letters from our community

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real experiences, told by our community

Hi there,

For the 50 years that I have been lucky enough to be alive, I have experienced great high points and great low points. Life teaches you the hard way how to tackle these challenging low points – however, you can also fast track this process by learning from others!

A low point for me was at the age of 32. Professionally I seemed to have everything – on the surface at least. A qualified Chartered Accountant with a well-paid job as a Financial Controller for a medical devices company with frequent, international business travel that created the veneer of a glamourous and happy career. Under the surface, however, was personal pain – both professionally and personally. From a work perspective I was stressed, overworked, burnt out with health issues. Personally, I was suffering the torment of not yet confronting my true sexuality…

My solution at the time? I took drastic action by quitting my job and escaping to the other side of the world where I would start a new life in Australia. Here in the ‘lucky country’ I eventually admitted to myself I needed support and accessed caba’s counselling and career coaching services. I had always considered (incorrectly) that caba was there only for truly desperate people. That couldn’t be farther from the truth! caba’s counselling and career coaching have helped me to become a fulfilled and contented individual living my truly authentic self both professionally and personally.

So, remember that wise old age still holds true - “A problem shared is a problem halved”.

So don’t be shy my friends – reach out if you need a friend. caba is there to help you.

From a friend in the industry

Hi there, 

Here are some tips I wish I had been given at the start of my career: 

Don’t stop being who you are to be an accountant. Clients want a person who understands them and can bring support and advice.  

Make friends with others doing the same thing you are. You will be amazed how you both benefit from sharing experiences. We all have the same problems and challenges, but we start to believe that it is just us if we don’t talk to each other. 

Once your exams are done then the learning really starts. Spend as much time on the soft skills of life as you do on tax and accounting. Time management, negotiating, reading body language, listening, and mentoring are just as important as a beautiful error free set of accounts. 

The ICAEW’s ethical code is not the end of your own values but a base on which to build. Play fair and be kind. 

Tech is your friend and your enemy. Keep up to date but be mindful not to spread yourself too thinly. Don’t try and compete with computers, instead, offer what they can never do, a human approach. 

From a friend in the industry 

Hi there, 

It was following a long period of homelessness and living on the streets following a tragic series of events that I reached the point of giving up with no energy left to push back against the appalling and wrongful actions that others had inflicted upon me.  

My membership was about to expire because I could not pay to renew this, when I decided to call the Institute who referred me to caba with my sole intent at the time being to try to keep the membership current. 

Upon calling I was greeted with kindness and understanding - I was then told that caba could help me. My initial reaction was that I could go it alone and my pride kept me from accepting help and I continued to spiral downwards for several weeks more. 

It was at my lowest point trudging across a field that I was called yet again by the support officer who was so supportive and convinced me that there was another way besides giving up.  

Since that day I’ve been helped immensely not just financially which was critical in stabilising my decline but more importantly with the vital support of understanding, listening and friendship.  

I’m convinced that without the ongoing and caring support from that caba support officer, who I’m proud to call a friend, and the rest of the team, I would have been truly finished, whereas now, even in the highly stressful circumstances I continue to face there is still a ‘now’ thanks to caba  I have hope when before there was none and a determination to keep going. 

From a friend in the industry 

It is a daunting time when you start your career in the audit profession and it is easy to feel a bit lost and insecure. Particularly if you join a larger practice where you can’t help but compare yourself to your cohort of new joiners. Added to this comes the pressure of sitting exams with tough consequences if you were unable to pass. 

If you’re feeling all of the above, don’t worry, it is completely normal and a lot of people will be feeling the same. Keep going! I assure you that as time passes your understanding and grasp of auditing will get better and better. Don’t be afraid to ask questions as we’ve all been at the start of our careers and it is the only way we can learn. However, do try to think of some solutions to your questions to show that you’ve tried to be proactive in resolving them. 

