Understanding how you can progress your career is a common question that we’re asked when speaking to tax professionals.
One of the core motivators for individuals leaving their current organisation is either a lack of progression or a lack of clarity on how to progress to the next step. Naturally, we all want to ensure that we are moving at a healthy pace with our careers, so clearly understanding what you need to do is crucial.
Becoming a Head of Tax is a goal for many of our candidates in this space, however, it isn’t made abundantly clear what you need to do, how you’ll get there, and what your potential barriers to entry may be.
So, what can your journey to Head of Tax look like? There are two main routes that you can take to becoming a Head of Tax: leadership and non-leadership.
Not everybody is going to want to pursue the path of leadership as a Head of Tax, and there is a lot of misinformation stating that you must have leadership experience to progress into this role, which is incorrect. However, it’s important to note that although you will be able to become a Head of Tax without leadership experience or future leadership responsibilities, your key blocker will be the size of the organisation that you can work in.
Global organisations or even small enterprises will naturally have a hierarchical structure where you would need to have responsibility for direct reports, so being a “hands off” Head of Tax isn’t possible.
However, if you are comfortable progressing into this position in a smaller firm, there is plenty of opportunity for this. If you have aspirations to move into a bigger firm long-term only at this point would you need to consider developing your leadership skills.
What should you focus on?
If you want to become a Head of Tax through a non-leadership route, focus on honing your stakeholder management and people development skills instead. Stakeholder management in particular will be a valuable skill to any organisation, particularly if you aim to work in a smaller firm as a Head of Tax. People development can also extend to mentorship and training – without directly having to manage anybody.
The leadership route to Head of Tax is what we would consider more “traditional” as it focuses on people management, people development, and technical expertise combined. If you’re someone who wishes to pursue leadership, you must work in organisations that either offer this progression path currently, or that you find an organisation that has an L&D function to support you in this.
Becoming a Head of Tax in a larger firm will require you to already have experience in management, and for some, evidence that you have managed a team of two or more people. Mentorship and shadowing will also be valuable to have in your repertoire, but this should be seen as an added bonus – not something that is a standalone skill.
What should you focus on?
If you want to take the leadership route to Head of Tax, your core focus should be on your own L&D as a manager and ensuring that you are honing your skills in time management, people management and development, stakeholder management, and also team culture.
If you’d like to discuss your journey to Head of Tax, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our specialist consultants today.