Career progression as an Accountant who stuffed up? Feel lost?

Hi guys i've made some big mistakes in my life.

I studied commerce at university of melbourne (accounting and marketing). During university i was a compelete idiot and didn't study hard, work much or care about my future.

After graduating i thought to myself let's try get a job in accounting (because that's what i studied so why not?)

I flukishly landed a job at a local tax firm in my area. I hated working here.
They never put the AC on, it was hot, stuffy, 30 minute lunch break, no training . It was hell. I couldn't hack it so i quit after 6 months. A few months later i got a job at another suburban firm. This firm was better and it was a bit bigger. The problem was that after a few months there i had a family crisis i had to deal with (close family member was suffered a life threatening condition). I had to leave my job and care for my family.

That was 6 months ago. i've been trying to get a another job ever since.

I'm currently working in a factory and i'm starting to get depressed. I don't know what to do in life and i'm 25 years old . I have a small family too and not many friends/connections.

I've been applying for sales, marketing, any kind of corporate position but i'm struggling as i have no experience. I've decided that maybe i should go back to accounting and study my CA. The problem is, i'm finding it really hard to get a graduate junior role again. Moreover, i don't think i'd like working in a small accounting firm in the suburbs again. What's the career prospects if i go back and do this? could i get into a mid tier or big 4 firm?
I feel like i stuffed up so badly because if i could go back in time i'd study hard, get into mid tier/big 4 ( i believe i have the smarts and personality for this) and go from there. :(. What do i do?

Thanks for reading.


  • +5 votes

    Have you tried talking to the mob who you did like working for, if they liked you they might take you back, even at a junior level.

  • +2 votes

    username checks out

  • +1 vote

    I feel for you.

    I think at 25 you still got a good chance of either changing your career or moving around/up the ladder.

    I read a recent article that PWC are starting to recruit people with tafe degrees.. so if you want to try applying for the big4.. you have a chance.

    All the best xxx


    Stick with a smaller accounting firm to get the all around experience and earn your stripes.
    Better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond.


    I don't know what to do in life and i'm 25 years old

    Live it, you're still so young. Just take your time, persistence will bring prizes.

    Start small, and work your way up. If necessary, go back to a small firm again. Gain experience and contacts.

    Some people change industries every 4 years to keep their mind active, so you're not alone with being 'fresh' at 25.

    • +5 votes

      I googled "change industries every 4 years" and all I could see was job seeker sites claiming this was a great idea and business media also claiming this was a great idea.

      Who is actually doing it though?


        I've changed industries every ~6 years. I started off as a landscaper and nursery worker (plants, not kids) from age 18~24, then I was an acupuncturist and massage therapist from 25~31, and then I was in the navy for 6 years, and now at 37 I've just left the navy and started doing tech support for a cybersecurity company. So not every 4 years, but not that far off it.


          What was joining the military like after 30? Glad you did it? It's something I always had in the back of my mind but never committed to, and now I'm turning 30 this year and wondering what I'm doing in life.

          • +5 votes

            @wittyusername: It was good for me and I'm glad I did it but honestly I don't recommend it, because you will have accumulated personal power and wisdom and strength of character over the years of experience in your life, but the military does not want someone like that and does not appreciate those qualities and doesn't know what to with people like that. They want impressionable kids straight out of school who are young dumb and full of, ummm, energy.
            Time and time again we were told that the purpose of recruit school is to "break" you, so that the military can then remake you in the mould of what they want (i.e an unthinking automaton who will jump off a cliff if ordered to without asking any questions).
            But they couldn't break me, because I was already fully myself by age 31, and superior in intellect and wisdom than the people who were supposed to be my "superiors".
            And they resented me a lot for that. It didn't bother me, I've been hated before and I know how to defend myself. But the military is not like real life. The people with power in the military are sad, narrow minded, bitter nobodies who joined straight after high school and were treated like utter dirt for years and years and years on end. And now they've finally climbed up the ladder a little bit, but they have no conception of things like basic human respect or manners or humbleness or interpersonal skills or management skills or any life skills really, and they just don't know how to deal with a worldly, experienced man with more real-world know-how than them even though they're the ones supposed to be in charge of literally every single aspect of your life.


              @dickmojo: How is it coming back to real world? I've been corporate for all my life and I did notice a lady from the navy who joined a client in a commanding position. I think she was about mid 40. She succeeded in her role.

              Remuneration wise,do you already get a pension?

              Was your salary in the navy taxable?

              I like how you described your response. The fact that they didn't like someone of experience in life outside the navy is really intriguing. Reminds me of that book - can't break me by David Goggins


              @dickmojo: Wow, thanks for an honest and great reply!


          did you have much IT /computing experience before you went onto cybersecurity? or did you go to uni? i'm thinking about changing careers and it sounds like a good job


    Definitely apply for graduate roles at big 4 and mid tier firms. Most grads fresh out of uni are 21 or or 22, 25 is still young! They provide good training and offer a solid career path. Be prepared to answer interview questions around what you have been doing for the last few years and why you are keen to get back into it now.