Concentrate on developing yourself, continuing to learn something new every day and taking strides forward. Each year that you move through your career, you build on the experiences of the previous year(s) and you develop confidence.   Building and maintaining relationships with your colleagues and clients is important in that journey.  

I felt all of the above when first starting my career at a mid-tier firm. Looking back, I’m always amazed how one day everything just clicked and made sense. I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world, get involved in interesting work and become an audit partner and I’m sure you can too! 

All the best, 

From a friend in the industry

The best advice that can be given in hindsight is to not stress out too much when things are going a bit haywire. It is hard to not get stuck in the moment, however, when I reflect on my time in audit, it was one of the best times in my life which I wasted worrying about things that did not need it.  

If I could go back, I'd let myself know not be too hard on myself. Try your best and leave it there. Once you have given something your all, there really is no benefit in pushing yourself further on stuff that is out of your control. We waste so much of time worrying about hypothetical situations that may never end up happening. The best thing is to have an open and honest channel of communication with your line manager about work. You will find that it will be more helpful for two brains to work on a problem than one. Share your concerns and you’ll be surprised about the solutions you get that you may never have produced yourself.  

From a friend in the industry 

The first time I managed staff, I was keen to do a good job, and deliver on my team’s projects to a high standard. I had a member of staff whose work wasn’t where I wanted to it be. He often came in late and blew through deadlines. I wanted to be taken seriously, so I brought him into a meeting and detailed all the problems with his work, telling him that I needed him to improve his performance.  

The next day, this staff member asked for some of my time, and told me he’d found our meeting the previous day really hard. The reason he was coming in late and struggling to hit his deadlines was that his mental health was suffering - indeed he’d been thinking about whether he needed time off with it - and the meeting we had just confirmed all his worst fears about himself. He’d had a think, and wondered if the office had any resources to support with mental health, and whether now he’d disclosed his condition we could work on any reasonable adjustments together.  

I felt dreadful. It was incredibly brave of that staff member to disclose his illness to me after I had been so punitive in my approach. I realised that, especially as an initial approach, I could have been much more curious and open. My own anxiety and determination to be ‘authoritative’ meant I was unsympathetic and a bad manager in that moment. I let my own feelings about my job and my role get in the way of meeting my staff where they needed me.  

I investigated the options available and was able to work with the employee to put proper support in place. With that support he became a top performer: his issues were entirely illness related, not about his attitude or abilities at all. I was also able to refer him to caba, and I know they were really helpful. 

Had I been more engaged with caba’s work on personal development, and maybe if I’d sought help with my own discomfort with aspects of leadership, I think I would have done a much better job in that situation. From then on, i’ve made it my first principle of leadership to listen and be generous. You always get better results and better relationships that way. 

From a friend in the industry 

Qualifying as a Chartered Accountant is hard to achieve. I signed up to five-year articles with a large firm of accountants and gaining my ACA was the most challenging period of my life. I found working full time and studying at night and weekends, the pressure of exams, and the knowledge that failure to pass could result in my employment being terminated, incredibly challenging. But what I found most stressful was the feeling that I was doing this alone. I thought that there was no one I could turn to talk through my concerns or to give support.  

I’m sure there are times that you feel the same. The important thing is to do something about it and now there are resources you can access to do so. As a starting point there is support available online whenever you need it, caba is a good place to look. Further help can also be accessed there if you need it. Take time to use these tools to look after yourself now and should you need them in the future. 

From a friend in the industry 

Hi there, 

When you are given that promotion at work, it feels wonderful, like a big achievement and something to be excited and proud of, and then the imposter syndrome kicks in and all the questions in your head. Can I really do this? Am I capable? What will everyone think? What if I don’t know the answers?  

You have been promoted for a reason, someone has believed in you and now it's time to believe in yourself.  I heard on a podcast the phrase, ‘it's time to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable,’ and that’s where the magic happens and it couldn’t be truer, you have handled difficult things in the past and you can handle them now. 

