Top tips for moving into commerce and industry

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Recently, we have seen many parts of the Middle East enjoying rapid levels of growth, illustrating significant levels of recovery following the Global Financial Crisis. Despite expectations for this to ease slightly, it appears government spending is set to continue, providing commerce and industry with a positive outlook as consumer spending continues to increase.

Robert Walters provides advice you’ll need when looking to make the switch into commerce and industry.


Broaden your industry specific experience

In reality, the nature of practice is far different to what you will find in commerce and industry. If you are looking to make the switch, your prospective employer will want security in your knowledge of the sector they operate within.

Aside from doing your research, make sure you illustrate on your CV where you have had consistent experience working across jobs in one industry sector. Likewise, in your practice job try to position yourself within a market facing team, for instance within oil and gas or telecoms. In addition to this, secondments can often provide brilliant opportunities for a position change. Try to involve yourself in these wherever possible and make sure to act on quickly on any opportunities which may arise. 

In reality, the nature of practice is far different to what you will find in commerce and industry. If you are looking to make the switch, your prospective employer will want security in your knowledge of the sector they operate within.

Versatility is key

Employers will want to know you can adapt to changing requirements, suitable to their market. In commerce and industry, you will need experience working in a variety of fashions and communicating with stakeholders from a non-finance background. Often you will find that commercial skills will prove just as important as technical ones.

When is the ideal time to make a move?

For accountants looking to make the move, you will typically find that it’s easier at the newly qualified level. Although it is not impossible to make the transition later on, employers may often feel more confident in your ability to adapt at this level, acquiring some of the additional commercial skills you’ll need as you develop within their business. Similarly, you will also find that there are a range of opportunities available for newly qualified in commerce. These include commercial, operational, technical and analytical positions, as well as project focused work. If you are at the newly qualified level and are considering a shift into commerce, make sure to act on this now, maintain a strong relationship with a specialist recruitment consultant within the field.

Skills to develop: communication

In commerce and industry, you will find that employers place a lot of emphasis on an accountant’s ability to communicate with the rest of the business. Here, you will ultimately be a face of the finance division and it will be essential that you obtain significant buy-in from senior stakeholders across the business. Similarly, the working culture can vary significantly dependent upon the industry sector of which you find yourself. Given this, you will not only need to consider your passion for the industry but also how best to adapt and demonstrate your fit to the employer.

Remember also that in-house teams will more often than not be a lot smaller this will often play a large part in hiring decisions. Although you cannot change your personality, make an effort to compliment and mirror the interviewer whenever possible.

Areas to sell and develop: focus on language skills

As the market continues to grow in the Middle East, employers within commerce and industry are continually looking for finance professionals who can communicate with the wider global business and to who can help facilitate cross-border opportunities. Given this, we are seeing an increased interest in language skills. Getting yourself up to speed here or highlighting your language skills on your CV will give you a definite edge. Remember however to not oversell yourself here, as its more than likely you will be tested on this at interview.

Be true to yourself

Considering what has been discussed, you will need to make sure this move is right for you. Unfortunately there is no one size fits all approach, so you will need to be frank with yourself, ensuring you consider which sectors most interest you and which will keep you most engaged in the long term. This will be a matter of understanding where your skills and passions lie and tailoring your career to move in accordance with this. No one’s career grows overnight and sometimes it’s the small moves that you make which can be the most important.

If there is a sector which is most appealing to you - make sure to keep yourself abreast of current industry trends, noticing which companies are the most active hirers and anticipating which skills and personal qualities will be most important in getting ahead. This way, you will get a much more realistic snapshot of the competition you are likely to face and the most crucial experience to develop on.

If you would like more tailored information on how to secure yourself a role in commerce and industry, please contact:

Jean Karim Vandenberghe (Senior Consultant, Middle East)
+971 4 8180 103

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