Are you a first year CA(SA) trainee that wants to quit?

This email, from a student in their first year of articles, arrived in my inbox last week.  He agreed that I could share it, and my response, in this blog:

Hi Paul,

I hope that all is well your side.
I’ve spoken to many friends and family about this, but I was hoping that you would have something perspective-changing to say.
I’ve now done a bit over 6 months of articles – which I said I would give myself to judge – but honestly, each day feels like I am throwing some of my life down the drain.
I’ve tried to change my perspective. I’ve tried to think of the opportunity like you suggested we do in GDA – to think of it as a privilege, to think of how many people would give up so much to be where I am today, but day in and day out this job just feels like a waste of time.
I try look for ways to be optimistic and learn, and it feels bratty to complain about auditing – because there are so many worse jobs out there (and even more people willing to take up those worse jobs) – but each day is just another date-stamped piece of evidence of time gone.
It feels like such a waste to leave the CA path at this stage, but to be honest, the only thing probably preventing me from leaving is that I would have no idea what to do.
Any piece of advice, even a one-liner, would be very much appreciated.

I suspect that there are probably a few 1st year’s that at some stage feel like this.  Here is my response:

“Thank you for including me – I feel your pain.
It is your decision of course, but I would urge you to consider that:
1.  This is your first year of work.  Adjusting from the flexibility of your student days, is very hard.  Every student trying to push through these early years of work struggles to adapt – no more afternoon sleeps!
2.  You are at the bottom of the heap.  You do the work no one else wants to do.  It will not get worse than this, except when you change jobs again, which is when you will once again get some bits that no one else wants to do.
3.  You are at the worst of your game.  You are only a few months into this and know the least you will ever know about clients and the business world.  You just keep growing from now on but will struggle with excel shortcut keys, client systems and audit steps because it is all new.
4.  You are building a network.  The people you are meeting are all going to go out there and do a number of amazing things.  The projects you work on at the moment might not be that exciting right now, but in 2 years time, the options are endless.
5.  From next year you will be coaching others.  As a second year, you will have a first year that you will help.  Coaching and teaching is a challenge which can be very stimulating and is a skill that every successful leader needs to develop.
6.  Move towards something, rather than just away from something.  You know you don’t want to be an auditor, which is fine, but if you want to pay the high cost of leaving the CA(SA) journey now, be sure you know what you are moving towards.  The grass is not always greener, sometimes it is browner!  So please investigate what you are passionate about before deciding to leave.
7.  Don’t be so hard on yourself.  I am reminded of this clip of Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplace.  It is 15 mins but well worth it.  Very few people are able to change the world in the first year of their job.  Keep the ambition but give yourself some time to get there.
I hope those help you frame your decision.  It is hard work, I can well remember those days that seem to drag on forever, and those audits that take over your life for weeks, but all of that could still be worth it.”
Can you relate?  What has been your experience?  Any advice that I might have missed?  Please share this with any 1st year trainee that you think might need to hear this advice!


Paul Maughan


  1. Don’t waste your life china. Figure out what you want to do and then go do that. Life has so much more to offer than being unhappy and unfulfilled.

  2. I have been fortunate to work with a few heavy hitters in the financial services industry internationally. As a non-CA I have found that the chaps with a CA + articles background are better equipped with foundational skills and are generally capable of overtaking the chaps who may have gotten a head start by initially taking an easier route.

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