Why young people don’t want a career in tax.
Updated: Feb 16
I’m a school leaver, and I’ve been cocooned by the education system for the past 12 years.
Suddenly, I’m being hounded by my parents, influenced by my peers and told by every Polly with a pie hole that I need to get a job.
A career, even.
Most people at that age probably know what an accountant is. Some GCSE maths boffins may even want to be one.
But what if you asked me, a 16-year-old at the start of my working life, the question, “What is a Tax Advisor?”
You’ll be lucky if my response consists of a shrug, before my eyes glaze over and I drool on myself.
Put yourself in a young person’s shoes. The term ‘Tax Advisor’ conjures images of a suit that doesn’t fit properly, droopy jowls and a comb over. No kid in their right mind has ever said, “Mummy, when I grow up, I want to work at HMRC.” (Thanks John)
So how do we change this mentality? How do we make tax advisory cool?
Let’s start by analysing expectations. And not of millennials; they’re old hat.
I’m talking about Gen Z, the talent entering the workforce right now.
What exactly do they want and how can you, as a tax advisory outfit, tickle their pickle?
Gen Z – The Real Digital Generation
It’s important to note that Gen Z are a much smaller cohort than Gen Y. Competition for this group of Drake-loving snapchatters is going to be intense. We’re talking about the most tech-savvy generation of our time (so far). And d’you know what they want?
They want to make a difference. To have an impact in the world. If they’re going to spend most of their waking lives working, they want it to mean something.
They want job security. We’re talking about kids that grew up during the financial crisis; that watched as their parents were made redundant, or lost their businesses. It made an inerasable mark on them.
They want a customised career. More than millennials, these guys are used to having everything personalised. From Spotify playlists, to news feeds, to their McDonald’s burger. They want to feel like an individual.
So how can your firm, in a sector that’s notoriously bad at selling itself to young recruits, challenge the status quo? How can you beat your competitors to the punch?
Attracting Young’uns to Tax Advisory
Half the problem here is that tax advisory isn’t something that young people have to concern themselves with, nor is it a career path that the education system generally promotes. Don’t be offended. The education system isn’t particularly good at promoting any career path, really. Addressing the lack of understanding is something your firm will have to tackle.
That’s half the battle to attracting young people to a career in tax.
But in order to educate, you first need to get their attention.
Tone of voice. Get rid of this term, ‘professional’. It’s dead. Start understanding how young people communicate. Mimic that voice in your communication to them; in your apprenticeship and graduate job ads. Look outside of accountancy and finance at brands like Innocent, Social Chain and Tesco Mobile, to get a feel for the type of messages that work.
Think about how tax advisory can change the world. Sounds cliché, doesn’t it? Everyone’s trying to change the world. But if you can’t articulate the way in which your firm, and tax advisory in general, makes an impact, Gen Z ain’t gonna be interested, Sandra.
Customise the career experience. Nope, not the generic, “You start here, then you can get here in 2 years, then a promotion generally leads to here after 5 years.” It’s BS. Who knows where someone will be in 5 years. Instead, use your employer branding and marketing to scream, “With our firm, you can be whoever you want to be.” That might not be entirely true, but potential young superstars should know that you’re going to take the time to recognise their strengths to see where they add the most value, not just shoehorn them into a readymade career path.
Are you ready to change the game?
Hopefully the above points have oiled your cogs, and got you thinking about how important it is to attract the best, young talent to your firm. We’re mid-digital revolution, and the new generation joining the rat race are the ones best placed to take tax advisory forward.
Clear some time in your diary to plan a strategy with your team. Think about your employer marketing. Consider how young people view tax, and how to change that mindset with a different message. Addressing the lack of understanding, the misconceptions and lack of awareness is needed across the sector.
People within the industry need to drive that change.
People, just like you.
If you enjoyed this read, you might like to check out, ‘why you’re rubbish at retaining tax talent‘.