As I write this article, it’s almost two weeks that the CA Final exams are over and those of you who have studied hard are almost on the verge of becoming a Chartered Accountant, one of the most coveted and highly respected degree in India. For this degree you have worked so hard, burnt the mid-night oil, completed three years of strenuous articleship even if you had no fun doing it. Listened to your seniors despite some of them having no knowledge, but kya karen degree ke liye karna padta hai boss!!
This article aims to highlight the vagaries of the life of a newly qualified Chartered Accountant, especially in relation to their employability. In this article, I have tried to showcase some of the trends that have been observed by me and generally by senior people who recruit qualified young chartered accountants in relation to their preparedness for the first job.
What is employability? Why is this term used so frequently these days and has it got anything to do with Chartered Accountancy?
Now-a-days it is quite common to read terms like employability, up-skilling, skill-gaps, industry-academia gap etc. What is the relevance of these terms and why are they so talked about. On a careful reading, one can notice that these terms are more frequently used for fresh engineers and MBAs, typically highlighting the situation faced by the industry regarding the challenges faced in hiring, due to very poor employability.
The term ‘employability’ is defined by Wikipedia as “Person’s capability for gaining and maintaining employment”. For individuals, employability depends on the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) they possess, the way they present those assets to the prospective employers and the context within which they seek work.
Though, the industry at large is facing these problems more with engineers and MBAs due to their sheer numbers, what I have noticed during the past many years is that this problem is now visible even with employers hiring newly qualified chartered accountants. One of the reasons cited is increased pass percentage that has led to the market flooded with new chartered accountants.
However, I am of the belief this is not completely true. What I have observed is that the following factors have led lot of employers going slow on hiring newly qualified CAs, despite having vacancies:
1. Lack of training during articleship
I was told that in one of the orientation seminars organized by the Institute, one of the esteemed speakers was of the view that unless anyone gets articleship in a BIG4, there is no need to do articleship. As per him, it was better to take a dummy articleship and clear papers.
I was actually shocked when I heard that statement. How can someone mis-guide students like that. The BIG4s put together and on an all-India basis would not have more than 1000 vacancies each year. However, the number of students pursuing chartered accountancy would be at least 75-100 times. Does that mean that only those 1,000 who clear interviews in BIG4 should do articleship and others should not get any practical exposure. In my humble opinion, that’s a highly mis-guiding lesson.
I am of the firm belief that even if you don’t get articleship in a good firm, you should still work and get whatever exposure you can under the guidance of your CA principal. After all when you go to office and work, you get to know how things move practically and that’s exactly what makes you employable. You can read my article on where to apply for articleship “Should I apply for articleship in BIG4s or small firms”.
None of the good companies want to hire chartered accountants that don’t have work experience in articleship. I am not suggesting that people who don’t get good exposure in articleship are useless or they don’t succeed in corporate jobs. They do succeed but the probability factor is quite low.
There is a growing trend being noticed that the focus is getting more and more on clearing examinations and consequently, the students are focusing more on academics than on practical training. This surely results in increasingly facing challenge in getting the first good job. The importance of articleship is not farfetched and I have covered this aspect in great detail in my previous article “Should I do articleship or go for dummy”.
I have written several times in my articles that the only consideration that comes to your mind whilst deciding about articleship is time management. A lot of the students think that managing studies and work together is difficult and therefore, in the interest of acquiring the degree, they compromise on articleship. This, to my mind is not the right way to think. You cannot afford to compromise on your practical training, because that’s the key in the life of a chartered accountant. Instead, compromise on your leisure time, compromise on your sleep by getting up early morning (Why I joined the 5AM Club), compromise on your wasteful time spent on Facebook and WhatsApp, compromise on your wasteful time spent watching TV and movies. I am not trying to suggest that you don’t enjoy life, what I am saying is that priorities should be defined and you should work very hard in achieving them. You can read my article “Managing studies along with articleship” where I have tried to provide some solutions to this question.
Since the results would be out soon, you can start to brush up your technical knowledge on topics where you wouldn’t have got enough exposure. Read journals, technical magazines, read blogs and speak with your friends already working to know what a prospective employer would want from you.
Not completing articleship is a serious issue that can have social ramifications, typically in the form of no/less jobs for chartered accountatns, thereby creating an environment of frustration and angst.
2. Poor communication/ soft skills
Another challenge increasingly being faced by employers is the inability of CAs to express themselves and consequently, not being able to secure points in interviews and group discussions. Though, this aspect is addressed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants through GMCS training, a lot more needs to be done, especially by the students themselves. If one has the confidence to speak good English, he/she can command better scores with better as he/she would be able to communicate with the employers.
English cannot be mastered in 10-15 classes, though improvements can be made. One has to make consistent efforts over a longer period of time.
In addition to communication, both verbal and written, one also needs to imbibe good soft skills which include basic etiquette, hygiene, dressing etc. These skills are extremely important and are mark of a good professional.
I will try and write some articles on the aspect of improving communication skills and how to feel confident when it comes to public speaking and giving presentations.
3. Lack of general awareness
The other thing, though not prominent and prevalent across the CA student community is lack of general awareness about the socio-political and economic issues. Though, this lacking is noticed more in students from Tier-II and Tier-III cities, the same cannot be ruled out completely even in students from Metros. The reason probably is lack of formal infrastructure which inculcates a habit to interact and discuss, coupled with a very strong focus to clear examinations and not giving importance to this aspect.
However, as globalization is shrinking the world and companies tend to be more global in their approach, it is extremely important for students to garner awareness of the local as well as international issues to make them competitive. Read magazines such as ‘Outlook’, ‘Forbes’, ‘Business Today’ and newspapers like ‘Economic Times’, ‘Hindu Business Line’ etc. These magazines and journals offer immense knowledge on current economic and political issues which help you understand more about the functioning of the economy and the country in general.
As the results would be out by January 2015, you still have some time to work on the above areas and we are sure that a conscious and consistent effort to pick and work upon the above skills would immensely benefit young CAs. I would like to end the article by a beautiful quote:
“Those who sweat more in training, bleed less in war”
Prepare well for your career and then see the awesome results. Good Luck…
Authored by Nimish Goel (www.nimishgoel.com), a qualified chartered accountant who’s passion is to coach young chartered accountants and aspiring students achieve the best in their life. Nimish used to work with EY and PwC in India and has also worked with KPMG in Europe. He now runs his own consulting company and runs a blog www.nimishgoel.com. He can be reached for any queries and issues on his blog.