Your Career by Design

Your Career by DesignCarol McLachlan, theaccountantscoach, shares her unique mix of experience from the worlds of Big 4 audit and personal development. Say goodbye to career by default. It's time to embrace your Career by Design...


You’re an auditor.  Perhaps an accountant.  You may be employed; you may be self employed. You could be between jobs or having a career break.  Or you may be considering moving into, or out of, audit.  What’s your next move?  Promotion?  Downsizing?  Moving sideways or even a complete career change?  Or what about that sabbatical?


Stop!  Before you do anything else, wherever you are in your career, the most valuable action you can take right now is to get yourself a Career Plan.  That’s, your Career Plan.  It’s time to take stock, assess where your career fits in with the rest of your life, establish your direction.


You wouldn’t expect to start a business without a Business Plan would you?  You’d want to establish your vision, calculate return on your investment, work out how to get to where you want to be, assess the risks.  Isn’t your career (and for that matter your life) just the same?  It’s not only you who is making the investment.  There are your stakeholders to consider: your nearest and dearest, family and friends, not to mention the entities to whom you owe money. 


Just like a Business Plan, your Career Plan gives you purpose and focus. It helps you seek opportunities and make choices that support your core values and the needs of your stakeholders. It puts you in the driving seat - taking an active role in your career direction rather than accepting whatever the market throws at you.  It means being in control.  More choice.  More opportunity.  Optimising your chances of a career by design, rather than a career by default.


And if you need any further convincing consider the competition factor.  First  you need to figure out where you actually want to be.  Now identify any obstacles and skills gaps.  Next take action to fill that void.  And then, you will have proactively and significantly, boosted your chances of being best dressed when the dream opportunity comes along.


So how do you plan your career?  Well, I’m not talking about a step by step guide to take you from cradle to grave.  That just won’t work.  You can bet your bottom dollar – the answers will change.  I’m talking something much more fluid.  A plan that evolves as you grow, personally and professionally.  A plan that is shaped by your ever changing needs.  To meet these challenges you need a plan which is founded on your core personal values. Personal values provide the solid bedrock.  They evolve – they don’t fundamentally change. 


What do I mean by personal values?  Typical examples would be: achievement, creativity, freedom, integrity, power, security, recognition, family, wealth, adventure.  The list is endless.  But you will have 3-6 core values. These are the values on which you’d never compromise, no matter what. 


As a Big 4 audit Resource Director, I lost count of the number of times I witnessed the ‘knee jerk reaction’ career move.  It’s rife among newly qualifieds, but certainly not confined to this group.  A knee jerk reaction career move focuses on just one personal value, say work life balance, and presents by grabbing the first 9 to 5 job that the market offers.   This skews the career balance so that all other personal values, all the other reasons the training firm was chosen in the first place, go to the wall. The result - a much more serious career mismatch than at the start.


To discover more about your own Personal Values, try out the matrix at

So you’ve identified your personal values, where do you go now?  Start with the end in mind.  Ask yourself where do you want to be 5, 10, 20 years time. You create your vision.  But do your blue sky thinking before you start to evaluate and dismiss possibilities.  Keep all your options open.  Ask yourself some big questions:

  • What do I want to achieve before I die?
  • What would I do if I knew I could not fail?
  • What is it that I enjoy most about my current job?
  • What are the most important features of the organisation with whom I work?
  • What do I enjoy, and what am I good at, outside of work?
  • What wouldn’t I give up, no matter what?
  • What salary do I need/want/believe I’m worth?


Look for commonalities.  Continue to draw out your key values.  Ask for some input from your stakeholders (ok maybe not your bank manager on this occasion!).  And behold your vision!


Then work backwards.


Draw up your personal SWOT.  Identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats.  How do these link back to your vision and your core values?  For instance some of your weaknesses won’t matter a jot.  They are not going to stand in the way of what you want to achieve so don’t waste time investing in remedies.  But some weaknesses and threats will matter – they will be out of alignment with your key values and they could prove obstacles to you achieving your goals.  This is where you’ll need a strategy to close that gap.  Effectively you’re doing a skills audit, gap analysis and action plan. But you are doing it with the end in mind, so it’s highly focused and intent on maximising the return on your investment.


Once your strategy is in place.  It’s time to take action.  Do this and you will be in pole position for your career by design. 


Your Career Plan checklist

  • Decide where you want to be in X years time.  Establish your vision
  • Identify your core values and stakeholder needs
  • Draw up your personal SWOT
  • Make a plan to remedy obstacles and gaps
  • Review your Career Plan every 6 months.  Let it evolve with your personal and professional growth


  • Take action.  Take action.  And continue to take action


It’s as easy as that!



Written by Carol McLachlan for, the leading job site for auditing vacancies.


Carol McLachlan, FCA is a chartered accountant, executive coach and NLP practitioner.

She set up in 2005, following an 18 year career with Ernst & Young, 13 years as an auditor and another 5 years as Director of Resources, has brought an unparalleled breadth of experience working with fellow accountants.   She’s worked not only at the ‘coal face’ in technical and client handling roles but also operationally and strategically on professional and personal development with accountants at all levels.

Carol supports accountants and auditors, both individuals and organisations, in a multitude of development areas:  career planning, work-life balance, time management, performance enhancement, communication.  She employs a variety of techniques including one to one coaching, group coaching, facilitated workshops, presentations and written and audio material. Subscribe for your complimentary personal development newsletter at




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