A question I hear day in and day out being a specialist recruiter in regional NSW is – Can I achieve the same career goals and professional aspirations regardless of whether I work in a regional location or in a major city?
A question which no doubt crosses the mind of every ambitious accounting professional at some stage in their career. There are two main reasons that you may find yourself asking this question:
1: You work regionally and are thinking of moving to the city as you feel you have hit a glass ceiling in your current firm
2: You have been working in the city and feel it is time for you to relocate to a regional location
Both of these moments occur for varying reasons and of course, both the city such as Sydney and a regional location such as Newcastle, have their appeal.
Why live in a regional area?
Diversity and culture are key components of Australian life. Regional and rural towns are not exempt from this. Does the image of rolling hills during your daily commute and the taste of locally produced wine on a weekday evening put a smile on your face? Maybe the charm of the Hunter will give you all that you need. Lifestyle is a key factor in the lure of a regional town where quality cafés, bars and restaurants are no longer an appeal that only major city suburbs can offer.
Many regional towns have seen a substantial investment in major infrastructure in recent years. Such pleasures as less traffic are often under-rated; with the regional commute generally under 15 minutes and over-time relatively unheard of, you will soon reap the benefits of the true meaning of work/life balance. Combine this with significantly lower housing prices (almost half the price of Sydney on average) and greater accessibility to quality schooling; it is no surprise that regional living is the hot topic of 2016.
What about my career?
It is a common misconception that working in a regional firm can put constraints on your professional development and consequently your career advancement. Many regional locations are home to both Big 4 and mid-tier offices. Firms such as these often benefit from national branding facilitating a diverse and large client base as well as enabling greater funding for staff training. The opportunities for inter-office secondments (including overseas) are just as accessible as they would be in a major city based office. Although backed by national, and often global, branding the firms still encompass a congenial work environment offering an inclusive, consultative culture, free from the bureaucracy that can frequently be found in big city firms.
Accountants working in regionally based practices, whether large or boutique, often avoid being pigeonholed in a specialist area. Regional firms can offer a varied role across all accounting disciplines whilst still enabling you to learn from specialists in their field. You will find yourself developing strong relationships with your clients where you can deliver a full, rounded service backed by accessibility to experienced team members and Partners. Where big city firms have strict chains of command, regional firms frequently embody open-door policies where staff members operate in a cooperative and inclusive manner.
Career progression prospects are far from scarce. A shortage in highly skilled accounting professionals in regional areas has resulted in some firms having a slight insufficiency in their succession plans. This is good news for those accountants in 2016 that are looking to take the next step in their career. Many regional firms offer fast-tracked progression paths to Partnership level. For those accountants that do not share this goal then firms are often flexible in their offerings to create alternative routes for you to succeed in your personalized career goals.
For the right accountant, a regional firm can give you unprecedented and endless possibilities to grow and develop into a role you want and the ability to achieve the career you have dreamed of with a fully supportive firm and team beside you regardless of firm size. These prospects, coupled with flexible working hours and a typically relaxed working environment, create an ideal long-term career path.
Regional and rural Australia make up more than a third of Australia’s population. The year 2015 saw an undeniable rise in the amount of working professionals choosing to relocate to regional areas; whether seeking a tree-change or sea-change.
In the past, regional firms have fallen victim to the ‘bright-lights drift’ – an attraction to the big cities which soon turns out to not be all that it seems. Excessive over-time and lack of diversity contribute to the rapid realization that the grass was not actually greener. The vast array of career advancement and professional development opportunities along with the friendly, community environment and the undisputable affordability make it more than a justifiable choice for many Australians, accountants or not, to build their life and career in a regional area.
In conclusion, the answer is yes – you can achieve the same career goals and professional aspirations regardless of whether you work in a regional location or in a major city.
Kate is a specialist recruitment consultant within public practice accounting in the Hunter and regional NSW. She is able to assist both clients and candidates with their recruitment needs from Cadet through to Partner level across disciplines including Business Services; Audit; SMSF and Insolvency.
Kate is supported by a team of 40 specialist professional services consultants at Walker Andersen across 11 offices globally.