      Hey i'd lvoe to work at these places but i don't have the marks (Only 60) and i think i graduated too many years ago to be eligible :(


        Think federal governments will consider up to 7 years after graduation for grad roles though 60 might be a bit low.


        That's right. Graduate roles are only for the "elites" superstar performers in their prime. I've been part of the graduate selection here and I've thought many times if I could have ever made those harsh selection process. I joined as an experience hire and we selected 12 out of 4500 applicants.


          Yea crazy, so what's left for those who don't make it? Should i just give up and end it?what'
          s thepoint if i in't make it into a good graduate program?


            @saddguy23: I came from Big 4 myself, but what service lines have you been applying for? Going by your history you would be applying for Audit? Look into the different services the big 4 offer, such as consulting or risk. There's normally the same if not slightly lower number of grad intake for these lines. However you do more interesting work, cause yawn audit.

            Don't restrict yourself to Big 4, apply for mid tier firms. If you haven't applied for at least 10 accounting companies for grad positions, unfortunately you haven't really tried. On top of that, apply to banks, retailers or any ASX200 or even ASX 500 companies that have a grad position open.

  • +3 votes

    It sounds to me like you hate accounting.

    Most Australians live lives of quite desperation doing a job they dislike or large numbers actually truly hate what they do which is soul destroying. Lawyers for example.

    I would write down things you love doing or if you can't do that keep a diary and try to note down what you notice makes you happy. Then try and work out a way that you can offer people value doing something involving this and work for yourself. Or it might be something where you can find work somewhere.

    • +3 votes

      This is sound advice.
      I read an article that summarises what is some good advice for choosing:


      Yea i suppose i don't like accounting but it's hard
      i don't really know what i like and don't like i've wasted a lot of my time in my life always remaining in my comfort zone and doing the same thing - spending time on the internet, video games, playing for the same sports team etc.

      hmmmmm. I found accounting pretty boring and mind numbing. I wish i could do something where i could actually use my brain, talk and brain storm ideas with others, create something…


        Not to sound harsh, but if that is how you feel about accounting, you should have felt this way when you were still in uni and tried to figure out what you wanted to do next.

        I was in accounting, I still somewhat am but I liked accounting concept back in uni, and I still like it, I just don't like having to do it day in day out, so I managed to find jobs that use the concept to help other things. Having said that, I still had to go through more than couple years working in jobs you may call boring. However, I am the optimistic type, that can grind it out, making the best out of the worst situation, so it kinda helps.

        If this is how you truly feel then you could pick something else to study and start over with a new career. 25 is plenty young to start over. I know people that are older, that do that. So good luck.


          I don't really know what else to do though, i mean i don't hate accounting , but i don't love it / passionate about it…

          • +1 vote

            @saddguy23: Good accountants are magicians. They do create. Maybe not in your definition.

            My recommendation:

            Step 1) Think about what you love and passionate about.

            Step 2) Are you willing to start a career in that field from step 1, after considerations.

            Step 3) Have an income to support yourself, i would recommend going back to accounting if possible. Study about step 1 result at night, attend university/tafe etc.

            Continue this for 3 or 4 years until you get the qualification you're passionate about, then start over from there.

            You're paying for your mistakes now, however, this could be temporarily. A lost is made, get over it and start thinking how to make a gain. I understand it is hard, the time, money wasted doing the accounting degree. This shouldn't be the reason to discourage you, but to push you even harder.

            *No money for courses - Get in debt.Borrow, i'll recommend borrowing from parents.
            *Dislike the current working environment - Think about your goals and why you are doing this.
            *Inner peace - be inner balanced. Mindset is crucial.

            There are a million reason for you not to do the right thing, but only one reason to do it.


        You've got a good list of things that are keeping you depressed and idle in life there.
        Do the opposite of them and break the habits.

        Spending time on the internet -> Spending time outside.

        Video games -> reading books /self education

        Playing for the same sports team -> exploring a new hobby or interest

        You're stating the signs of a common 25 year old male. It's tough and those first 10 years after finishing school are supposed to be a challenge. Things get better as you mature, and this will happen faster and sooner by doing more mature things. Get a good role model (an associate, family member, influence, author) and imitate them. This will give you a lot of confidence, and also help you learn the favourite things you know about yourself by comparing.
        Keep a journal, written notes about the goals you are set to achieve. Re-read your notes everyday as you add to your collection of notes. Re-write you notes as you improve your ideas and goals.
        You need at least 10 000 hours in a field of knowledge before you have mastered it. Sounds like you're barely at the 2000 mark (correct me) and for that it's typical for the way you feel.


    Get any job you can in a mid tier and work your butt off. Big 4 is a bit out of reach, you would really need to be quite self assured to do well. Uni marks aren’t the be all and end all as accounting is nowhere near as academic as other professions.

    There is more to accounting than numbers and working in a mid tier will determine once and for all if you like the industry or not. It’s not going to be easy though with lots of hard work and you have to accept that.

