara Ricks, MD of Randstad Financial & Professional, said: “Like banking, accountancy also holds a certain stereotype. But financial services professionals clearly think there’s a lot to be said for a job in a professional services firm.

"Certainly training programmes in the largest accountancy firms are underpinned by a learning environment that broadens and deepens people’s knowledge, and stresses the relative importance of learning from doing, and learning from others as well as formal training.  Employees learn from an outstanding variety of work, picking up the business, personal and technical skills they need to do well throughout their careers.

"They earn a professional qualification on the job, with the financial support through their exams and help with study and exam leave as well as expert tutors. And the pay and progression – even by the standards of the Financial Services industry – is good.”

Length of tenure

While British employees said they could work in the same industry for 13.9 years before their professional fulfilment suffered, financial services professionals said they felt could last 13.2 years – slightly less than average.  Financial services employees also said they could only manage exactly the same job for 8.8 years – compared to the national average of 10.9 years.

However, individual employers must be doing something right – financial services professionals said they could work for the same employer for 12.6 years, slightly above the UK average (12.2 years) as well as industries traditionally seen as being more vocational like Social Work (7.7 years) and Education (12.5 years).

Tara Ricks added: “Professionals working in the financial services industry say they could work for the same employer for almost 13 years before becoming less fulfilled.  I think that’s a credit to the industry and to its employers.  It also chimes with our experience. We often help job seekers enter a firm in one role and see them rapidly progress through the ranks and into new areas.

"Financial services professionals also say they could work for about nine years in the same role before their professional fulfilment started to suffer. That also seems more than reasonable – Mark Carney has famously said he can’t do the full eight years at the Bank of England.

"Of course, there’s very little chance of that – an employee working for a good financial services employer would ever have to stay in the same role for nine years.  This is a dynamic industry with exceptional talent management and strategic human resources planning meaning that companies work hard to retain, reward and develop successful employees.”

But it appears workers should be more optimistic about the length of time they can work in a profession.  On average, people who described themselves as fulfilled have worked in their chose profession 9.8 years.  But, people who described themselves as unfulfilled had worked, on average, in their chose profession 8.9 years.  

And employees who describe themselves as very fulfilled had worked in their chosen profession 10.6 years.  But those who described themselves as very unfulfilled had worked in their chose profession just 8.1 years.

How long have you been working in your current profession?

  • Very fulfilled: 10,6
  • Fulfilled (total): 10,1
  • Unfulfilled (total): 8.9
  • Very unfulfilled: 8.1

Tara Ricks concluded: “Academics have found that job satisfaction drops within the first year of work and remains low for a number of years, after which it increases.  They have argued that, initially, high work expectations were not fulfilled, with a resultant drop in job satisfaction.

"Increasing maturity and work experience lead employees to adjust their ambitions and work expectations to a more realistic level; these new expectations were more attainable and satisfaction tended to increase. There might be something in that.  But we also think that people get better at what they do and enjoy it more as a result.

"On top of that, they’re likely to be earning more money, and to have built up stronger relationships within their chosen industry, as well as having made their way up the food chain to some sort of position of power – there does seem to be a correlation between how long you have worked in an industry and how fulfilled you are.

"While this research doesn't disprove the seven-year itch, if suggests if you overcome that barrier, after eleven years in an industry, you can expect to be job satisfaction rich.” 

If - against all the statistics - you aren't fulfilled in your accountancy role any longer, these accountancy interview preparation tips will help you get ready for a change in direction.

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