September 27, 2022

Career Conundrums: Grind On in Audit or Burn Out?

In this week’s accounting conundrum, an auditor is questioning the ideal time to exit a Big 4 and ponders if it is worth grinding out another year until they make senior.

In this week’s accounting conundrum, an auditor is questioning the ideal time to exit a Big 4 and ponders if it is worth grinding out another year until they make senior. Let’s see if we can offer up some advice that won’t leave a trail of burning bridges behind him or her. 
Hello GC: 
 
I have quite a dilemma and was hoping that you may offer some advice and/or insight. I have been with my Big 4 Firm in its External Audit practice for about a year and a couple of months. I can't stand it anymore. I hate controls, I hate substantive testing, I hate walkthroughs, I hate tickmarks, I hate everything to do with Audit and anything related to Audit. 
 
I'm trying desperately to leave. I know its "ideal" to stay until senior and maybe 1 year as a senior, but I really do not think I can make it. I am truly unhappy and will lose my mind any day now. 
 
I been reaching out to my friends, and alot of them feel the same way and all of us don't know what to do (we are all in audit). I get a bunch of LinkedIn messages from recruiters but ALL of them are wanting Audit, Internal Audit, or some sort of crap corporate Accountant Staff position. 
 
I have my CPA already and come from the "top" Accounting Masters program (UT Austin). I really don't want to move to industry just yet, but I do not want to do audit anymore. I have been looking into forensic accounting as well as management consulting. How likely can I land a job doing forensic accounting or consulting with only a little over a year of Big 4 Audit experience? Or should I grind my teeth until senior? 
 
Any advice would be appreciated! 
 
Thanks,
GC Reader
Dear GC Reader, 
 
Thanks for supporting my case that preemptive masters degrees in accounting may not be the wisest investments. But enough about me. Let’s talk about you.
 
You mentioned the word “hate” five times in the first paragraph. I get it. I hated crunching numbers full-time too. Given how much you hate the work, I would advise you to GTFO of your current role. And depending on your economic situation, you might want to do so, STAT.  If you have a little rainy day fund, now would be a good time to invest in yourself by taking some time off and clearing your mind. 
 
Either way, before you run away from all the things you don’t like, I would encourage you to discover what you really do like — what do you want to run towards. It’s great that you have been talking with your friends about where you are, but I noticed they are all in working in audit and I’d guess they are close to your same level. You might want to talk with other CPAs who have more experience or people outside of the profession. You know, do that thing called informational interviewing.  
 
It is really common for people to select a major and then work in an entirely different field. Once you start talking with people about this, you will be better able to see that your situation is not all that different than what others have likely experienced. A great place to find other senior CPAs is at CPE events or state society meetings. There is a whole other world outside of the Big 4. And to learn from others outside of the profession, be curious with everyone you meet — ask them what they are up to. Be brave and share your struggle. People have been there and many are willing to listen or share their wisdom.
 
I can’t say for sure that you would or would not be able to make the leap to forensic accounting or management consulting. I can say for sure that the CPA designation has tremendous value. When people see CPA on a résumé, they equate it to a person who is smart and business savvy. Those three letters will get you a lot of mileage in anything that you do.
 
You only have one set of adult teeth. Please don’t grind them for an entire year. Life is too short. 
 
Love, 
GC Writer

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