Generation Z who choose accountancy as a career are perhaps more fortunate than they think. Their first years in the profession may have been characterised by the pandemic, but they have still begun their career at a time when the role of accountants and the value of the accountancy profession is being transformed.
That is the conclusion of a new report from ACCA, Groundbreakers: Gen Z and the future of accountancy. Accountants are stepping into the role of trusted business advisers, data experts and stewards of sensible management. As a result, Gen Z will see even greater opportunities for professional reward and personal growth.
'Like no other generation before, you have amazing opportunities to influence your organisation and change business for the better'
Business’s increasing focus on stakeholders, not just shareholders, is ‘a potential turning point’ for the profession, says the report (see also the AB special edition 'Leading the change'). Professional accountants are becoming critical in helping create sustainable value for organisations while acting in the public interest. And it is clear that the profession is a pull to Gen Z, particularly for the skills and long-term career prospects it brings.
The report, which involved a survey of more than 9,000 18 to 25-year-olds around the world and employer roundtables, offers advice for Gen Z as they embark on their career, showing them how to be more effective, future-proof their careers and realise their career ambitions.
Top of the list is making the most of their tech know-how. Organisations are prizing Gen Z candidates who use tech to solve challenges differently and more efficiently. ‘Like no other generation before,’ says the report, ‘you have amazing opportunities to influence your organisation in technology adoption and to change their business for the better’.
In a world economically rocked right now, it seems that accountancy remains a pretty good bet
As much as 80% of Gen Z surveyed for the report say they are very comfortable with technology and pick up new innovations quickly. Even so, most are concerned about the implications of automation: 57% say they are worried about the impact of technology on their own job opportunities in the future.
Surprisingly at a time of intense disruption, the report also suggests that Gen Z should regularly jolt themselves out of their comfort zone. Adaptability is a prized trait at work and traditional career routes are becoming less defined over time.
‘Be prepared to disrupt yourself, and to think more laterally about the skills you can acquire by taking different career paths or exploring sideways moves,’ says the report. A career journey may not be a series of roles that take you up through an organisation, but a richer narrative of different experiences that build a set of valuable skills. This might mean, it adds, taking risks in the early years of your career, when it is easier to switch in and out of jobs, and you have time to recover from mistakes.
Build strong networks
The report also advises aspiring Gen Z accountants to actively seek out mentors from different generations and learn from them and their experience, and to build a strong external network not just through social media, but through time invested in face-to-face, deep relationships.
‘In a world economically rocked right now, it seems that accountancy remains a pretty good bet’ as a career, the report says. Young people have a fantastic opportunity to contribute and make a difference as part of the profession – and it’s likely that their career will be a long one.
The driving force as Gen Z steps out into the profession should be to find an area that interests them and pursue that path. ‘Even if you don’t have a single burning vocational cause that you want to follow in life, finding something that interests you and which you can become good at will reap benefits,’ concludes the report.
Join ACCA's webinar live on 13 and 20 May, 'Rethinking careers: Gen Z and the future of accountancy' to hear more from the report's authors and Fatima Baig, financial controller of Network Rail to give the employer viewpoint, and Rochelle Moras, an ACCA affiliate, representing Gen Z.