What to tell the sixth form?

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I am giving a talk today to sixth formers at a relatively local school on what you can do with a career as a chartered accountant. That is an interesting challenge because I do not know another accountant who has had a career like mine.

First I wanted to be an accountant, which is rare.

Second, the reason for that was a love for the social change that I thought accounting could deliver based on my reading a vast quantity of transport history as a teenager. The history of railways and the rise of the company is to some degree synonymous in the UK and it's certainly where M&A started. The impact was not always beneficial, but I think a lot was.

Third, I actually enjoy the theory of accounting and economics - even if I disagree with much of what is taught.

And then whilst I began in what was then the biggest firm in the world I set out on my own the first day I could. There is an entrepreneur deep in me. That showed in the fact that for fifteen or more years I was senior partner of a firm and had a commercial career which seriously changed my thinking over time and helped create my position on tax abuse, not least by exposure to the work of many other accountants.

In my forties every thing changed. Over quite a short period time, and without the process being planned (even if the conviction that drove that process was very clear) tax justice and economic campaigning almost literally took over my life, giving me a purpose that I had never enjoyed before, much as I enjoyed my commercial career.

What then? I became a blogger. And twitter followed. And research. And writing. And books. Plus television and radio. But all if it for a reason: to effect change on behalf of those who lose from the current structure of the world's economic system. That is the unambiguous goal.

So what of that? How to explain, and what to explain? I think there's only one way to decide, and that's to let the audience take the lead.

That said there are some very clear messages I want to impart. The first is that nothing happens without very hard work. That's always been necessary. If that sounds a but like rather staid careers advice for those heading for the City it isn't. I think it's just as relevant on the left.

Second, seeking to do the best that's possible is always essential, even if, inevitably that does not always happen.

Third, at absolutely every stage and in every aspect of my career being able to write clearly in a way that meets the audience's need (whether when writing a letter, a blog or anything else) ahs been essential. Nothing else matters as much, but that means, most importantly, understanding just what that audience's needs are. That's the tough bit.

And like it or not, some maths is pretty useful.

But so too is reading, reading, and then reading some more. Which means if you're not interested then frankly it has to be time to choose something else. So at the end of the day self-awareness, honesty and the ability to decide is also vital.

But under it all there's something more important to say, which is that conviction matters, most of all. So far I have never seen anything of any real worth happen where making money was the goal. There has always had to be belief in the value of the activity for real value to be delivered. That's why I cannot believe in much of what the Ciry does. It is why it was appropriate for much if it's activity to be described as 'socially useless'. So I'll want to impart the idea to people interested in a career in finance that money does not matter that much, it's what's done with it that does.

Not much to communicate then. I am quite looking forward to it.