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Changing careers is a big decision to make, especially if you have no qualifications to fall back on, but that shouldn’t put you off. Lauren Lockwood ACCA member and former Gold Medal winning student explains how she moved from a career in retail to accountancy

I decided I wanted a change of career after working for 7 years in retail. My role was very sales focused but I had started to become involved in payroll and other financial matters with running a retail unit. I really enjoyed this part of my job however, it was only a small part of the role.

I went to see an adult career adviser and explained that I enjoyed working with numbers and managing budgets and he suggested that I should aim for a career in accounting. He helped me to update my CV. He pulled forward the areas that were key to a career in accounting such as organisation, time management and accuracy. He also explained that I would need to gain a qualification if I wanted to progress in this industry and he suggested ACCA as I had no previous experience in this area, no academic qualifications past my GCSEs and at the time I was not working in accounting.

I was really excited at the prospect of going back to college and at first I was really positive and I couldn’t wait to embark on my new career. However, it was not quite the fairytale I had imagined.

I applied to every accountancy firm in my home-town and neighbouring cities, explaining that I was really keen to become an accountant and that I was looking for a role with them to start my accountancy career. Although some of the companies did respond to let me know there were no vacancies, most didn’t even reply.

I was also applying for jobs online during this period, most through agencies, but the majority wouldn’t even consider me as I had no experience in the field.

I was recalled for a second interview which was looking for a school leaver at GCSE level to embark on an apprenticeship scheme, but in the end the role went to someone else. I was feeling quite deflated and I was desperate for an organisation to recognise my accountancy potential.

Fortunately a recruitment agency called Sewell Moorhouse replied to one of my applications and they thought they would be able to help me find a role. Very quickly they had an interview lined up for me; I didn’t get the first one but I received some very good feedback and I was ready to try again.

The second one which I applied for was to cover the maternity leave of a Purchase Ledger Junior with a company called Bramall Construction where I got the job. I was a little worried at first at being a junior when I was 23, but I shouldn’t have been as the company was fantastic. I worked very hard and I really loved the role. It was completely different to what I had imagined and involved a lot of administration but it turned out I was a natural at it and I just couldn’t believe it had taken me so long to get into accountancy.

This was only a temporary assignment so I was still looking for a permanent position while I studied. Sewell Moorhouse found me a role as a Sales Ledger Administrator at ABP UK, I am certain that one of the things that helped me to get the role was that I was about to start to study for my ACCA and it demonstrated that I was committed to improving myself and that with time I would be able to offer a lot more to the organisation.

That was five years ago and I am still with ABP UK. I have been exposed to many areas of accounting during my time with the company, gaining experience in Sales Ledger, Purchase Ledger, Management Accounts and I am currently supporting the Financial Accountant in her role.

I am delighted that I was able to change careers when I did and I have enjoyed every second that I have worked in accountancy. During the last five years I have finished my exams and I have also achieved a First Class Honours Degree with Oxford Brooks University, through ACCA.

It has been very hard as I have had to study as well as work full time but I wouldn’t change a second of it. I would recommend accountancy to anyone who enjoys working with numbers, keeping organised and being busy.