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Career Limiting Moves: A Beginner’s Guide

I’m a little rough around the edges because – Detroit. However, I – like every other fresh-faced A1 who has no idea what auditing a public company actually entails – once dreamt of the partner track. I pictured myself seven years down the line in a velvet-lined corner partner office with enough cash to buy the city of Detroit and raze it to the ground. (Too soon?) But let’s face it. A woman who dries her hair in the car’s heating vent while doing sixty in a twenty-five because she woke up twenty minutes late for work yet again has little (to no) hope of jumping through accounting rings of fire to make it to senior – let alone partner. 

I’m just not partner track material. I once told a client that my car caught fire because I was too cheap to repair the vehicle, and once over lunch, I told my manager all the creepy shit I know about Florida. Spiders the size of a grown man’s hand is all I’m saying.

Then there were the real Career Limiting Moves (CLMs) I made during my public accounting tenure. CLMs are the things a firm won’t ever forget – like that one unfortunate intern (not me, I swear) who responded to a partner’s group “thanks for all your hard work” email by hitting ‘Reply All’ and writing “Ya’ll are welcome.”

Career Limiting Moves (CLMs) can knock even the most stellar CPA off the partner track pretty quickly, and they fall into three basic categories: (1) The Late Train, (2) The Derailment, and (3) What Train? (Ain’t no commuter trains in Detroit)

(1) The Late Train
This one won’t knock you off the partner track completely, but it might push you off the fast track. Example:

In my early days, I emailed my manager saying “I can’t plan my life when we’re working this late – could you let me know what time we’ll be leaving each night this week? Working until midnight? Surely you jest. I’m a CPA not a coal miner.”

He forwarded my email to the entire team with the following message:
"So you can plan your life, plan to work the following schedule:"








Until 1:30am

Until 1:30am 

Until 1:30am

Until 1:30am

Until 1:30am

Until 1:30am

9:00pm (if we’re caught up)

This stunt didn’t get me fired, and it didn’t give me *too much* notoriety, but my unwillingness to work like a third world factory worker to go the distance to complete the audit probably slowed my partner track train down. 

(2) The Derailment

These ones knock you off the partner track, but the firm might keep you around for a year to train (no pun) your replacement. Example:

As a tax-paying adult, I have to manage a lot of things like remembering to brush my hair before I leave for work in the morning. I don't have time to clean my car. I’ve long suspected that a small animal has been living underneath my passenger seat, and on that particular morning, the floor of the passenger side was full to the top with Diet Coke cans and granola bar wrappers. I never expected to drive anyone around in my vehicle. That’s what partners and managers are for.  

Then the senior manager’s BMW ran out of gas, and she needed a ride from the client site.

I shoveled the cans and wrappers into the back seat. The drive went well until I turned out into traffic and the can stack shifted. A half-full can of diet rolled from the back seat to the front and sloshed against the pant leg of her $1,000 power suit. She asked me honestly “Do you live in this car? Do you need me to help you find a place? I’m a little concerned…”

So my career derailed at that point. To be fair, could YOU picture a partner driving a client/associate to lunch in a car that looks to be inhabited by a homeless man? Like I’ve said, I’m much better suited for a life of leisure.

(3) What Track? Ain’t no commuter trains in Detroit.

This Career Limiting Move won’t just slow a partner-track CPA down or derail her – this one will actually get a person fired. Ain’t no track because honey, you ain’t got no job. I’m not guilty of this one – give me a little credit – but here are three examples that I’ve heard about through first and second hand accounts (which, as we all know, are totally reliable sources in this line of work):

  • Ghost ticking That time the A3 “tied out” an entire asset rollforward – complete with tickmarks – and submitted the workpaper to the file. The catch? The client hadn’t submitted any PBC items yet. As it turns out, auditing – like most things in life — gets done a lot faster when you fake it.
  • Scabies That time the high-level manager slept with the twenty year old intern.
  • Spitting That time the S1 spit in a bartender’s face at training and then proceeded to trash the hotel room before passing out. Apparently, the other seniors called 911, and he was hospitalized and subsequently fired.

Now that we’ve gone through the basic types of Career Limiting Moves – the late train, the derailments, and the termination track – are you or anyone you know guilty of any of these? If you did commit a CLM, did you stage an epic come back, or did you slink off into industry?