Shahzad Jawaid ACCA was absolutely determined to find the ideal job. Now that he feels he has, he shares some advice for current ACCA students facing similar challenges
ACCA member Shahzad Jawaid entered accountancy after carefully considering a number of professional options.
‘I analysed the pros and cons of medicine, engineering and IT and decided that accountancy had the most potential. Accountancy is always in demand so employment rates are high, and it is interlinked with many other career options such as external or internal audit, analyst roles, and IT, and I found these interrelations very interesting.
‘I also considered the working environment; engineers, for example, often have to work on-site in sometimes difficult conditions, many doctors sacrifice their work/life balance, and IT staff often have limited visibility within an organisation. I could see that accountants were much more visible, and that the working conditions would suit me much better.’
After completing his ACCA exams (selecting ACCA because it was ‘the most flexible and widely accepted qualification in the world’), Shahzad briefly worked at PwC in his home city of Lahore, Pakistan, before deciding to further his career by moving to Dubai – a significant challenge both personally and professionally.
‘Moving to Dubai meant finding somewhere to stay and enough money to live on while job hunting, while also knowing that I had to compete against older and more experienced candidates,’ he comments. ‘But with the help of two close friends, I decided to make the move.’
Shahzad started his job hunt with a clear strategy: ‘Even though I knew that my work experience was limited, I decided not to undersell myself when looking for a position. As a result, I refused the first three offers I received and extended my visa for another 30 days.’
Shahzad began to make more of the exposure he had gained to different organisations when working for PwC, especially his experience of working with multinationals and well-known brands – and this attracted the recruiters’ attention.
‘With luck on my side, on the last official day of my visa I finally managed to secure an interview with Nestlé, which led to my current job with the Nestlé Treasury Centre (NTC).’
Shahzad currently works in the NTC MEA middle office, supporting front and back office operations and communicating with banks as per middle office requirements. His role is to assist the treasury centre for the MEA region and broadly covers risk assessment, internal control and policy compliance, and includes responsibilities such as independently checking FX/Money market deals confirmations, validating the correctness of Forex performance figures, and liaising with corporate finance, group companies and accounting departments.
‘First, don’t base your strategy on the experience of others. Take a disciplined approach; be clear about where you want to work, and the industry you want to work in, and use common sense to identify those sectors that will survive a recession – people always need to eat, for example, but they can wait to buy a car. Timing is also important – know the hiring season for your market – and prepare thoroughly for any interviews.’
Shahzad also recommends an honest appraisal of communication skills: ‘I know very many intelligent and experienced people who cannot sell themselves.’
But he also notes that these skills can be improved.
‘Listen before you talk, try to add value to a conversation, check your body language and increase your interaction with different people,’ he advises.
You also need the right CV – not just one that is well presented, but one that displays the right level of education and experience.
‘I know that many students interrupt their studies, perhaps because they lack the funds, or have family issues, but it is much better to persist otherwise you are wasting time and money, and you need these qualifications to succeed.
‘Experience, if you can obtain it, is also valuable, so try to find at least an internship or enter a graduate development programme, especially with a well-known name as this adds weight to your CV; but never pretend you have more experience than you really have,’ he warns, ‘as you will soon be exposed during any technical interviews. Specialist skills, such as another language or expertise in SAP, will also differentiate you, as will attributes such as dual nationality.’
ACCA is also a real asset to a CV, says Shahzad.
‘At the start of my career, ACCA exam success enabled me to teach and mentor students, which developed my communications skills, improved my confidence and gave me some income. ACCA also allowed me to successfully approach big employers both in Lahore and Dubai.
‘Now that I am an ACCA member, the advantages are even greater, including a much wider range of job opportunities worldwide, made even easier by the many reciprocal arrangements between ACCA and local accountancy bodies.’
For Shahzad, becoming an ACCA member was a ‘thrilling moment’, and he now plans to build his career by upgrading his qualifications, possibly with an MBA, and by taking on increasingly challenging roles which will give him a greater understanding of business operations.
‘Uniqueness is always an advantage,’ he adds, ‘and so I want to explore different skills especially in the area of ethics and morality, and if I ever return to teaching I will try to help the next generation of students by setting the best example I can.’