This is where caba was able to provide support in how to build that inner confidence, sometimes taking a step away from everyday life can help to gain perspective.  caba provides online courses on how to build confidence and how to overcome imposter syndrome, this helps you to feel less alone and realise that no matter what stage in your career you’re promoted, this feeling will come and go.  

From a friend in the industry 

I live in Zimbabwe, and it was November 2008 when Zimbabwe’s inflation reached its dramatic peak of 79,6 billion % per month that I applied for financial assistance - I was awarded my first discretionary grant early in 2009.

Since then, caba have reviewed my circumstances and I have received a grant accordingly. In June 2016, my wife needed to go to the UK to take her father to a care home and caba made another substantial grant towards her air fare.

In 2019 load shedding was becoming a serious problem in Zimbabwe and we were reliant upon a diesel-powered generator for a limited supply of electricity. In July 2019 we approached caba to see if they could help with a solar powered system. Within a month we had a system installed fully paid for by them.

I can say, in summing up, that in the fourteen years caba have been supporting us, they have helped us to maintain our moderate lifestyle at a comfortable level.

Kind regards

A very satisfied beneficiary 


I wanted to write a little about how caba has helped me over the last 6 months. 

I have been a registered ACA accountant for over 10 years and enjoyed a successful career. However, a couple of years ago several events happened in my personal life that left me in a situation of being a single mum to newborn twins. It was never a position I expected to be in, and I was scared! But I had some savings and family support that allowed me to get through the first year. Once I reached the beginning of the second year however, everything reached a bit of a crisis point – financially and emotionally. I increased my self-employed client base to try and make ends meet, but I was exhausted, to the extent that I even nodded off in a couple of important meetings I had with clients. I didn’t know where to turn and felt overwhelmed, alone and scared. 

A friend of mine suggested reaching out to caba to see if there was any support I could access. From the moment I contacted them I felt welcomed, listened to and supported. caba have granted me some money each month for the last 6 months, which has allowed me to keep my self-employment work going, but in a way that allows me to cope. It has given me some breathing space when things felt impossible. 

I cannot thank caba enough, contacting them has truly changed my life. 

From a friend in the industry 

Hi there, 

If you are reading this letter, there is a good chance that you are neck-deep in crisis and trapped trying to balance exams, work, and your social life. The process is designed to be CRUSHING, but that does not mean you can’t take a moment to hit pause. The ACA process is rigorous and intensive so that it can bring the brightest diamonds from the pack.  

Diamonds are made under pressure. 

However, there is a fine line between the pressure being stimulating and over-burden. You know your boundary; you know when it’s time to reach out for support. The way I deal with stress is by sharing the load and by going out and speaking to other accounting students, I can see first-hand that we’re all in the same rocky boat.  

My biggest tip for the exams is looking at the bigger picture. There is no need to get bogged down in the details, as accountants, we’re used to having threshold, but we always know that the accounts are never going to balance. Perfection doesn’t exist. Your job is to navigate your way to the end, picking up as many marks and experiences as you can. 

Your job as an ACA trainee is to gain a breadth of experience and to be well-rounded. If you’re a perfect accountant now, then you have nothing to work for. 


A friend in the industry  

Hi there, 

The first piece of advice I can give you is to take long walks whenever you feel stressed or burnt out. I often go for walks after work or during my study breaks and have found that getting fresh air and exercise makes me: feel happier, less stressed and more focused. Nature can be a powerful tool that can put our everyday struggles into perspective. Getting in touch with nature can allow us to see the bigger picture and can offer escapism from the world of work and studying. 

Another piece of advice I can give you is to have something to look forward to in your week. This could be meeting an old friend, taking up a sport or even trying out a new restaurant. Having something to look forward to can help motivate you and increase your productivity at work. 

In the past I wish I contacted caba and enquired about their counselling services when I’ve been struggling. During exam seasons, I sometimes suffer from a low mood and therefore having someone to talk to would definitely help me - I’m currently looking into counselling and other services that caba offer. 

From a friend in the industry