Have you just finished your 12th standard? Or are you ready to graduate with a B.Com degree? Either way, here is some valuable career advice on what to do next.

Calling all commerce students, are you career-ready?

Graduation day is an interesting occasion. You may not be a student anymore, but you’re not quite the professional either. Whether you’ve just finished your 12th board exam, or received that freshly printed college degree, you’ll find yourself at a crossroad. You’re standing on the cusp of your future and now a serious, well-informed decision needs to be made.

If you’re unsure how to navigate this next chapter of your academic career, and worried about what comes next, you’re not alone. Many students go through similar feelings of uncertainty. However, the road ahead is not quite as scary as you imagine once you know your options.

When to start planning

If you have studied commerce and accounts in school, you can start preparing for a professional Indian accounting qualification like Chartered Accountant (CA) or globally recognized qualifications like ACCA or CIMA as soon as you finish your 12th year.

Else, you can wait till you have a Bachelor’s in Commerce degree. This allows you to additionally consider specialized professional Post Graduation courses like an MBA. However, if you choose this route, it’s preferable to get one from a tier-1 school in India like an IIM else you may struggle come Placement Day.

Both these routes have their own share of pros and cons. If you choose to do a professional qualification, getting into a course is relatively easy. Getting into a reputed business school is difficult, but once you’re through, your career is sorted.

But which is the right path for you? Before you start applying to different institutions, here are some more points to consider.

Know yourself

Your career will span across the next 40 years of your life. You don’t want to pick something that makes you dread going into work every day. So, choose well. The right career is the sum total of your skills and interests. Take a closer look at yourself. Do numbers excite you? Do you find accounting work, taxes and auditing challenging and appealing? Then a qualification like CA or ACCA is an ideal match for you. If you feel corporate finance is more up your alley, then you can target CFA. However, if you’re also a decisive thinker and good at leadership roles, you may be best suited for management positions and may want to consider Management Accounting by applying to CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants), This gives you the best of both worlds – an MBA + CA combination. Or even pursue a traditional MBA route, provided it is one of the better B-Schools. So, before you send in that application, first find out who you truly are.

Don’t get lost in the herd

Unless you’re applying for the position of shepherd, avoid following the sheep. Just because everyone you know is preparing for CA, it doesn’t mean you should too. You don’t want to get into an institute, only to leave halfway through and end up wasting a year. Parents and well-meaning relatives may also push you into your family’s chosen career path. Seven lawyers in the family doesn’t automatically make you one. So don’t blindly follow them into a profession ill-suited to your personality type. First, get some perspective. Stand back, look around and wisely weigh your options before diving in. You don’t want to deal with big regrets a few years down the line.

Still undecided? A career counsellor can help

If you find your mind cluttered with too many possibilities, and it’s making your decision even harder, get some help. A career counsellor is well equipped to deal with your career-related issues. These days, it’s not uncommon for Indian students to seek out professional counselling to help them decide the right path. Just remember, it can be quite expensive as a good counsellor could charge as high as Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 for one session. Treat this as an investment in your future. Spending this money now can help you save 3-4 years of wasted time pursuing the wrong qualification. Not to mention the Lacs of rupees that may go down the drain if you chose to drop out.

Career counsellors will set you towards the right track. They will examine your strengths and weaknesses, figure out where your talents lie, and enable you to reach the right decision. So, if you need someone to get you sorted mentally, talk to a counsellor. 

Do a professional qualification along with your graduation

Before you pursue an MBA or CFA, you will need to earn a graduate degree. However, there are some qualifications you could do if you’ve finished your 12th standard, while continuing to work on your commerce degree. So, when you are ready to graduate, you’re armed with two qualifications under your belt. It’s a classic case of two birds, one stone. And that will look very good on your resume. You’ve saved yourself a few years and are ready for the job market the minute you graduate.

Professional courses like ACCA and CIMA are perfect in this scenario. By the time you’ve got your degree, you are ready to start your career. While everyone else is running around filling up admission forms, you’re coolly dropping off your job applications.

If you are thinking of doing your chartered accountancy along with your commerce graduation, you might want to consider distance learning for your commerce degree. The CA workload can get intense, and you might find it challenging to balance both streams. In case of regular graduation, you must have to take a break in CA as the Articleship (the mandatory training) can’t be done along with regular graduation which means you’ll be working on your CA for around 6 to 6.5 years.

Work on your skill set

It’s not enough to be skilled in one department. Today, recruiters expect employees to be all-rounders, with a wide range of expertise. To be considered employable, you need excellent technical as well as soft skills. Hard skills, or technical skills, are qualifications in which you’re fully trained. Commerce students have an edge if they’ve received a certification in Accounting and Finance concepts through Tally, SAP, Financial Modeling, Data Analytics and Data Science, Cyber Security, Digital marketing, IFRS training and Foreign Languages, etc.

Soft skills, on the other hand, are your communication skills, problem solving tactics, decisive and strategic thinking, multi-tasking, presentation and time management skills. While most courses and degrees do touch upon these topics, they can’t be fully taught. It takes self-discipline, awareness and practical experience to acquire soft skills. 

You need both set of skills to make a lasting impression on prospective employers. So, try to work on both.

In conclusion

‘I’m not stressed about my future,” said no student ever. It’s a rite of passage to worry and fret about what you should do after school or college. However, clarity of thought is the single most important factor in deciding your career. Before you make your move, spend some time researching, analyzing and figuring out what kind of work excites you. When in doubt, take help of career counsellors. Speak to your teachers. Take advice from older students who went through a similar experience. Once you are well informed, you are ready to make your decision. Then, you can apply to institutions for professional courses like ACCA or CIMA. After that, the sky’s the limit for you. So, good luck!