Monday 28 April 2014

Small firm or corporation: What’s right for your tax career?

Small firm or corporation: What’s right for your tax career?
Taking that very first step in your tax career requires many decisions. One of the most important is whether your initial role should be with a small firm or a corporation.

There are countless firms that can provide you with your first foray into the tax world, and the size of the business can be a clue to the type of workplace you can expect. Here are some general guidelines.

Working for a small firm

Because there are fewer people in a small firm, you will get to know everyone and will probably work directly with most of them. This is great if you feel more secure when you’re familiar with the team members who are driving the business.

  • Day-to-day functions: Employees in small firms tend to work across a number of clients and usually perform some ancillary tasks to support their job, including administration. Prepare for variety and expect to wear a number of hats.
  • Skills: Multitasking and being a quick learner are two skills you should already have. If not, you’ll pick them up swiftly in a small-firm environment.
  • Personality traits: People who like being part of a team and being able to see how their contribution directly adds value to the business will enjoy this environment.

Working for a corporation

Working for a corporation, such as one of the Big Four, has many benefits including established career development programs and opportunities to work internationally. This situation is ideal for ambitious employees.

  • Day-to-day functions: Corporate employees generally have specific roles and are assigned tasks appropriate to that role. Your work will be guided and may focus deeply on specific areas. This may be repetitive for some, but could also lead to specialisation.
  • Skills: Being able to work autonomously and follow process is a key skill. Those who have leadership skills tend to move into management positions. 
  • Personality traits: Those who are ambitious can make their mark through high performance and good networking. By the same token, those who are content to be a cog can also find the anonymity of being in a big company attractive.

These are just some of the generalisations related to small firms and corporations. Of course there will always be some crossover, with small firms taking on corporate traits and vice versa, as well as medium-sized businesses that may be a blend of both.

The key is to figure out what you want and then find the workplace most likely to give you what you seek. As you and the nature of the workplace change, this will more than likely affect your choice.

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