    Small suburban firms are a big avoid and career ceiling is very low. They have their place in the world, just like the corner store does in the retail industry.


      what are the mid tier firms you might recommend? I feel like there's only 3-4 of them too?

      Grant Thornton, BDO, Pitcher Partners? I kinda think these will be just has hard as getting into Big 4.


        There are many more, check out the BRW Top 100 Accounting firms, should be a good starting point.

        There are also some hidden gems out there in the small firm space, but you probably need industry experience to find them.


          This sounds like a good idea but i just don't see how i'm any chance of getting into these firms?
          Should i work at a suburban firm for a bit start my CA and then try and get into these other firms?


            @saddguy23: Those firms are big employers, you may need to rethink how you are applying, what your resume looks like, etc. Attend career events etc. Its up to you mate, good luck.


              @horsome: Do you reckon i should apply for every top 100 accounting firm?


                @saddguy23: Just do your research on them and see which ones are applicable to you in terms of location and what you are after career-wise. As I said it’s not easy and there is no formula or guarantees you need to put the work into researching these firms and meeting people from there at career fairs or otherwise. Call up CA or your old uni they may be able to further assist with this.


    What does the factory you work in do? If they do any actual manufacturing, could you ask them to do an apprenticeship? There is still a good demand for maintenance fitters, machinists and boilermakers these days, at least where I am. That way you can get paid a mature age apprentice wage, get paid to go to tafe while working and have a good trade at the end of it all that you can take pretty much anywhere.

    It depends if you want to do manual work or office work though.


      At the moment i'm just in the production line , all i'm doing is sorting bottles and carting cardboard boxes :/


    sometimes you've got to be realistic

    everyone likes video games, playing sports, browsing Ozb everyday

    but you have a family to feed and your child is only going to grow bigger

    so suck it up and work your ass off whether you like it or not

    make your child as your inspiration to work harder

    else get a divorce and play video games everyday

    • +1 vote

      I disagree with this. Suck it up is one thing. Op is asking for advice, how to make the best. My view is that corporate may not well be for you but don't worry. Sometimes corporate don't pay that well either if you didn't start of on the right footing.

      Go join a builder, become a tradie. Not all tradie jobs are tough,tough. Become a roof plumber, pays big bucks. Learn electrical, basic tafe. Fixing air conditioning cost me just about the price for the actual unit itself.

      One of the things I notice grads who join my company is that they whine about how their tradie friends who did not study but were cash rich due to their tradie jobs. They were buying houses faster than those grads who "made it" and were succeeding in their role.

      Don't give up op. I've been there, depressed, aimless and had to find direction. If there's anything to make you feel better is that sorting bottles right now is just trmporary while you find out a better way.

      What ever you land, pick a job (with a growth prospect) that will allow you to master through time. If there's a sucking up you need to do is to set time aside each day researching your next course of skill upgrade. Get ideas on how to certify, how fast can you work, where can u get apprentice training, learn from a more experience person. Accounting is shit.


    if you have excuses for all your deterrent then nothing will change. You messed up, like all humans do - own up to your failures and work your arse off. Hate accounting? getting CA/CPA wont change anything and also does it pay enough for your suffering? then change jobs.


      I agree,

      I've made some huge mistakes and they are all my own doing. I wish i could go back in time but i can't . Do i hate accounting? I'm not sure. Do i know what else to do? No.

    • +1 vote

      I've decided that maybe i should go back to accounting and study my CA.

      You answered yourself really. Do that, endure some temporary short term pain/discomfort and set youself up for a solid life with a decent career and ability to look after your family. End.


        I think you're right

        my gf just broke up with me so i'm pretty much at rock bottom/suicidal

        even if i hate accounting i'm going to do it, study it and get good at it. Just to have a goal.


          You're 25 and still really early in your adult life. There's so much more ahead to look forward to, no matter how bleak it seems right now.

          Focus on cementing your career and everything else will fall into place around it. Guarenteed.


    I too feel like my life is going nowhere and am late to the party, but what about a Business Analyst? I think you'd have new projects all the time (for example someone just said they'd love it we had someone to analyse our tender strike rates) and it's tenuously related to accounting and would likely involve death by Excel depending on how much the company invested in dedicated technology… but certainly something where you'd need to use your brain. You'd definitely need experience though, but could work your way from a small to big company. Don't be disheartened though, life is a journey. Good luck!


    At your age, why not pick up a trade? Great hours and crazy money. Otherwise mature entry Engineering at uni - great money, hours and prospects.


      What are the trades that are great hours and crazy money? And which area of engineering do you recommend?


        You can't go wrong with electrical, plumbing and construction, especially in the commercial field and/or on union sites. Even painters can make big bucks running their own small business with a few hands. Any engineering role.

  • +1 vote

    You have a marketing background. Look into digital marketing, do an online course (should be some free ones or cheap ones around) - get the hell out of accounting and thank me later.

    -former accountant

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